white lies…

Posted on Wednesday 31 January 2007

By the opening of the C.I.A. Leak Investigation, Judith Miller was already becoming tarnished. She’d followed up her dramatic pre-war reporting of dire Iraqi treachery with a wild ride across the desert in a Hummer looking for the fabled evil weapons, but found only sand. Shortly after she returned, federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald called her before a Grand Jury. When she refused to testify against her sources, off she went for a three month stint in jail for contempt [initially as a First Amendment Martyr]. Again, her days in the limelight faded quickly, and by the time she finally agreed to testify, she was hardly looking like a heroine. On the first day on the stand, she only recalled two meetings with Scooter Libby, but Fitzgerald reminded her of a third one, days earlier. By the second day, she miraculously recalled that earlier meeting [from looking through her "notes"].

As it turned out, this earlier meeting completely crippled Libby’s story about his role in the "outing" of Agent Valerie Plame, becoming one of the pillars in Fitzgerald’s indictment of Libby for lying to the Grand Jury. I doubt that any of us believed Miller’s remarkable "remembering." We all figured she was still having a shot at covering for Libby. When she was called on it by a man who had already established that he wasn’t having any of her theatrics, she changed her story and came clean. The New York Times wasn’t buying it and summarily fired her. She’s spent the intervening months on the talk circuit trying to spin herself back into the role of Constitutional Martyr, but has actually become more of a Vaudeville character. Unfortunately, by skillfully winning his chess game with Miller, Fitzgerald had to establish her less than solid relationship with the truth in a courtroom.

So yesterday she returned to the stand – coiffed, bedecked, head held high. Her testimony was strong and well spoken. Then the defense began to hammer at the history of her story – her selective remembering. Recall for a moment that her earlier memory problems served Scooter Libby. They may not have confirmed his story totally, but they certainly didn’t expose his own creative memories. Under a cross-examination that questioned her history of convenient and self-serving recall, she came apart. Here’s what Marcy Wheeler had to say:
Judy back. Looks like she’s doing breathing exercises, pouring herself water. Got out of chair and is now back. Gets more water. Thanks person who brings more. Looking around cautiously. Closes eyes. Breathes. Breathes out. Looking straight foward. Head darts nervously. Staring forward. Shifts in chair. Looks toward Libby’s team? Looks towawrd lawyers. Adjusts blouse. Looks at lawyers again. looks down, folds arms. Looks down. Looks toward Libby’s team. Folds arms, leans back, turning in swivel chair. Takes glasses off. Looks for tissue to wipe her hands.
Judy trying to follow sidebar. Then she looks toward Libby. Swallowing hard, She IS ONE STRESSED person. Looks to lawyers. Tries to look at sidebar. Arms folded, looking hard to her right. Looking for something, looks like she’s sweating under her eyes. Looking for tissue or something, Rubbing nose with back of sleeve. Unlucky Judy, just when she gets her tissue.

Remember those childhood moments of experimentation with the truth, making excuses, the lost homework story gone awry, getting backed into a corner, being nailed as a Judith-Miller-in-training? I can still feel it – aargh. For some, those with parents whose expectations are too high, or those little darlings whose parents never bound them to the truth, it becomes a way of life. Maybe they don’t always turn out to be outright liars, just people who can’t tolerate being wrong, so their stories always bathe them with a righteous light. I expect Judith Miller is in this latter category – someone who always had to look good.

She didn’t look so hot yesterday. It’s ironic that Fitzgerald’s patient skill at getting at the truth set the stage for yesterday’s Miller Memory Meltdown. In the photograph, above on the right, Judith Miller marched out of court – coiffed, bedecked, head held high. She looked good coming and going, but in the middle – not so much.

Libby’s lawyers are in a bit of a jam. They’re defending a client who had the same problem as Judy. He got himself involved in a bit of boss-pleasing that put him in jeapordy, and he tried to white lie his way out of it. So, there’s another courtroom irony. Libby’s lawyers are getting ready to claim their client has a selective memory. He wasn’t lying or obstructing justice. He was just too busy to remember details. Yesterday, they were attacking the very defense in Judith Miller they are about to mount for Scooter Libby.

Little wonder that CSI and Law and Order rerun endlessly on the cable networks!

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