That was one hell of a call.
Ms. Miller authorized Mr. Abrams to talk to Mr. Libby’s lawyer, Joseph A. Tate. The question was whether Mr. Libby really wanted her to testify. Mr. Abrams passed the details of his conversation with Mr. Tate along to Ms. Miller and to Times executives and lawyers, people involved in the internal discussion said.
People present at the meetings said that what they heard about the preliminary negotiations was troubling.
Mr. Abrams told Ms. Miller and the group that Mr. Tate said she was free to testify. Mr. Abrams said Mr. Tate also passed along some information about Mr. Libby’s grand jury testimony: that he had not told Ms. Miller the name or undercover status of Mr. Wilson’s wife.
That raised a potential conflict for Ms. Miller. Did the references in her notes to “Valerie Flame” and “Victoria Wilson” suggest that she would have to contradict Mr. Libby’s account of their conversations? Ms. Miller said in an interview that she concluded that Mr. Tate was sending her a message that Mr. Libby did not want her to testify.
What what what?
The fact that Libby’s testimony contradicted Miller’s notes indicated to Miller that Libby didn’t want her to testify?
That’s great. Just fucking great. A reporter for the New York Times, the flagship newspaper in the United States of America, and the paper most often critcized for its attachment to liberal causes, decided to sit in jail so that she wouldn’t contradict the testimony of one of her conservative sources by suggesting that, after all, he had lied in his testimony.
I’m glad that our journalists have such a deep, deep concern for their right wing sources that they’ll do time even when those sources indicate that testimony is permissable. It really redeems my faith in the journalistic profession, and in the New York Times specifically.
Alright, I guess it falls to me to nominate some scenes that inevitably provoke peals of laughter from me after repeated viewings. This is even more top-of-my-head than most of my movie lists, so I’ll be leaving even more stuff than usual to our fine commenters:
- The highway scene in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. (“How does he know which way we’re going?”)
- The entire baseball sequence in The Naked Gun. (“It’s Enrico Pollazzo!”)
- Dr. Strangelove has too many to count, but I may be most partial to the sequence where the American soldier interrogates Mandrake (“You must be some kind of deviated pre-vert!”)
- I’m not sure which Woody Allen moment I’d pick. Well, here’s two relatively less-cited ones: 1)the screening of the first cut of the documentary in Crimes and Misdemeanors. (“I’m not perfect, but I do not promote values that–let me get your quote exactly–deaden the values of a great democracy.”…”You’d think nobody was ever compared to Mussolini before.” ) 2)Fielding Mellish going magazine shopping in Bananas (“Hey Ralph! How much is a copy of Orgasm?”) There should be something from Love and Death here, but there are about thirty possibilities…
- The contract-ripping bit in A Night at the Opera. (“It’s all right, that’s in every contract. That’s what they call a sanity clause.” “You can’t fool me! There ain’t no Sanity Clause.”)
- Buck Swope pitching a top-end 8-track system in Boogie Nights. (“See this system here? This is Hi-Fi… high fidelity. What that means is that it’s the highest quality fidelity.”) Also, the Alfred Molina busted drug deal sequence should be the starting point of some other meme…
- The scene in Lost In America where Albert Brooks tries to convince the casino manager that they’re the right kind of degenerate gambler (“You’re right, it was stupid to use an entertainer as a dividing point.”)
- “Stonehenge” is the obvious choice from Spinal Tap, so instead I’ll cite the free-form jazz exploration (“This is our bass player! He wrote this!”)
- The interview with the Canadian Ambassador in South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut (“Our government has apologized for Bryan Adams on several occasions!”)
All right–I’ve already exceeded my quota. Your turn!
Moderates must insist, à la Galston and Kamarck, that Democrats won’t win back the White House unless they convince voters to trust them on national security, which means making the war on terrorism not just the party’s top priority but its central preoccupation in 2008. We’re not just talking about calling for a larger military, but something dramatic to signify the shift–like a plan to strike an Iranian or North Korean nuclear facility if need be.
Set aside the fact that attacking either Iran or North Korea would, in all likelihood, lead to disasters the magnitude of which would make Iraq look like a cake walk. Forget, for a moment, that such a disaster would hurt, rather than help, the long-term electoral chances of the Democratic party. Ignore your doubts about whether a policy of colossal stupidity is likely to solve the problems created by a policy of merely exceptional stupidity. Numb yourself to the suggestion that publicly advocating such a strategy, even without the intention to carry it out, would have dreadful diplomatic consequences and, if stated but not carried out, would lead to an even greater decay of the position of the Democratic Party on national security.
Ignore all that, and what you have is a really, really, really bad electoral strategy. It is commonly admitted, even by Democratic elites, that a disconnect exists between the base and the foreign policy elite of the party. Consider what effect such an electoral strategy would have on Democratic voters. If the next Democratic President goes out and tries to prove his or her foreign policy cred by threatening to attack Iran, a few votes will be gained toward the center, and a LOT of votes will be lost on the left. People will either stay home or vote for a leftist third party candidate. The result will be electoral disaster.
I’m not one of those who believes that pacifists fundamentally hamstring Democratic foreign policy, although I do believe that a significant element of the Democratic constituency will oppose just about any military action, and that this does put some limits on what Democrats can advocate. The solution to this problem, however, is not to put forth transparently stupid foreign policy adventures that are sure to alienate this group, along with the much larger group that reasonably questions whether foreign policy goals can be achieved by random invasions of foreign countries.
Really, what the hell is wrong with these people? They go along with Bush’s war until it falls utterly apart, then decide that the solution is to go even farther? I understand that they’re concerned about the image of the Democratic Party in national security, but attempting to out-aggressive the Republicans is, as Ezra points out, PRECISELY the logic that led to Kennedy and Johnson propelling the US deeper into Vietnam.
A couple of very smart people argue that–contrary to the argument I made last week–progressives should unequivocally reject Miers. I continue to disagree.
The first argument comes from Mark Kleiman, who argues that the Miers nomination is not a typical zero-sum political game. The argument is a little confusing, because he switches between the substantive and political implications of rejecting Miers. On the latter point, I agree that the Democrats wouldn’t pay any political price for rejecting Miers, although I’m not sure what the benefits will be. I’m not really concerned about the short-term political impact of the Miers confirmation in any case. On substantive terms, I don’t find his argument convincing. He argues:
Miers has two characteristics — lack of intellectual distinction and subservience to the interests of the Bush clan — that are undesirable from both conservative and liberal perspectives. It’s easy to imagine that the person nominated to replace her should she fail of confirmation would be more intelligent and more independent.
As I argued before, from a progressive perspective, Miers’ lack of distinction and the fact that her most salient characteristic is loyalty to Bush are features rather than bugs. Again, it is important to remember that 1)anybody that Bush appoints will be a conservative, and will almost certainly be a conservative who is a strong proponent of executive power, and 2)Bush leaves office after 2008. It strikes me that a Bush hack is rather preferable to someone whose conservatism is lodged in the belief that Griswold should be overturned and the power of the federal government severely curtailed, not least because her subservience to Bush affects a small percentage of issues when Bush is in office and virtually none after he’s left. (It’s worth remembering, too, that she can only serve the interests of Bush if 4 other justices go along with her, and if she can get 4 current justices to join it’s highly likely her replacement will go along too.) And, again, I would rather have conservative constitutional opinions be written less than more persuasively. I also continue to think the idea that putting Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court will somehow threaten its public legitimacy is frankly absurd. Leaving aside the fact that the public doesn’t really pay attention to the Court on a day-to-day basis, if the legitimacy of the Supreme Court can survive Bush v. Gore, another mediocrity on top of the many mediocrities who have already served on the Court is nothing.
Again, I think the crucial question is exactly what tangible harms come from having someone who may not write brilliantly crafted opinions on the court and is not a sophisticated legal theorist. These tangible harms are, I think, negligible, and pale in comparison to the votes a justice casts. Put it this way: Antonin Scalia is a more sophisticated legal craftsman than Earl Warren (who, in fact, was not a particularly skilled crafter of legal doctrine at all.) Would you rather have a court of 9 Scalias or 9 Warrens?
Prof. B prefers the devil we know:
If you’ve got someone who, as Miers is reported to have done, will generously agree to meet with people she disagrees with, listen to their arguments, and then simply dismiss them by saying that she doesn’t agree–without giving you anything to go on about why she doesn’t agree, or how to address the premises she uses to form judgments with–then there’s nowhere to go. I very much fear that, as a judge, Miers will play the role of the fundamentalist you argue with about evolution or feminism or the ACLU, someone who no matter what evidence you present them with, simply says, “no, those things are wrong and evil because I believe they are.”
Respectfully, I have to demur. If you compare a pragmatist like O’Connor to Thomas, the most principled conservative on the Court, I don’t think there’s any question who is more likely to dismiss the ACLU’s arguments out of hand. And I think the same is true of most of the viable alternatives to Miers. There’s just no way that Miers can be any worse than, say, Owen. Even if you take a more palatable choice like McConnell: who is more likely to overturn Roe: somebody with no public record on the question, or someone who has argued publicly that Roe is an abomination? The question, I think answers itself. We know that McConnell will almost certainly vote to overturn Roe, and to uphold virtually all entanglements with the state. (He would probably be better on executive power issues, which is one reason I don’t think he has any significant chance of being nominated, but that’s still not a great tradeoff on balance.) Miers can’t really be worse than most of these nominees, and she could be better. I’m going with the devil I don’t know.
Like Roy, I think it’s always nice when the Nobel Prize is granted to someone whose work I’ve actually read, although I’m less familiar with Pinter’s work than with recent winners Coetzee or Grass. (I haven’t read any of the novels of the much-criticized Elfriede Jelinek, although I think the film made of her novel The Piano Teacher is one of the best of the decade so far.) I read some Pinter as an undergraduate because of my admiration for his American son, David Mamet. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen one of Pinter’s plays performed live, which is regrettable; I don’t think his minimalism comes across as well on the page (although I also wouldn’t trust any aesthetic judgment I made when I was 20, so go with Roy’s evaluations.) The closest I’ve come is watching two of the Losey/Pinter/Bograde collaborations, The Servant and Accident. Both are quite entertaining, although the former flags a bit in the second half. Hopefully the Nobel will lead to some of his landmarks being staged here.
In the interests of fairness, I should note that Roger Simon refuses to go along with the political reductionism of so many other conservative bloggers; nice to know that the hack has not completely swallowed the artist.
This can’t possibly be good.
Paradise Lost, John Milton’s epic poem about Adam and Eve’s temptation and fall, is to be turned into a feature film for the first time since its publication more than 330 years ago. Hollywood producers aim to keep the screen version faithful to Milton’s 1667 original, a complex work comprising 12,000 lines of blank verse. The production is described as “epic in scope and size”.
As regular readers will know, I generally agree with Bob Somerby‘s point that it doesn’t really make sense to assume that Bush places a high priority on overturning Roe v. Wade. But I think this point about John Roberts is wrong:
If Karl Rove is involved in the selection of Court nominees, this sort of Machiavellian political calculation would surely be part of the stew.
In this calculation, Bush/Rove would be looking for nominees with a general conservative profile who wouldn’t be likely to overturn Roe. With Rehnquist’s death, the GOP is down to two anti-Roe votes. Who knows—maybe Roberts and Miers were selected to help keep the count right there.
For the record, Roberts told the Senate, in 2003, that he considered Roe to be “settled law.” This summer, some observers downplayed that statement; they said Roberts only meant that, on the Court of Appeals, he’d follow Roe as Supreme Court precedent. But that just isn’t what it means to call Roe (or anything else) “settled law.” We don’t know if Roberts will vote to overturn Roe. But we’d guess that Buchanan may have it right—that these selections may be about fooling the rubes in Kansas for one more long stretch of years.
This claim about “settled law” is, I think, wrong. “Settled law” is not a technical legal term; you won’t find it Black’s Law Dictionary. Its meaning is vague. Certainly, the term could refer to a previous precedent of a court that one belives should not be reconsidered. But is can also refer to a higher court precedent that is clear, and therefore binding on lower courts (as opposed to a situation in which higher court precedents are ambiguous, or a case where one is dealing with conflicting precedents at equal or lower levels.) Given the context in which Roberts made the claim, it’s overwhelmingly likely that he meant the latter.
None of this means that Roberts is certain to overturn Roe; I have no idea how he would vote on the question. But his description of Roe as “settled law” does not provide meaningful information either way.
LOL Nicolle said, “So Maureen Dowd is accusing you of being a superficial hack? Pot, Kettle, hello?”–get it, like a pot calling the kettle Black, their both black. Well at least Maureen Dowd is obv reading my blog.
You have to admit, whatever you think of the prose she has her dead to rights on that one…
In my previous post, I highlighted some of the defensible aspects of conservative theories of executive power. Brad Plumer explains the really awful stuff in detail. (I’m not sure, however, how much this cuts against the Miers nomination per se; it’s pretty clear that the expansion of executive power is one issue that Bush considers non-negotiable.)