Commentary Magazine


Topic: Ari Fleischer

Flotsam and Jetsam

There’s an understatement: “Juan Williams said Friday morning that NPR fired him this week because the radio network had become ‘vindictive’ over his appearances on Fox News.” Exhibit A: “NPR CEO Vivian Schiller on Thursday said that Williams should have kept his comments between himself and ‘his psychiatrist or his publicist.’ Schiller later apologized for the comment.” As a recovering labor lawyer, I can tell you that’s a plaintiff’s dream come true.

There’s a signal here: “The average of these states show that early voting has shifted from a D+16.6 partisan split to a D+1.7 partisan split for a Republican gain of +14.9% since 2008.” So many voters operating with the lizard brain, aren’t there?

There’s another reason to repeal ObamaCare. “Congressional Budget Office director Doug Elmendorf said Friday that ObamaCare includes work disincentives likely to shrink the amount of labor used in the economy.”

There’s no indication as to how they feel about Juan Williams. “Al-Qaeda Troubled by Helen Thomas’s Firing.”

There’s no indication that Jews agree with the tut-tutters that Israel is too “divisive” a campaign issue. JTA reports: “The National Jewish Democratic Council is running a ‘Day of Action,’ a get out the vote effort, nationwide on Sunday. The Republican Jewish Coalition is  chockablock with events in the coming days, including an appearance by former Bush administration spokesman Ari Fleischer in Chicago, where a lot of RJC attention has been focused, backing candidates Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for the Senate and Joel Pollak and Bob Dold for the House. The RJC is running TV ads in the Philadelphia area targeting Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), the candidate for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat — not for J Street deviations from dogma, as in the past, but for backing civilian trials for terrorists.”

There’s not a single one predicting the Democrats will hold the House (number of predicted losses are in parenthesis): Larry Sabato (47), RCP (“up to 57″), Charlie Cook (52), Jay Cost (61), and Nate Silver (51).

There’s a headline for Peter Sellers’s fans: “Not Even Clouseau Could Make Panthers Disappear.” Quin Hillyer cites the Washington Post front-page story from yesterday and explains, “[Eric] Holder’s stonewalling can’t work. The truth will out. The truth appears to involve a pattern of race-based enforcement decisions at DOJ. Such a policy is unlawful. Period.” Actually, “Exclamation point!”

There’s no hotter Republican than Chris Christie. “He quickly has positioned himself as a politician in tune with an angry and impatient electorate, and he’s already mentioned as a 2012 presidential candidate. He’s well aware that the fate of his fight with the teachers union could determine his own. ‘If I wanted to be sure I’d be re-elected, I’d cozy up with the teachers union. … But I want far-reaching, not incremental, change.’”

There’s a lot of hype in the reporting on the WikiLeaks documents, says Tom Joscelyn. But, he explains, the documents do confirm “that Iran was, and remains, a principal sponsor of Shia extremist groups in Iraq. These same groups helped bring Iraq to the brink of chaos — along with al-Qaeda, which was also happy to fuel the sectarian violence. … They killed far more civilians than the American-led coalition ever did.”

There’s probably been a more counterproductive ad than Jack Conway’s attack on Rand Paul’s religion. But I just can’t think of one.

There’s an understatement: “Juan Williams said Friday morning that NPR fired him this week because the radio network had become ‘vindictive’ over his appearances on Fox News.” Exhibit A: “NPR CEO Vivian Schiller on Thursday said that Williams should have kept his comments between himself and ‘his psychiatrist or his publicist.’ Schiller later apologized for the comment.” As a recovering labor lawyer, I can tell you that’s a plaintiff’s dream come true.

There’s a signal here: “The average of these states show that early voting has shifted from a D+16.6 partisan split to a D+1.7 partisan split for a Republican gain of +14.9% since 2008.” So many voters operating with the lizard brain, aren’t there?

There’s another reason to repeal ObamaCare. “Congressional Budget Office director Doug Elmendorf said Friday that ObamaCare includes work disincentives likely to shrink the amount of labor used in the economy.”

There’s no indication as to how they feel about Juan Williams. “Al-Qaeda Troubled by Helen Thomas’s Firing.”

There’s no indication that Jews agree with the tut-tutters that Israel is too “divisive” a campaign issue. JTA reports: “The National Jewish Democratic Council is running a ‘Day of Action,’ a get out the vote effort, nationwide on Sunday. The Republican Jewish Coalition is  chockablock with events in the coming days, including an appearance by former Bush administration spokesman Ari Fleischer in Chicago, where a lot of RJC attention has been focused, backing candidates Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) for the Senate and Joel Pollak and Bob Dold for the House. The RJC is running TV ads in the Philadelphia area targeting Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), the candidate for the state’s open U.S. Senate seat — not for J Street deviations from dogma, as in the past, but for backing civilian trials for terrorists.”

There’s not a single one predicting the Democrats will hold the House (number of predicted losses are in parenthesis): Larry Sabato (47), RCP (“up to 57″), Charlie Cook (52), Jay Cost (61), and Nate Silver (51).

There’s a headline for Peter Sellers’s fans: “Not Even Clouseau Could Make Panthers Disappear.” Quin Hillyer cites the Washington Post front-page story from yesterday and explains, “[Eric] Holder’s stonewalling can’t work. The truth will out. The truth appears to involve a pattern of race-based enforcement decisions at DOJ. Such a policy is unlawful. Period.” Actually, “Exclamation point!”

There’s no hotter Republican than Chris Christie. “He quickly has positioned himself as a politician in tune with an angry and impatient electorate, and he’s already mentioned as a 2012 presidential candidate. He’s well aware that the fate of his fight with the teachers union could determine his own. ‘If I wanted to be sure I’d be re-elected, I’d cozy up with the teachers union. … But I want far-reaching, not incremental, change.’”

There’s a lot of hype in the reporting on the WikiLeaks documents, says Tom Joscelyn. But, he explains, the documents do confirm “that Iran was, and remains, a principal sponsor of Shia extremist groups in Iraq. These same groups helped bring Iraq to the brink of chaos — along with al-Qaeda, which was also happy to fuel the sectarian violence. … They killed far more civilians than the American-led coalition ever did.”

There’s probably been a more counterproductive ad than Jack Conway’s attack on Rand Paul’s religion. But I just can’t think of one.

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Bemoaning the Bigot’s Retirement

Helen Thomas’s “enlightened” colleagues are sad, oh so very sad, about the departure of their “friend.” Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell seem to be trying out eulogies as they look back admiringly on her long (way too long) career. (Remember, P.J. O’Rourke says we should plan ahead!) Todd, who has a flair for making the ridiculous sound serious, intones:

And you know the definition of reporter and columnist has gotten, the lines have been blurred now for over a decade. It gets even worse in this case in distinguishing the two. And this was something that was a topic, frankly that I think a lot, in the White House Correspondents Association, everybody was kind of avoiding.

It’s not the anti-Semitism they should have been keeping an eye on, says the man from MSNBC (you can’t make this up), but all those opinion makers masquerading as newsmen.

But if you want unintentional hilarity, nothing beats the Gray Lady, which coos: “Especially in her latter years as a journalist, she posed questions in a provocative and opinionated manner that was highly unusual for a member of the White House press corps.” Er, I think maybe Dana Perino and Ari Fleischer among others have a different take on that one.

Meanwhile, we should be thankful for a final blast of sanity from Robert Zelnick, who reminds us:

Her bias regarding Israel has long been known to anyone — including this commentator — who has spent five minutes in her company. Also no secret has the more skillfully administered appeals to bigotry of Pat Buchanan, who can’t seem to resist disparaging remarks about the excessive representation of Jews in appointive positions, especially the Supreme Court.

(The rest of his comments on the flotilla are worth a read as well.)

It seems that what “sophisticated” media circles abhor and what would result in ostracism  – e.g., racism, anti-gay bias — does not include anti-Semitism. Remember that the next time the liberal media lectures us on diversity and bigotry.

Helen Thomas’s “enlightened” colleagues are sad, oh so very sad, about the departure of their “friend.” Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell seem to be trying out eulogies as they look back admiringly on her long (way too long) career. (Remember, P.J. O’Rourke says we should plan ahead!) Todd, who has a flair for making the ridiculous sound serious, intones:

And you know the definition of reporter and columnist has gotten, the lines have been blurred now for over a decade. It gets even worse in this case in distinguishing the two. And this was something that was a topic, frankly that I think a lot, in the White House Correspondents Association, everybody was kind of avoiding.

It’s not the anti-Semitism they should have been keeping an eye on, says the man from MSNBC (you can’t make this up), but all those opinion makers masquerading as newsmen.

But if you want unintentional hilarity, nothing beats the Gray Lady, which coos: “Especially in her latter years as a journalist, she posed questions in a provocative and opinionated manner that was highly unusual for a member of the White House press corps.” Er, I think maybe Dana Perino and Ari Fleischer among others have a different take on that one.

Meanwhile, we should be thankful for a final blast of sanity from Robert Zelnick, who reminds us:

Her bias regarding Israel has long been known to anyone — including this commentator — who has spent five minutes in her company. Also no secret has the more skillfully administered appeals to bigotry of Pat Buchanan, who can’t seem to resist disparaging remarks about the excessive representation of Jews in appointive positions, especially the Supreme Court.

(The rest of his comments on the flotilla are worth a read as well.)

It seems that what “sophisticated” media circles abhor and what would result in ostracism  – e.g., racism, anti-gay bias — does not include anti-Semitism. Remember that the next time the liberal media lectures us on diversity and bigotry.

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Helen Thomas Should Go, Says Lanny Davis

Lanny Davis, Clinton adviser and stalwart Democrat, joins Ari Fleischer in calling for Helen Thomas to be booted. He has released a statement, which reads:

Helen Thomas, who I used to consider a close friend and who I used to respect, has showed herself to be an anti-Semitic bigot. This not about her disagreement about her criticisms of Israel. She has a right to criticize Israel and that is not the same as being an anti-Semite.

However, her statement that  Jews in Israel should leave Israel and go back to Poland or Germany is an ancient and well-known anti-Semitic  stereotype of the Alien Jew not belonging in the “land of Israel” — one that began  2,600 years with the first tragic and violent diaspora of the Jews at the hands of the Romans.

If she had asked all Blacks to go back to Africa, what would White House Correspondents Association position be as to whether she deserved White House press room credentials — much less a privileged honorary seat?

Does anyone doubt that my friends Ann Compton, head of the WHCA,  and Joe Lockhart, who believe in the First Amendment right of free expression as much as I do, would be as tolerant and protective of Helen’s privileges and honors in the White House press room as they appear to be if she had been asking Blacks to return to Africa? Or Native Americans to Asia and South America, from which they came 8,000 or more years ago? I doubt it.

Of course Helen has the right as a private citizen under the First Amendment to speak her mind, even as an anti-Jewish bigot — but not as a member, much less privileged member with a reserved seat, in the WH press corps.

See, that wasn’t so hard. Where is the rest of the media, the White House Correspondents Association, and the White House? As to the latter, no response to my inquiry has been forthcoming. Perhaps, the White House is hoping — you know, like with the BP spill — that it can dodge responsibility for this one. But it is their credentials Helen Thomas uses and their briefing room in which she sits. What say you, Mr. President?

UPDATE: Helen Thomas gets dumped by her agent.

Lanny Davis, Clinton adviser and stalwart Democrat, joins Ari Fleischer in calling for Helen Thomas to be booted. He has released a statement, which reads:

Helen Thomas, who I used to consider a close friend and who I used to respect, has showed herself to be an anti-Semitic bigot. This not about her disagreement about her criticisms of Israel. She has a right to criticize Israel and that is not the same as being an anti-Semite.

However, her statement that  Jews in Israel should leave Israel and go back to Poland or Germany is an ancient and well-known anti-Semitic  stereotype of the Alien Jew not belonging in the “land of Israel” — one that began  2,600 years with the first tragic and violent diaspora of the Jews at the hands of the Romans.

If she had asked all Blacks to go back to Africa, what would White House Correspondents Association position be as to whether she deserved White House press room credentials — much less a privileged honorary seat?

Does anyone doubt that my friends Ann Compton, head of the WHCA,  and Joe Lockhart, who believe in the First Amendment right of free expression as much as I do, would be as tolerant and protective of Helen’s privileges and honors in the White House press room as they appear to be if she had been asking Blacks to return to Africa? Or Native Americans to Asia and South America, from which they came 8,000 or more years ago? I doubt it.

Of course Helen has the right as a private citizen under the First Amendment to speak her mind, even as an anti-Jewish bigot — but not as a member, much less privileged member with a reserved seat, in the WH press corps.

See, that wasn’t so hard. Where is the rest of the media, the White House Correspondents Association, and the White House? As to the latter, no response to my inquiry has been forthcoming. Perhaps, the White House is hoping — you know, like with the BP spill — that it can dodge responsibility for this one. But it is their credentials Helen Thomas uses and their briefing room in which she sits. What say you, Mr. President?

UPDATE: Helen Thomas gets dumped by her agent.

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Why Shouldn’t Helen Thomas Be Expelled from the White House Press Corps?

Politico reports that several individual members of the press say they don’t much like Helen Thomas’s anti-Semitic rant (they don’t use that term, of course), but, hey, she apologized — so let bygones be bygones:

“She doesn’t speak for the WHCA,” said White House Correspondents’ Association  President Ed Chen. “Her views are hers alone. And now she’s apologized. Policing the views of opinion columnists can start us all all down a path that history suggests is best avoided.”

“Helen Thomas does not speak for me, and she does not represent the White House press corps,” said McClatchy’s Steve Thomma. “It was an offensive comment. She was right to apologize for it.”

“Helen has been a columnist for about a decade now and her strong beliefs on the Middle East are well known,” said ABC News’ Ann Compton. “I think I saw that she regretted these remarks and realized they were hurtful and inappropriate. Ari Fleischer is a private citizen and certainly free to express his opinion that this was a firing offense even for an opinion columnist. I would agree with you that Helen enjoys a rather special status as the White House. But I think her employer will have to decide whether the comments went over the line.”

Only Ari Fleischer has gone on record calling for her to be fired. One unidentified report agrees: “This is disgusting stuff. … If anyone else said it, they would probably be fired. Ari has every right to be mad.” Ori Nir, of the leftist, usually Israel-bashing (and deceptively named) Americans for Peace Now, pipes up: “Ms. Thomas’ comments were repugnant. She did the right thing by apologizing for making them. Whether she should end her relationship with Hearst over these comments is up to her and Hearst.” Well, far be it for him to call for someone spouting such repugnant comments to lose the privilege of sitting in the White House briefing room.

An official with a Jewish organization in Washington e-mails me:

It’s hard to believe that a company like Hearst would want to have it’s [sic] most visible public association be with a vile bigot, let alone a “reporter” so ignorant of history and the fact of unbroken Jewish inhabitance in Israel going back to before the birth of Jesus. I wonder if she’ll continue to get called on at the White House, given her style of questioning and obvious mindset. How far does one have to go these days before it’s simply odious and beyond the bounds of civil discourse?

Apparently, there is no limit to how far one can go — provided Jews are the object of the venom.

Politico reports that several individual members of the press say they don’t much like Helen Thomas’s anti-Semitic rant (they don’t use that term, of course), but, hey, she apologized — so let bygones be bygones:

“She doesn’t speak for the WHCA,” said White House Correspondents’ Association  President Ed Chen. “Her views are hers alone. And now she’s apologized. Policing the views of opinion columnists can start us all all down a path that history suggests is best avoided.”

“Helen Thomas does not speak for me, and she does not represent the White House press corps,” said McClatchy’s Steve Thomma. “It was an offensive comment. She was right to apologize for it.”

“Helen has been a columnist for about a decade now and her strong beliefs on the Middle East are well known,” said ABC News’ Ann Compton. “I think I saw that she regretted these remarks and realized they were hurtful and inappropriate. Ari Fleischer is a private citizen and certainly free to express his opinion that this was a firing offense even for an opinion columnist. I would agree with you that Helen enjoys a rather special status as the White House. But I think her employer will have to decide whether the comments went over the line.”

Only Ari Fleischer has gone on record calling for her to be fired. One unidentified report agrees: “This is disgusting stuff. … If anyone else said it, they would probably be fired. Ari has every right to be mad.” Ori Nir, of the leftist, usually Israel-bashing (and deceptively named) Americans for Peace Now, pipes up: “Ms. Thomas’ comments were repugnant. She did the right thing by apologizing for making them. Whether she should end her relationship with Hearst over these comments is up to her and Hearst.” Well, far be it for him to call for someone spouting such repugnant comments to lose the privilege of sitting in the White House briefing room.

An official with a Jewish organization in Washington e-mails me:

It’s hard to believe that a company like Hearst would want to have it’s [sic] most visible public association be with a vile bigot, let alone a “reporter” so ignorant of history and the fact of unbroken Jewish inhabitance in Israel going back to before the birth of Jesus. I wonder if she’ll continue to get called on at the White House, given her style of questioning and obvious mindset. How far does one have to go these days before it’s simply odious and beyond the bounds of civil discourse?

Apparently, there is no limit to how far one can go — provided Jews are the object of the venom.

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Will Obama Pay a Price?

The White House is in a defensive crouch over the jobs-for-primary-exit stories. As usual, Robert Gibbs is responsible for being completely nontransparent. The Daily Caller notes:

Though Gibbs is a close confidante of Obama’s, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who was the first to man the briefing room podium for President George W. Bush, said it is not surprising that Gibbs may have avoided speaking to the president about the Sestak and Romanoff matters.

“That’s exactly what White Houses and press secretaries do when you either don’t want to know the answer or you want to shield the president for as long as possible from getting mired in the muck. The problem is that it is a temporary solution and it won’t hold up over time,” [Ari] Fleischer said in an interview.

“It’s inevitable over time that someone will ask a question directly of the president in an interview,” he said. “What the White House is hoping for is that it will come up at a time when there is a lot less focus and heat so they can fade the issue.”

But Congress is coming back to town next week and this is a campaign year. It’s quite likely then that the issue won’t die but will become another example for challengers to use in making the case that there is something seriously wrong with Washington pols.

As Peter Wehner meticulously lays out, the White House stonewall on both Sestak and Romanoff is a risky gambit:

We are now entering a new and dangerous phase in the Obama presidency. For one thing, it is possible that federal crimes were committed. … Obviously, members of the Obama White House considered their actions troubling enough that they went to great lengths to conceal their actions. They have been engaging in a modified limited hangout. And it is reasonable to assume, I think, that Sestak and Romanoff are not isolated examples.

And even if it does not descend into a legal investigation, the political damage is significant. Obama is refusing to answer rudimentary questions (Did he instruct aides to offer the jobs?), thereby reinforcing the image of a White House that is both ethically challenged and Nixonian in its secrecy and refusal to permit outside scrutiny. If there is not to be any legal ramifications, there is likely a political price to be paid by both Obama and his party.

The White House is in a defensive crouch over the jobs-for-primary-exit stories. As usual, Robert Gibbs is responsible for being completely nontransparent. The Daily Caller notes:

Though Gibbs is a close confidante of Obama’s, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who was the first to man the briefing room podium for President George W. Bush, said it is not surprising that Gibbs may have avoided speaking to the president about the Sestak and Romanoff matters.

“That’s exactly what White Houses and press secretaries do when you either don’t want to know the answer or you want to shield the president for as long as possible from getting mired in the muck. The problem is that it is a temporary solution and it won’t hold up over time,” [Ari] Fleischer said in an interview.

“It’s inevitable over time that someone will ask a question directly of the president in an interview,” he said. “What the White House is hoping for is that it will come up at a time when there is a lot less focus and heat so they can fade the issue.”

But Congress is coming back to town next week and this is a campaign year. It’s quite likely then that the issue won’t die but will become another example for challengers to use in making the case that there is something seriously wrong with Washington pols.

As Peter Wehner meticulously lays out, the White House stonewall on both Sestak and Romanoff is a risky gambit:

We are now entering a new and dangerous phase in the Obama presidency. For one thing, it is possible that federal crimes were committed. … Obviously, members of the Obama White House considered their actions troubling enough that they went to great lengths to conceal their actions. They have been engaging in a modified limited hangout. And it is reasonable to assume, I think, that Sestak and Romanoff are not isolated examples.

And even if it does not descend into a legal investigation, the political damage is significant. Obama is refusing to answer rudimentary questions (Did he instruct aides to offer the jobs?), thereby reinforcing the image of a White House that is both ethically challenged and Nixonian in its secrecy and refusal to permit outside scrutiny. If there is not to be any legal ramifications, there is likely a political price to be paid by both Obama and his party.

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RE: Obama’s Nastiness Is Not New

You’ve done a nice job, Jen, of reminding readers of the long string of Obama attacks on the motives and character of his critics. As Ari Fleischer points out in the Politico story, this is another way in which George W. Bush was better than his successor. But set that aside for the moment. It’s not simply that Obama is prone to turn his critics into villains. It is that Obama — as he did on so many issues — set the bar exceedingly high.

During the campaign he said we should “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.” He promised us, “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.” Obama’s core appeal during the campaign was aesthetic rather than substantive, based on his promise to “turn the page,” to eschew “spin,” and to put aside the personal attacks that have come to characterize political discourse in our time.

Yet Obama, rather than arresting that trend, is accelerating it.

And for good measure, he cannot resist adding arrogance to his hypocrisy. Mr. Obama sees himself as our modern-day Socrates, the courageous voice of reason in an angry and rancorous world. His opponents are driven by base, if not corrupt, motives; they tell lies while he speaks Truth. One gets the sense from Obama that he is frustrated that more of us don’t acknowledge that he is a man of unparalleled wisdom and purity of heart. We don’t recognize the gift he is to all of us.

When challenged on his facts, he gets prickly and defensive; the more effective the challenge, the more contemptuous Obama becomes. One can see what is going around in his mind: “Do you presume to criticize the Great Oz! You ungrateful creatures. Think yourselves lucky that I’m giving you an audience…”

The problem for the president is that people are beginning to pay attention to that man behind the curtain.

You’ve done a nice job, Jen, of reminding readers of the long string of Obama attacks on the motives and character of his critics. As Ari Fleischer points out in the Politico story, this is another way in which George W. Bush was better than his successor. But set that aside for the moment. It’s not simply that Obama is prone to turn his critics into villains. It is that Obama — as he did on so many issues — set the bar exceedingly high.

During the campaign he said we should “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.” He promised us, “I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.” Obama’s core appeal during the campaign was aesthetic rather than substantive, based on his promise to “turn the page,” to eschew “spin,” and to put aside the personal attacks that have come to characterize political discourse in our time.

Yet Obama, rather than arresting that trend, is accelerating it.

And for good measure, he cannot resist adding arrogance to his hypocrisy. Mr. Obama sees himself as our modern-day Socrates, the courageous voice of reason in an angry and rancorous world. His opponents are driven by base, if not corrupt, motives; they tell lies while he speaks Truth. One gets the sense from Obama that he is frustrated that more of us don’t acknowledge that he is a man of unparalleled wisdom and purity of heart. We don’t recognize the gift he is to all of us.

When challenged on his facts, he gets prickly and defensive; the more effective the challenge, the more contemptuous Obama becomes. One can see what is going around in his mind: “Do you presume to criticize the Great Oz! You ungrateful creatures. Think yourselves lucky that I’m giving you an audience…”

The problem for the president is that people are beginning to pay attention to that man behind the curtain.

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Beam Me Up, Scooter

Former presidential press secretary Ari Fleischer was on the witness stand in the Scooter Libby trial today and gave testimony that the New York Times says “could prove very damaging” to the former vice-presidential aide. Testifying under a grant of immunity, Fleischer told the court that Libby was the first person to tell him that Ambassador Joseph Wilson had been sent on a mission to Niger by the CIA at the suggestion of Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, who was herself, Libby disclosed to him, an employee of the CIA’s counterproliferation division.

Libby is contending that the false statements he gave to the FBI and to a grand jury–about how he learned the identity of Wilson’s wife, and to whom he passed on this knowledge–were the product of a faulty memory and do not amount to the perjury or obstruction of justice with which he has been charged. But according to Stacy Schiff, a guest op-ed columnist at the Times, Libby is reputed to have a prodigious memory and “remembers all 79 Star Trek episodes. And their titles, too.” His memory lapses, she says, amount to what is technically known as the “‘Honey, I was too busy preparing the family tax return to think clearly when you asked about the lap-dancers’ defense.”

For their part, Libby’s attorneys had hoped U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton would allow them to call an expert on human memory, who would help them make their case that “memory does not function like a tape recorder” and “a person is less likely to remember information if he is paying attention to several things at once.” For this purpose, the defense team had hired Daniel L. Schacter, professor of psychology at Harvard and the author of The Seven Sins of Memory and  Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind and the Past.  But Walton has ruled against them. No memory expert will appear in court.

Still, will a jury vote to convict? Even if a convincing case is made that Libby lied to investigators, it will be exceptionally difficult for prosecutors to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that he was prevaricating rather than merely confused. One does not need an expert in memory to persuade a jury that as events recede into the past they become more difficult to remember, or that what appears salient in retrospect might have been quite unremarkable at the time it originally occurred. 

As far as Star Trek is concerned, even if Libby does know all 79 episodes by heart–and this has not yet been demonstrated–it would not logically follow that he would remember every word of every conversation he held in a busy White House in the middle of a war. Like many Trekkies, he more likely viewed each of the episodes multiple times and talked about them at length with others who shared his particular passion, generating a much more firmly imprinted memory than one left by what was said in an offhand way over lunch with a colleague. 

Still, if Libby takes the witness stand in his own defense, as he is expected to do, he is going to have to walk a very fine line between remembering too little, thus sounding evasive, and remembering too much, thus undermining the core of his own defense.
 
For a full listing of the special counsel’s exhibits in the case, click here.

For a full listing of all 79 Star Trek episodes, click here.

Former presidential press secretary Ari Fleischer was on the witness stand in the Scooter Libby trial today and gave testimony that the New York Times says “could prove very damaging” to the former vice-presidential aide. Testifying under a grant of immunity, Fleischer told the court that Libby was the first person to tell him that Ambassador Joseph Wilson had been sent on a mission to Niger by the CIA at the suggestion of Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, who was herself, Libby disclosed to him, an employee of the CIA’s counterproliferation division.

Libby is contending that the false statements he gave to the FBI and to a grand jury–about how he learned the identity of Wilson’s wife, and to whom he passed on this knowledge–were the product of a faulty memory and do not amount to the perjury or obstruction of justice with which he has been charged. But according to Stacy Schiff, a guest op-ed columnist at the Times, Libby is reputed to have a prodigious memory and “remembers all 79 Star Trek episodes. And their titles, too.” His memory lapses, she says, amount to what is technically known as the “‘Honey, I was too busy preparing the family tax return to think clearly when you asked about the lap-dancers’ defense.”

For their part, Libby’s attorneys had hoped U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton would allow them to call an expert on human memory, who would help them make their case that “memory does not function like a tape recorder” and “a person is less likely to remember information if he is paying attention to several things at once.” For this purpose, the defense team had hired Daniel L. Schacter, professor of psychology at Harvard and the author of The Seven Sins of Memory and  Searching for Memory: The Brain, the Mind and the Past.  But Walton has ruled against them. No memory expert will appear in court.

Still, will a jury vote to convict? Even if a convincing case is made that Libby lied to investigators, it will be exceptionally difficult for prosecutors to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that he was prevaricating rather than merely confused. One does not need an expert in memory to persuade a jury that as events recede into the past they become more difficult to remember, or that what appears salient in retrospect might have been quite unremarkable at the time it originally occurred. 

As far as Star Trek is concerned, even if Libby does know all 79 episodes by heart–and this has not yet been demonstrated–it would not logically follow that he would remember every word of every conversation he held in a busy White House in the middle of a war. Like many Trekkies, he more likely viewed each of the episodes multiple times and talked about them at length with others who shared his particular passion, generating a much more firmly imprinted memory than one left by what was said in an offhand way over lunch with a colleague. 

Still, if Libby takes the witness stand in his own defense, as he is expected to do, he is going to have to walk a very fine line between remembering too little, thus sounding evasive, and remembering too much, thus undermining the core of his own defense.
 
For a full listing of the special counsel’s exhibits in the case, click here.

For a full listing of all 79 Star Trek episodes, click here.

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