In this book, Judith Miller has presented a very cogent version of her side of the story, detailing and exposing the underbelly of the news and publishing industry as she reveals the major events of her almost three decade career with the New York Times and then, the decade after; it is not a pretty picture. Many of the negative reviews of the book are not critical reviews, but personally insulting diatribes. They seem to be from the same type of people; they seem to be from very angry ideologues bent on silencing any opposing point of view. They are not governed by information but by personal bias. They seem to be the same people who insisted and still insist that "Bush lied, people died", but believe Obama walks on water, regardless of whether or not the ship is sinking. Many even admit that they have not even read the book and some even refuse to read it. That should give any neutral party an idea of the actual value of their reviews. Perhaps, we in America have become so dumbed down, so jaded by the idea of soundbites, that there is little taste for expending the effort to honestly analyze both sides of an issue. If the possibility exists of destroying someone you disagree with, regardless of whether or not they are right or wrong, it is simply done. A perfect example is Harry Reid who lied about Mitt Romney's tax returns but felt he had no need to apologize, because, as he said, "it worked, we won"! That attitude held by the enemies of Judith Miller came through for me in this book. The hypocrisy of the left leaning Liberals, Progressives and radical Libertarians was exposed, rather than the bias or need for retribution on the part of the author that they believed was the purpose of the book. She merely presented another side of an issue different than that of the left-leaning culture of publishers, authors, entertainers and journalists, journalists and publishers who had actually promised to air her side of the story, supportively, but in the end were loathe to present it to the general public. They didn't consider it "news that was fit to print"!
Jealousy and backstabbing were common themes as was the picture of self-serving journalists and management interested only in the bottom line and most often in the “cover you’re a__” principle as a matter of policy. Miller was condemned rather than honored as the journalist who stuck up for the principles of free speech, their protected free speech, as well. After all, she went to jail to defend that principle. She was a journalist who had helped win awards for the newspaper and who, heretofore, had been praised as a reporter and honored with awards, although, as some said, her style might have been considered aggressive and her personality stand-offish. She was, therefore, the perfect foil and scapegoat when controversy came to the New York Times. As it became known that there were no WMD’s, and she was an embed with the soldiers searching for them, she was roundly criticized for her reporting, even though it was based on faulty intelligence and not her own opinions.
It appears that the industry that was to serve as the “fourth estate” to keep the government in check has failed, and continues to, because of the aspirations and career climbing greed of the players involved who seek to further themselves and their own political opinions and futures. The news is no longer accurately presented. Yellow journalism which is defined as “journalism that is based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration”, once despised, is now the rule. It is the headline that counts and, of course the byline. Accuracy is no longer important, rather it is catching the eye of a reader who may or may not be literate enough to discern fact from fiction, to do any research on their own to discover the whole truth. The need for the easy sound bite has become paramount and it has transformed the readers into a class of people that only wants to be spoon fed, regardless of what is on the spoon. Truth has become the victim of the less than stellar tactics used by those who own the bully pulpit.
Miller believes that she was misled about WMD’s, as were the President and other members of the administration, foreign governments and intelligence organizations, although many chose to recant their original positions when it was learned that there were none. Many of those same players trashed Miller’s reporting in order to pin their own failures on someone else, including and most importantly President Bush. They rejoiced in calling him a liar and inferred that he was a murderer, deliberately sending soldiers into battle to satisfy his personal beliefs. The skewing of the facts, the vying for power, regardless of the consequences for those who were in their way, was mind boggling. Just as Miller was condemned for her reporting about WMD”s, she was condemned for getting released from jail earlier than her colleagues believed she should. She had become embroiled in the scandal of Valerie Plame’s “outing” as a secret agent, and she was commanded to testify by an appointed Special Counsel, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, in order to discover the name of the source who had “outed” her. Plame herself was viewed as self-promoting and her husband, Joe Wilson, was actually the one who brought the issue to the public eye, an issue which would have remained unknown and rather a non-issue if there were no political biases involved. It was the influence of his wife that had gotten him his African posting which helped him write a scathing review of the Bush administration’s war effort, so there was no love lost between them and the Bush administration. When Miller refused to name her source, she was jailed for 85 days until the source allowed her to speak. One betrayal followed another as her fellow journalists and management condemned her decision to get out of jail and testify, although no other journalist had ever been jailed for so long a period. Their behavior seems both disgraceful and shameful. It would have been more appropriate to laud her heroic effort on behalf of the industry and her fellow journalists, but instead of gratitude, she was ridiculed and persecuted. With the threat of years of jail hanging over her head because of a well known, thought to be self serving prosecutor who was determined to get some kind of judgment to promote his political and legal career, regardless of his victims innocence or guilt, she petitioned her source to release her, and when he did, she testified.
Miller appears to have become the vehicle the Democrats chose to use as a way to trash the Bush administration and with it, the entire GOP. The sharks smelled blood in the water. The powers that be at the New York Times, Sulzberger, Keller, and Abramson, thought only of their own careers and the Times ability to weather the storm they had permitted to gather; they tossed people and truth to the wind as they followed their own self-interest. Is it any wonder that newspapers have fallen by the wayside? Miller became the universal scapegoat and entertainment fodder for late night tv hosts as they trashed her, as well, promoting their own personal views. Jon Stewart, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, The Daily Kos, and Politico, among others, cherry picked the facts as they saw an opportunity to not only tarnish a reputation but to condemn the entire Bush administration.
Although Judy Miller admitted she made several mistakes based on incorrect information given to her by her sources, in the end, she reveals that one very important error in her career was due to the tactics of a Federal Prosecutor determined to win, regardless of the cost. Miller believes that his heavy handed tactics and threats pretty much coerced her to rush to judgment and provide information against Scooter Libby which she later believed was false. Jailed and frightened that she would continue to remain there, she did not have the time to review her notes thoroughly and as thoughtfully as they should have been. It was only years later that she realized, upon discovering additional notes, that she had made statements which contributed to Libby’s undeserved jail sentence. At the time, though, she believed that her testimony to the Grand jury and during the trial was the truth. She responded to the best of her ability. Although she tried to reconstruct conversations that she had had many months and sometimes years in the past, her responses to questions inadvertently condemned Libby. She thought she had misinterpreted what she had written in her notes.
In the book, Miller does justify her journalism by detailing the many countries and intelligence agencies that believed that Saddam had WMD’s. She was embedded with the group tasked with finding them. She says no one lied, it was faulty intelligence. However, political hacks saw fit to use the information to pull down the right and benefit the left, to create their own truth. Listening to Miller read her own "story" was very engaging and eye-opening. Although she had been regally praised in the past for her coverage of Bin Laden and the Middle East Wars, although she had helped the paper win awards, when it was discovered that the information believed by most nations and high ranking officials about Weapons of Mass Destruction, WMD's, was false, she was maligned.
The names of the people who smeared her are pretty much household names in many homes; they are people who have risen up the ladder of success in the industry, not by defending the rights of their fellow members in the industry, but by betraying them and using their bodies to give themselves a leg up: Jill Abramson, Arthur Sulzberger and Bill Keller come across horribly as does Howard Kurtz, Jon Stewart, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Jack Shafer, to name just a few of those who were all part of the feeding frenzy, who didn’t walk in her shoes but saw fit to judge her.
She should have been hailed as a hero, not maligned as a liar who was self-serving by those who were actually guilty of the flaw of which they accused her. Democrats and radical Libertarians of all stripes could not wait to call anyone associated with Bush a liar....yet many of them were themselves liars. They all manipulated the facts to further their own particular political or personal point of view.
Miller mixed with the who’s who of the era in which she worked. She mixed with famous journalists before she achieved fame, met writers, heads of state, and diplomats in her work as an investigative journalist in the Middle East. She was an editor worthy of repute, but she preferred to write the “story”. She was not always permitted to do so because the New York Times did not think it was news that was “fit to print”. Now, a decade after leaving the Times, she has written her side of the story. Read it, it is eye-opening about her life and the world of news!