In one of those delicious coincidences, Day One of the post-Judy era at the Times has delivered a noticeable shift in the paper's coverage of Judy's old pal Ahmad Chalabi.
For months, the paper has insisted on identifying the discredited neocon darling by his latest official title -- "deputy prime minister" -- without a nod to the key role he played in providing the bogus intel the White House used to sell the war.
I've said before, this is like doing a story on Ken Lay and describing him as "a prominent Houston businessman."
As recently as this past Sunday, a story about Chalabi's visit to Iran opened with: "Ahmad Chalabi, the former Iraqi exile who has become a deputy prime minister, met with senior Iranian leaders here on Saturday..."
This morning's story about Chalabi's trip to Washington painted a fuller picture. While it too opened by describing Chalabi as "an Iraqi exile leader and now a deputy prime minister," the rest of the opening sentence helpfully included the fact that Chalabi has been accused of luring "the Bush administration into war with inaccurate intelligence on Iraqi weapons." And a photo accompanying the story came with the caption: "Ahmad Chalabi, whose campaign against Saddam Hussein influenced President Bush's decision to invade Iraq, in Washington yesterday."
A little closer to the mark than just "deputy prime minister," wouldn't you say?
Today's Times editorial page was closer still -- much, much closer. It delivered an excoriating critique of Chalabi that was a model of two-fisted opinion journalism. In the piece, the Times refers to Chalabi in a wide variety of disdainful ways. Over the course of 387 outraged words, he is described as a "multiply discredited schemer," a "political opportunist," a "destructive influence," "a double-dealer," an "unreliable source," and a man with "no inhibitions about embarrassing his former friends with impolitic remarks."
The editorial also mentions that he is suspected of spying for Iran, responsible for encouraging the Bushies' "disastrous mistakes" about WMD and our being greeted as liberators, and for enforcing the purge of Baath Party members that "helped cement the disastrous estrangement of the Sunni Arab middle class."
All in a five-paragraph piece. Talk about a devastating portrait.
So is the shift on Chalabi the start of a new era at the Times or just a tasty twist of fate? Only time -- and the Times -- will tell.