Maureen Dowd on Judy Miller (“Woman of Mass Destruction”)

What a catfight. Here’s the whole sublime thing. (Nothing gets me more PO’d than the Times’ medieval new – oxymoron, I know – policy of making their juiciest content unlinkable.)

October 22, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Woman of Mass Destruction

I’ve always liked Judy Miller. I have often wondered what Waugh or Thackeray would have made of the Fourth Estate’s Becky Sharp.

The traits she has that drive many reporters at The Times crazy – her tropism toward powerful men, her frantic intensity and her peculiar mixture of hard work and hauteur – have never bothered me. I enjoy operatic types.

Once when I was covering the first Bush White House, I was in The Times’s seat in the crowded White House press room, listening to an administration official’s background briefing. Judy had moved on from

her tempestuous tenure as a Washington editor to be a reporter based in New York, but she showed up at this national security affairs briefing.

At first she leaned against the wall near where I was sitting, but I noticed that she seemed agitated about something. Midway through the briefing, she came over and whispered to me, “I think I should be sitting in the Times seat.”

It was such an outrageous move, I could only laugh. I got up and stood in the back of the room, while Judy claimed what she felt was her rightful power perch.

She never knew when to quit. That was her talent and her flaw. Sorely in need of a tight editorial leash, she was kept on no leash at all, and that has hurt this paper and its trust with readers. She more than earned her sobriquet “Miss Run Amok.”

Judy’s stories about W.M.D. fit too perfectly with the White House’s case for war. She was close to Ahmad Chalabi, the con man who was conning the neocons to knock out Saddam so he could get his hands on Iraq, and I worried that she was playing a leading role in the dangerous echo chamber that Senator Bob Graham, now retired, dubbed “incestuous amplification.” Using Iraqi defectors and exiles, Mr. Chalabi planted bogus stories with Judy and other credulous journalists.

Even last April, when I wrote a column critical of Mr. Chalabi, she fired off e-mail to me defending him.

When Bill Keller became executive editor in the summer of 2003, he barred Judy from covering Iraq and W.M.D. issues. But he acknowledged in The Times’s Sunday story about Judy’s role in the Plame leak case that she had kept “drifting” back. Why did nobody stop this drift?

Judy admitted in the story that she “got it totally wrong” about W.M.D. “If your sources are wrong,” she said, “you are wrong.” But investigative reporting is not stenography.

The Times’s story and Judy’s own first-person account had the unfortunate effect of raising more questions. As Bill said yesterday in an e-mail note to the staff, Judy seemed to have “misled” the Washington bureau chief, Phil Taubman, about the extent of her involvement in the Valerie Plame leak case.

She casually revealed that she had agreed to identify her source, Scooter Libby, Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, as a “former Hill staffer” because he had once worked on Capitol Hill. The implication was that this bit of deception was a common practice for reporters. It isn’t.

She said that she had wanted to write about the Wilson-Plame matter, but that her editor would not allow it. But Managing Editor Jill Abramson, then the Washington bureau chief, denied this, saying that Judy had never broached the subject with her.

It also doesn’t seem credible that Judy wouldn’t remember a Marvel comics name like “Valerie Flame.” Nor does it seem credible that she doesn’t know how the name got into her notebook and that, as she wrote, she “did not believe the name came from Mr. Libby.”

An Associated Press story yesterday reported that Judy had coughed up the details of an earlier meeting with Mr. Libby only after prosecutors confronted her with a visitor log showing that she had met with him on June 23, 2003. This cagey confusion is what makes people wonder whether her stint in the Alexandria jail was in part a career rehabilitation project.

Judy refused to answer a lot of questions put to her by Times reporters, or show the notes that she shared with the grand jury. I admire Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Bill Keller for aggressively backing reporters in the cross hairs of a prosecutor. But before turning Judy’s case into a First Amendment battle, they should have nailed her to a chair and extracted the entire story of her escapade.

Judy told The Times that she plans to write a book and intends to return to the newsroom, hoping to cover “the same thing I’ve always covered – threats to our country.” If that were to happen, the institution most in danger would be the newspaper in your hands.

The Discussion: 27 Comments

Thanks for posting this.

The Times densitude in the Blair and Miller cases is only mirrored in their TimesSelect op-ed-suicide.

In all three instances, arrogance and pride are the fatal tragic flaws.

Kinda poetic.

— stan

October 22, 2005 @ 8:04 am | Comment

Thanks for posting this Richard. I understand their rationale for charging for access, but now that I have to pay for everything in the NY Times that I’ve always read, I find there’s nothing else it offers that tempts me to log in.

October 22, 2005 @ 8:25 am | Comment

Judy’s out. When her own paper turns on her like this, we all know she’s through. Goodbye and good riddance. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

October 22, 2005 @ 8:53 am | Comment

Thank you for posting this. I’ve posted a link over at my blog, along with some commentary. Like you and the respondents, I’m ticked with the Times (for so many things) that this Select BS is very nearly the last straw. Feh. Dowd and Rich should move on to cleaner pastures.

October 22, 2005 @ 10:21 am | Comment

Thanks very much for the free Dowd.

The Times’ arrogance is illuminated in her latest editorial, and it in fact compliments the way the Times has minimized the influence of their excellent editorialists by putting their words behind a pay wall.

I’d love to see Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd set free.

October 22, 2005 @ 1:42 pm | Comment

Excellent fodder…looks like a great ‘cat fight’ underway. Couldn’t happen to two nicer fems.

October 22, 2005 @ 7:49 pm | Comment

Have you noticed the change in the “Most Emailed” sidebar at the Times’ site? Now it is rare to see the likes of Krugman, Dowd or Rich listed. Previously their columns often made the list.

This makes me wonder how big the drop in readership was for the “premium material”. I can’t imagine opinon writers are much pleased by anything that decreases the number of readers they are reaching.

I can appreciate the Times looking for new revenue streams in this post- paper product world, but I don’t know if this will work. Writers like Krugman and Rich are outstanding. But as long as there are other outstanding writers readily, freely available elsewhere, I wonder how many readers will decide to pay. And how long will the “celebrity” editorial staff be willing to see their voices muffled?

My bet is that Times Select lasts less than six months.

October 23, 2005 @ 4:16 am | Comment

I’ve got two words for the Times these days: regime change. Watching Miller do tv interviews these days is to get a crash course in flakery, and Times Select seems a ludicrous thing to start precisely when the newspapers reputation is sinking. Friedman seems to be planning on moving to Bangalore, and have you ever met a Bob Herbert fan?

And don’t even get me started on Nicholas Kristof. Sheryl has always been the bright one in that family.

October 23, 2005 @ 9:48 am | Comment

I blaseted the Times when they instituted that ridiculous Select service, what a bullshit undemocratic move! Can’t last. I bet no one is buying it, I won’t just on principle.

October 23, 2005 @ 7:48 pm | Comment

I can’t understand why a paper would pay top dollar for the country’s top columnists only to let people have access to them for free.

October 24, 2005 @ 4:13 am | Comment

regarding j.m. what took so long?

October 24, 2005 @ 12:28 pm | Comment

In response to: Keir at October 24, 2005 04:13 AM …

because newspapers don’t make their money from people buying the newspaper. They make their money from the advertisement – a rate that is based upon the amount of readers. Since this “timeselect” crap started, I am willing to bet even their profits from that are going to drop off soon.

Let me see…I can get the L.A. Times for FREE. I can get for FREE. I can get MSNBC for FREE, and just about any other damn newspaper in the country for free – but I’m going to pay to read the Times?

Get over yourselves!!

October 24, 2005 @ 2:19 pm | Comment

Thank you for posting Dowd’s column and providing forum for all of us former Times editorial readers to complain about Times select. They have a wonderful sense of timing, don’t they? Just when they are losing so much of their credibility over Miller/Iraq/Plame, they pull this crap. Wish I knew just how successful this TimesSelect garbage is.

October 24, 2005 @ 3:34 pm | Comment

times select

surely you jest

nowadays you need us; not our $

October 24, 2005 @ 5:52 pm | Comment

I’m glad to see that people loathe Times select as much as I do. Before Times select started the wonderful editorials would always lead me to other stories making me spend hours going from story to story. Since Times select started I rarely spend more than a few moments at the Times website. And because of Times select I get my online news elsewhere.

Thanks for posting this M. Dowd editorial. I landed here thanks to Eric Alterman’s FREE MSNBC blog. Thanks, Eric.

October 24, 2005 @ 9:36 pm | Comment

I have to wonder if Judith Miller clearly understands the extent that she has torched the reputation of the New York Times newspaper. Certainly her editors and the publisher bear some of the blame for self immolation and many will argue this self inflicted wound was long time coming. Be that as it may, I believe the affair is unfortunate because it damages the reputation of The Times, and, perhaps more significantly, further sullies the already tarnished reputation of the major American media as a whole. I should think the woman warrants a swift kick towards the direction of the nearest door: Let her write a book, and, with any luck, she will retire on the proceeds.

October 25, 2005 @ 12:04 am | Comment

How sad that we aren’t going to be able to read the columns by Maureen Dowd and Frnak Rich. Is this another example of corporate greed?

October 25, 2005 @ 9:32 am | Comment

Judith Miller Saga Recalls the ‘Pinch and Judy’ Show

Beginning in the Middle Ages, there was a widely popular puppet show called “Punch and Judy.� Most of its content and humor were based on two characters flailing away at each other with slap sticks. Today, we have a verbal equivalent of the same

October 25, 2005 @ 2:20 pm | Comment

I always looked forward to reading Dowd and Krugman. I just can’t afford to pay for them. And the TIMES really can’t afford to charge for them.

October 25, 2005 @ 3:13 pm | Comment

Being from Oklahoma and not having handly access to the times is a complete bummer. Esp. getting to read Dowd, which is my favorite, makes me sick now w/ this new bullshit they’re pulling.

Many thanks,


October 30, 2005 @ 3:55 am | Comment

My thanks also. I really miss the NY Times columnists, ALL of them. I hit your site when just now sitting down and searching “Maureen Dowd columns” just in case someone could give me a fix for my jones.

I subscribe to my local paper every day because I believe we should support paper media, if we can, and because I need to vote here. Besides, it’s been turning into a truly excellent paper from a slump so profound it was regularly ridiculed by everyone I knew. (It’s the only daily in town, but it IS an independent, and it carries Molly Ivins and Miss Manners. It won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting not too long ago too.)

Anyway, good site. Recent comments make me hope I can have my NY Times columnists back. The arguments presented here for why that was a stupid move were excellent.

October 30, 2005 @ 5:33 am | Comment

HUGE thanks for printing this Mo Dowd editorial for all to see, in spite of the Times’ greedy new policy of requiring pay for play. (I find that without access to the Times editorials, I can fly through the whole issue in about 10 minutes flat. Guess I’ll go back to the Washington Post — at least they let you read the whole damn paper.) Sheeeesh.

November 4, 2005 @ 8:51 pm | Comment

Speaking of greed and arrogance …

Why do so many of you feel entitled to read the Times free? It is incorrect to expect that advertising pays the full freight at publications. Subscriptions are also an important part of the equation.

Yes, the NYT has been free in the past, but that business model is changing. If you’re happy getting free news and commentary at other online sites, by all means continue to do so. But no whining, please.

Last Saturday at my neighborhood Whole Foods market, I could get free samples of $20/lb. cheese, slivers of filet mignon, organic apples from Washington State, and a chocolate macaroon. Yes, there will always be a few people who stand around pigging out on the free goodies. But most customers understand that this is the store’s marketing strategy designed to get us to taste, perhaps like, and hopefully buy. It’s called good business.

I’m not rich, but I subscribed to the Times Select in the early days and got a nice discount. Reading that publication is one of the high points of my day, and it’s still the best daily newspaper in the country in an industry that is facing enormous challenges. I wish them well.

November 14, 2005 @ 1:01 pm | Comment

It would not bother me to pay for the times select if they would guarentee no pop-ups and other nonsense advertisements that waste my very valueable time

November 15, 2005 @ 1:40 pm | Comment

Again, thank you for posting the column. I too am so mad at the Times for charging these great columns.

December 3, 2005 @ 1:51 pm | Comment

Some clever hacker must know how to find Maureen Dowd’s columns, current and past, on the Web without having to pay to read them. If so, please advise ASAP.

January 22, 2006 @ 6:46 am | Comment

When almost all the big papers are free, why does the Times feel we have to pay ?. My only reason to go to their website was to read Dowd and sometimes, if I was feeling sadistic, Freidman. Now with their Select BS, I don’t go over to their site. Period. Happy now Times ?.

It’s the worst business idea and the guy who ok’ed it, should get the boot. I wrote them an email, condemning Select, and I would urge others to do it too, as a form of Last Rites. Atleast, they should know what a mess they’ve made. I am pretty sure the wall will come down.

August 15, 2006 @ 9:50 pm | Comment

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