Singing the Bite Me Song


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November 23, 2005

What did Scooter Libby complain to Tim Russert about?

This quotation is from earlier this month, but it bears recording for our memory in order to be ready when the conversation finally comes out in court with Russert's testimony (since he's less than forthcoming about it now, following that new trend of journalists like Russert, Woodward, and Miller concealing more than revealing in the stories they cover, with an astonishing and highly suspect coyness and lack of transparency that is old media's biggest credibility problem these days).

Libby says he talked about former Ambassador Wilson's wife in a phone conversation with Russert on July 10, 2003. Russert says Libby called to complain about an MSNBC report and never mentioned Valerie Plame.

So folks in blogland speculate endlessly on what Libby was so incensed about that day, that led him to follow the urge to call the NBC bureau chief with the desire to rip him a new one. The one guy other than Russert who could shed some light on the subject, Chris Matthews, the most vocal Bush administration critic at MSNBC, had this to say, reprinted from Michael Smerconish at the Philadelphia Daily News [emphasis mine]:

Link: Philadelphia Daily News | 11/03/2005 | Michael Smerconish | WILL MATTHEWS CORROBORATE RUSSERT?.

 

[...]

Watching from here, in Matthews' hometown, my instincts tell me that if Russert had received a complaint call about Matthews from the vice president's chief of staff, his next call would probably have been to Matthews himself to tell him what Libby had said. (At least that's how it worked in the schoolyard: "Guess what so-and-so just said about you.")

So, did Russert make such a call to Matthews after hanging up with Libby? I got the chance to ask Chris Matthews. His reply: "No, I never got such a call."

I'm glad I didn't leave it there. I immediately worried that my question had been too restrictive with regard to timing, so I asked Matthews he "ever" had any conversation with Russert where Russert told him that Libby had a beef with him? I was really asking whether Matthews could corroborate Russert's version.

He hedged a bit. Here's my transcription of what Chris Matthews told me:

"Well, let me just tell you this, without getting into that, because I know the answer generally to your question, is that, because all of this involves testimony that Russert is probably going to have to make, and let me just tell you this, that those people in the White House, especially Libby and the vice president, working as a team, "connected as a root," to use Libby's favorite phrase, basically pulled off an alley-oop play to get us into war in Iraq by feeding to the New York Times stories about nuclear potential in the hands of Saddam Hussein, to get it into the Sunday paper, and then deploying the vice president on "Meet the Press" and other administration officials like Condi Rice on the other Sunday talk shows in a kinda alley-oop play.

"So they put the ball in the air, and then on Sunday mornings, these guys put it in the basket, and then all of a sudden we're at war over Iraq because a lot of Americans in the middle politically say, 'I don't know how we're getting into that mess or why we're getting in it, but I guess we have to protect ourselves against a mushroom cloud,' that is Condi's phrase.

"So, having pulled this masterful move of moving the undecided middle into the war, they then became very sensitive to the charge by Joseph Wilson that they had done the very thing, pushed the nuclear button and then covered up any threat to that nuclear button, and Wilson was that threat, and then, going volcanic against anybody including me, who dared to say, 'Wait a minute, there is a pattern here of how we got into the war, and how they promoted the nuclear case and how they protected the nuclear case against Wilson.'

"They didn't like me doing that. I know that a number of administration officials were screaming at my network at all levels about me raising this issue, the very points I've just made. They don't like hearing it, Libby is in trouble now because he doesn't like hearing it, the vice president is very much a part of this, and the answer to your question is that you are on the right trail, Michael."

What does all that mean? To me, that Russert may not have called Matthews immediately after hanging up with Libby, but he did tell his colleague of that call, which doesn't bode well for Libby.


November 23, 2005 at 09:49 PM in Democracy, Favorite Links, Media & Journalism, News to Note, Politics, Rhetoric, War/Terrorism | Permalink

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