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Discussing the 'martyrdom' of Judith Miller

MSNBC's Carlson and columnist Rosa Brooks square off on NYT reporter
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"New York Times" reporter Judith Miller is one of the key reporters at the center of the CIA leak investigation.  She spent 85 days in jail because she refused initially to reveal her sources to a grand jury.  For that, she was admired by many.

One person who cringes at the thought of Judith Miller, the martyr, is a columnist and professor of law at the University of Virginia, an all-time favorite guest on 'The Situation," Rosa Brooks.

Brooks joined MSNBC's Tucker Carlson on Wednesday to discuss Miller's situation the Plame leak case.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

TUCKER CARLSON:  Don't you think all this anger at Judy Miller is really misplaced?  I mean, she's a newspaper reporter.  She didn't lead us to war in Iraq, but listening to people talk about her, you'd think she single-handedly convinced Don Rumsfeld that we ought to invade Baghdad. 

ROSA BROOKS:  Well, Tucker, No. 1, the media likes to talk about the media.  ... No. 2, I think you've actually put your finger on it.  It's precisely because the media feels so powerless to affect the people who are really out there making the decisions that Judy Miller is an easy target. 

Now, I think she is totally misguided, but I also think that the media is pretty fickle, and we saw a few months ago, she was the martyr of the day, the saint of the day.  And now she's the villain of the day.  It's kind of hard to explain that, except by thinking that it's got something to do with the media feeling anxious about its own role. 

CARLSON:  I think you're right partly, and I don't fully understand why people despise Judy Miller so much.  I don't know Judy Miller.  I like her stories well enough.  She seems like a decent enough person.  But that's not the point. 

It seems to me that most of the criticism aimed at her is coming from the left, almost all of it, in fact.  It does sort of break down along those lines.  All of the liberal web sites, attacking Judy Miller.  Arianna Huffington, finding a new purpose in life, much needed, by attacking Judy Miller day after day.  What is that about?  Why are liberals mad at her?

BROOKS:  Liberals are mad at her for a couple of reasons, Tucker.  No.  1, liberals are mad at her for essentially being a P.R. spokesperson for the administration, in the run-up to the war in Iraq. 

She is not responsible for bringing us to war, but she played a not completely trivial role in selling the whole WMD story to the public in the newspaper record, just plowing over the objections from people saying, "Wait a second.  The evidence here is weak." 

I think the liberals are also mad at her because the press is not supposed to be that credulous.  She made everybody in the press look like a bunch of bozos.  She was not the only one. 

CARLSON:  Well, wait a second. 

BROOKS:  She was the one out there. 

CARLSON:  American intelligence, the CIA, French intelligence, Israeli intelligence, Mossad Israeli intelligence, members of Congress, leaders of both parties all believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.  Why is the "New York Times" supposed to find something different?

BROOKS:  You know, that's fair enough Tucker, and I'm a very trusting person, so when our government said there were WMD's, of course I thought, "Well, gosh, maybe they must be right." 

CARLSON:  That's what I thought, too. 

BROOKS:  On the other hand, one of the things that we hear now is that there are a lot of internal sources, both within the administration and within the media, who were casting doubts on that.  That there was a lot of dissent, and that part of the problem was not just the sort of group think, but an active effort to shut up all the dissenters, and that Judy Miller played her part in that. 

CARLSON:  Don't you think Judy Miller now represents -- she's come to symbolize the dissenters, those who would take their lumps in an effort to bring the message to the rest of us.  I mean, the message of what the government is doing to Judy Miller is, to government employees, don't talk to the press.  Don't leak.  And isn't leaking good for us?  Don't we have a right to know what goes on behind closed doors in Washington?

BROOKS:  Some leaks are good for us, and some leaks are bad for us.  This is actually a pet peeve of mine, Tucker.  When you're thinking about journalistic shield laws, sometimes I think this ought to be renamed the politician shield law. 

Because when you've got people in the U.S. Senate, thinking, "Gee, maybe we need a better shield law," they're not thinking about Judy Miller in prison.  They're thinking about Scooter Libby and Karl Rove facing prison.  They're thinking about themselves, possibly. 

CARLSON:  I'm sure they are.  We're all self-interested. ...

BROOKS:  Some of them are more self-interested than others. 

CARLSON:  Well, that's exactly right.  Members of Congress tend to be high on the self-interest scale, no doubt about that.  But isn't the effect the same, the effect, and the effect is more information coming from secret sources in the executive branch to us?

BROOKS:  You know, there's information and then there's misinformation.  I think part of the objection to the role that Judy Miller played is that she very often was a conduit for misinformation, and she should have known that.  She probably did know that. 

That, I think, is the objection, is if you have an absolute shield for journalists, then you never have any way to figure out whether what you're getting is information or misinformation.  And sometimes if the information is actually criminal, you can't get at that either. 

CARLSON:  And my final quick question is, when are liberals going to take this displaced anger they've been focusing on Judy Miller, and move it to the person who deserves it, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who supported the war and brought a lot of liberals with her?

BROOKS:  I'm with you on the Feingold for president platform, absolutely. 

CARLSON:  Rosa Brooks, an honest liberal.  It's nice to meet one.  Thanks for coming on.