Thursday, September 22, 2005

Novak's Journalistic Ethics Called Into Question Again

Syndicated columnist Robert Novak last week attended an annual two-day conference in Aspen, Colorado, sponsored by a New York investment firm and attended by mostly big-shot Republicans from government, diplomacy, politics, business, entertainment, arts and journalism. Discussions at the conference were moderated by PBS' Charlie Rose. Novak, a first-time attendee of the event, acknowledged that the program specifically admonishes all attendees that "[a]ll discussions are off the record." Nonetheless, Novak broke faith with the conference's sponsor and wrote about about the event in his syndicated column today.

In writing about the conference, Novak said: "I will refrain from specifically quoting panelists and audience members. But the admonition says nothing about personal conversations outside the sessions. Nor do I feel inhibited in quoting myself. Even if I am violating the spirit of secrecy rules, revealing criticism of Bush by this elite group, and the paucity of defense for him, is valuable in reflecting the president's parlous political condition." In other words, Novak is willing to discard his journalistis ethics when he feels it is necessary to aid the President in understanding the extent of dissastisfaction with him, not from liberal Democrats but, in Novak's words, from "rich, mainly Republican and presumably Bush voters in the last two presidential elections."

Novak complained that a panel on stem cell research did not have balance because it consisted of medical scientists hostile to the Bush Administration's position. Novak wrote: "In the absence of any disagreement, I took the floor to suggest there are scientists and bioethicists with dissenting views and that it was not productive to demean opposing views as based on 'religious dogma.' The response was peeved criticism of my intervention and certainly no support."

On the issue of the Administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, Novak wrote: "I do not see myself as a defender of the Bush presidency, and I am sure the White House does not regard me as such. But as a member of the second panel consisting of journalists, I felt constrained to argue against implications that Hurricane Katrina should cause Bush to rediscover race and poverty." Seemingly contradicting himself as a defender of the Administration, Novak said, "After the first two panels, I feared I was the odd man . . . [b]ut during a break, one of the president's closest friends -- who had remained silent -- thanked me profusely for my comments." No doubt the President's close friend was Karl Rove, who Novak conceded was in attendance at the conference, but attributed U.S News & World Report for reporting his attendance.

You will recall that Novak created a national firestorm and spawned an independent counsel investigation of President Bush's administration when he outed covered CIA operative Valerie Plame in a column he wrote to discredit her husband, former Ambassador Joe Wilson, a critic of the Administration's claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove is widely believed to have been Novak's source for his column. Novak has refused to publicly reveal the identity of his source. Curiously, he was able to work out some sort of deal with the independent counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, which allowed him to avoid jail, while New York Times reporter Judith Miller has spent her entire summer in jail on a contempt of court charge for refusing to identitify a source for a story she never wrote.

Somebody else in attendance at the conference apparently didn't much like what Karl Rove had to say at the conference and leaked his comments to The Huffington Post, which reported that Rove said the following which the journalists in attendance were not allowed to report:

  • On Katrina: The only mistake we made with Katrina was not overriding the local government...
  • On The Anti-War Movement: Cindy Sheehan is a clown. There is no real anti-war movement. No serious politician, with anything to do with anything, would show his face at an anti-war rally...
  • On Bush's Low Poll Numbers: We have not been good at explaining the success in Iraq. Polls go up and down and don't mean anything...
  • On Iraq: There has been a big difference in the region. Iraq will transform the Middle East...
  • On Judy Miller And Plamegate: Judy Miller is in jail for reasons I don't really understand...
  • On Joe Wilson: Joe Wilson and I attend the same church but Joe goes to the wacky mass...

In concluding his column, Novak worried that "[i]t would be a shame if Rove returned to Washington without informing Bush how erstwhile friends have turned against him." Judging by Rove's comments at the conference, he sounds too out of touch to be of much assistance to the President at this point. Novak commented that the conference sponsor had told him that they had never experienced such open hostility at past conferences towards a Republican president. In so doing, Novak conceded "this was my first and, after this column, probably my last." He is probably right about that.

2 comments:

Jerame Davis said...

Bob Novak is the kind of slime that gives slime a bad name. Repugnant, not Republican!

Kay said...

"Repugnant, not Republican!"

Honestly, I am simply trying to understand. Just how does a non-republican queer find an acceptable distinction between the two?

Anyone??

Respectfully,
Kay