Live Long and Propsper at the Times, Judy Miller

Live Long and Prosper.gifIn a story with unbelievable twists and turns, this may be the most incredible: the Times is planning to keep Judith Miller on? After Bill Keller‘s mea culpa, Jill Abramson‘s denials, after “Valerie Flame” and Scooter Libby and WMDS and MoDo and Calame and Miss Run Amok? Honestly, my head hurts from smacking it against my desk in disbelief.

But no, it looks like there actually is a movement afoot to get keep Miller at the NYT. The NYObserver has the scoop: Gabriel Sherman and Anna Schneider-Mayerson report that Miller has retreated and regrouped with a high-profile group of heavy-hitters like her friend and maybe-editor (I’m still confused about whether she actually has a book deal or not) Alice Mayhew, former ambassador to France Felix Rohatyn, Blackstone Group founder Peter Peterson (not to be confused with Fishbowl friend Tom Thomsen, who is a very capable and hard worker if anyone needs, uh, help), Skadden, Arps lawyer-machers Matthew Mallow and the funly-named John Furfaro (watch the Furfaro fly!), and, oh, who’s that other one? Ah, yes: Times publisher Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger Jr.

Apparently, Sulzberger is finding it hard to let go of his old friend and is “pushing for a Miller comeback,” according to Arianna, who I suspect has smacked her head on the desk a few times herself.

Arianna says that the tide started to turn with the pro-Judy stance taken by Saturday’s editorial, which stood by the paper’s support of Miller on the First Amendment issue (love the last line: “[T]he big point Americans need to keep in mind is this: There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.” Ouch, that one definitely merited a few more clunks of the head!). Jay Rosen, blogging on HuffPo, sounded the first alarm bell on this on Saturday, recognizing that this was a step away from all the mea culpas, and itemizing all the unanswered questions it failed to address (NYT, will you throw Jay a bone and give him some info on Judy’s security clearance? I mean, we’d all like to know but Jay would really like to know).

It’s incredible that after Keller’s finger-pointing memo citing her “entanglement,” MoDo’s “Woman of Mass Destruction,” Calame’s assertion that Judy ought not return to the paper, and the reportage by her own colleageus of her resistance to assisting with the Times story on the matter, the Times might actually let her stay — a move which would not be good for newsroom morale (never mind poor Greg Mitchell!)

And yet, it’s on the table: so saith the Observer, and Arianna’s source too. But coming from Pinch, it shouldn’t be that surprising; it won’t be the first time he’s stood by a toxic person amidst plummeting morale and it won’t be the first time he squandered the goodwill of his staff by refusing to listen to them. Arianna herself sourced this truth back to her NYT mole: “Every big decision that comes out of the Times comes directly from the top… It’s the larger untold story in all of this — that he now runs the newsroom.” Which means that we can bang away at our heads all we want, Judy’s not going anywhere.

By the way, Arianna gave us another sweet tidbit: Sulzberger is a huge Trekkie, and even has a watch inscribed with the Vulcan salutation “Live long and prosper.” But it’s not Spock he should be hearkening to right now, it’s Mr. Sulu. Because when the Enterprise was under attack, they all looked to Sulu to raise the shields and protect their good ship from harm. Sulzberger needs to raise the shields, and fast. Boldly going requires no less.

Next time: The Judith Miller saga explained with reference to Lord of the Rings. One Ring to rule them all, and One Ring to bind them…