It's only January but the NY Times sends a big Valentine to I. Lewis Libby - he was an anti-Vietnam war activist, he writes, he memorizes poetry, he's an original Trekkie, he skis, his wife and best friends are Democrats, he's devoted to his kids, and he's basically a smart, wonderful guy.
OK - what's up? At "Is That Legal", guest-blogger Shertaugh tries to peer behind the curtain:
As for Libby's memory, I had the feeling that -- regardless of the reporter's intent -- the story will be a GOP talking point about how the NYTimes did a hatchet job on Libby. Anyone who knows poetry by heart or all 79 titles of Star Trek couldn't forget who said what when about Joe Wilson's wife. Of course, I don't know if that's true. But it may make for some empassioned discussion for a day or so about a slanted, rather than "insightful," article.
I don't think that is what is going on. I don't have a big problem with the pedestrian explanation - the Times wanted a "Man bites dog" effort, since they could bat out a "Rosemary's Baby grows up and goes to Washington" profile of Libby in about seven minutes.
But let's not rule out a darker and more interesting motive! The Times, perhaps edified by the prospect of jail time for Judy Miller, editorialized in Feb 2005 about "the real possibility that the disclosure of Ms. Plame's identity, while an abuse of power, may not have violated any law". We can imagine they have not been happy with the court battles subsequently won by Fitzgerald that have reduced (clarified?) reporter's freedoms.
And beyond that, the Times has at least one, and as many as three, dogs in this fight. Ex-reporter Judy Miller will be called by the prosecution; columnist Nick Kristof and reporter David Sanger may be called by the defense.
Part of the deal that got Judy Miller out of jail and in front of the grand jury was that Fitzgerald would limit his questioning to her conversations with Libby. However, it is clear from her account that she had conversations with others about Ms. Plame. With a man's freedom at stake, will she be a bit more forthcoming about those contacts? And what will the jurors make of Fitzgerald's "investigation" if she names some exciting names?
Nick Kristof met with Mr. and Mrs. Wilson over breakfast in May 2003 and got his story then. Did he also get the idea that Ms. Wilson could vouch for major details of that story because she was with the CIA? Or did he later learn, in the course of working the story, about Wilson's wife - his "denial" in an Oct 2003 column is easily parsed and riddled with wiggle room.
Finally, David Sanger almost surely gave limited testimony about his contacts with Libby, but not others. Does he have a bombshell for the courtroom?
I have no idea, but the Times editors might. Let's say it is faintly possible that one or more of their reporters will deliver a Perry Mason moment that blows up the trial and leaves folks wondering, how did the Times manage to sit on that?
And if that moment comes, at least the Times will have warmed their readers to the notion that maybe the streets won't be safer with Libby in jail. Just speculating.