‘Toothless Journalist!’

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Last night’s interview with Judith Miller–who continues her I-quit-the-New-York-Times-because-I-was-becoming-the-news-only-to -then-do-whatever-I-can-to-remain-in-the-news publicity tour–was remarkably more heated than her gig last week at the National Press Club (perhaps because 90 percent of the crowd was George Washington University students).

First, there were the anti-Miller flyers being distributed outside of the National Press Club (headline: “Judith Miller: Neo Con-Artist”). Then there was the heated shout-fest between an audience member and Marvin Kalb (who was conducting the interview as part of his “Kalb Report” program). And Kalb himself placed some tough questions at Judy’s feet (well, tough compared to Lou Dobbs).

Perhaps the evening could be summed up with Kalb’s own introduction of Miller:

    Make no mistake about it: This journalist is indeed a journalist and what she does is, in fact, journalism.

Hmm, that seems to be very similar to the argument that self-righteous bloggers put forth.

Judy Miller: Queen of Lowering the Bar.

Or maybe it was Judy’s own admission, which some may think aptly sums up her own career approach: “If you keep coming back somewhere, eventually they get used to you, like a bad penny.”

More notes and pics after the jump…


Kalb came out swinging at the critics, telling them not to forget that Judy had spent “twice as long as any other reporter in jail” (why do we feel that jail time will soon become the new Pulitzer Prize of journalism…”Oh, you spent 85 days? Sheeit…that’s child’s play. I spent four months! Top that! Now where’s my statuette?!?”).

“Anyone who says that Judy went to jail to barnish her image,” Kalb said, “is clearly someone who hasn’t spent anytime in jail. In fact, anyone who says that is crazy.”

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The evening became tense when a questioner–reading, in part, from the talking points distributed earlier outside the Press Club–aggressively accused Miller of being an administration puppet. Judy largely dodged the question, namely because Kalb came to her rescue, telling the questioner to go away and that “you’re not being fair.” The gutsy questioner refused to leave, saying it was Kalb who wasn’t being fair because he’s a “toothless journalist” who refused to hold Judy’s feet to the fire.

The most poignant question–and the one that left Miller most speechless (she’s become remarkably deft at fielding the standard inquisitory questions being thrown her way)–came from a GW student.

    In class, we’re taught how one of the most important principles of journalism is to take copious and accurate notes and to write everything down accurately. How, then, can you explain to us–someone at the top of her game–how you forgot the name of who leaked Valerie Plame’s name?

Ah, the power of youth to render adults stupefied…

At the end of the event, Judy practiced her book signing, no doubt getting ready for a future book tour.

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More quotes:

  • “I became a symbol over the fury over the debate of the war, the administration and the general unhappiness over what is taking place in society. People needed someone to blame and there I was.”

  • “I was surprised and disappointed in what Newsweek called the ‘War on Miller.’ I never thought of myself as at war with my paper.”

  • “At various times, institutions don’t do the right thing by their people. That happened to me. And when it happens you move on.”

  • “I never supported the Iraq war in print, but the idea of removing Saddam Hussein appealed to me.”

  • While in an Iraq jail with reporter (now deceased)David Bundy, Bundy once offered his fellow cellmate–Judy–in exchange for a pack of cigarettes.

  • Judy said her reporting on WMD was nothing more than “accurate reports of faulty intelligence.”

  • “Journalism is the first draft of history: If you don’t get it wrong, you go back again and again and again until you get it right.”

  • Judy conceded that even under the “excellent proposal in Congress” regarding a federal shield law, Miller only “might have been protected.”

  • “I really believe George Bush would have gone to war without Judy Miller and the New York Times.” Why? “Because he wanted to go to war in Iraq.”

  • Maureen Dowd’s column went “against the spirit of the institution.”