THE BLOG
02/08/2007 07:23 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Libby Trial: The Trouble With Mary

marymaleficient.jpg

(Graphics luv to commenter Andrea of the Huffington Post who sent this to Arianna.  Seemed so appropriate for today, somehow.)

It's just been one of those weeks for Mary Matalin, with all Cheney's her own words coming home to roost.  The trouble with Mary is that she selected the meticulous note-taker Scooter Libby as her "go to guy," and that he dutifully scribbled down her every, venomous screed about Amb. Wilson and Tim Russert and Chris Matthews.  Because, in Mary's world, anyone who would dare have the temerity to question the right of Dick Cheney to do whatever he pleased got what they deserved.  Truth be damned.

Except now the truth comes out about Mary's manipulative media machinations.  Her whole facade of public interest and loyalty to the boss and keeping you safe and every other bit of malarky she's thrown out to the public in her long career of press maneuvering has now been opened for public scrutiny.  And it is not pretty.

This morning, she faced a bit of reckoning from an unlikely source:  Don Imus.  (Yes, I know.  Color me shocked as well, but he asked some very good and skeptical questions.  In quite the mocking tone, I might add -- I believe Imus adopted the "Mary Skeptic" pose for today's broadcast.)  Via Atrios:

Imus: Did you tell Scooter Libby to call Tim Russert because he hates Chris Matthews?

Matalin: I think I said "Tim hates me." Or "Tim hates..." I hate Matthews. Here's, no let me take you inside the room. When I was at the White House...

Imus: Do you know what you said?

Matalin: I know exactly what I meant then.

Imus: Well what did you say?

Matalin: I don't know why i would have said that but I would have said this. All I know is this: the notes that the prosecutor put up of... a characterization of a conversation .. the prosecutor in that instance and the rest of it mischaracterized what was in my mind. here's what was in my mind. So, here's what I know what was in my mind and here's how it works and here's how I did my job and how all these jobs have to be done.

Other than you, and maybe this has happened to you, when anyone else who purports to be an objective analyst goes on the air and bashes your principle as they're called, and in this case it was the vice president, then you call the bureau chief and you complain. In the case of Chris who purported to be on a nightly basis an objective analyst who would get on there and say things which we knew not to be true, as in Cheney saw this report. The Cheney we knew -Cheney didn't know Wilson, Cheney never sent Wilson, Cheney never saw the report, and the report that did exist corroborated the agency's belief that there was some effort by Saddam to procure yellowcake.

So everything he was saying was wrong. And when that is the case then it is our job - the press guy's job - to call up and complain first to the producers of the show. Second, when there's no response forthcoming to the bureau chief. And, finally, in the case of Chris unfortunately - he used to be a friend of mine - to the New York bosses.

So I wasn't working there at the time and I said "you should call." And I don't remember saying, and I don't know that I would ever say that, because I don't know that Tim hates Chris. I think he likes Chris very much. I think he likes everybody over there. But I don't think he likes - and nor does any bureau chief ever like - when they have to take these complaint calls when their people are on the air saying these fallacious things.

That's just a bunch of butt-covering, nonsensical blather, isn't it?  And it smacks of that desperation that you can only find in the Beltway: impending power pariah status because you are about to receive a self-inflicted media shunning, cutting off all the self-promotion and party shilling opportunities with one pull of the television plugs.  That moment of unbookability looming, panic filed the air, and a phone was dialed.  Matalin wasn't scheduled to be a guest on Imus this morning.  She phoned in the show to do this to herself.

Twice.

Here's a bit more from Matalin's impromptu calls to Imus this morning, again via Atrios:

Matalin: We were friends for a really really long time.

Imus: Why do you not like him now:

Matalin: This is not about him or me or liking or disliking. I do not like anyone - I'm being redundant here - who purports to be a purveyor of truth and serving the public by serving the truth out there who flagrantly is making up stuff. To my mind an observation a nightly flagrant bias, an untruthtelling, about the circumstances surrounding this and other things having to do with the Vice President. And I did call his producers to no avail. Chris is to his producers as you are to the world, but you're in a different position.

So it's not what I think about him. I think he's an incredible human being who has overcome a lot. I love his wife and when his show was first on it was must see TV. And now I can't trust... if I know for a fact that everything he's saying about things in which I'm involved are wrong then I can't trust anything else that he says.

But Mary, what if you know for a fact that what Matthews is saying is true, but that by saying it, he's damaging the political prospects of your former boss nee political godfather by calling his myriad of lies to the public's attention?  By questioning the little credibility that Vice President Cheney might have left at his 18% approval rate and falling, does Matthews' questioning begins to impinge not just on your former boss's ego, but also, perhaps, on your own personal consulting and lobbying and self-promoting bottom line?  Guess that's a horse of a different color altogether, isn't it? Or perhaps a roosting chicken?

Here is Matalin back on November 21, 2005 -- just after the Libby indictment, in one of her many shill circuit bookings -- again attempting to use the Imus Show to pedal her wares lies:

MATALIN: What's the crime here? Everybody in town knew that, and who outed her was her husband -- "my wife, the CIA wife" and all this stuff. No crime, big gossip, politics, he's attacking us, we're answering him, and somehow people are in jail and a guy's career is ruined. Does that make sense to you?

Yep, there she is with the talking point du jour. Except what she and Victoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova (the Boris and Natasha of GOP legal shills) and all the other Cheney apologists out there didn't count on was that the Libby trial would spill out so many of their magic media manipulation beans...right out into the public's view.  Because (and not to toot our own little FDL horn or anything, but this is truly what we've been hoping for with our long-standing coverage on this case), people don't have to get their news only via a media filter any longer. 

This trial is being immediately summarized and blogged for all the world to read -- right here.

And, in real time, we've all gotten to learn from former WH and VP press secretaries just what outlets are friendly (read:  those media outlets that allowed us to prattle on and didn't ask us anything uncomfortable but merely acted as our own personal steno pool), and what ones were considered hostile (read:  those media folks who asked questions and had the nerve to expect answers).  We've learned that Vice President Cheney likes to send out his minions with handwritten talking points to use with the press (read:  such as those one might find atop a certain op-ed piece). 

And, this week in particular, we've learned that Mary Matalin's friendship with Tim Russert extended about as far as it needed to in order for him to be useful to her.

Ouch.

Eric Boehlert has an extraordinarily well done piece at Media Matters on the long-term effects of the Libby trial on lifting the curtain from the intertwined and  incestuous Beltway access game between politicians and the reporters who cover them.  From Eric's piece:

...So as the facts of the White House cover-up now tumble out into open court, it's important to remember that if it hadn't been for Fitzgerald's work, there's little doubt the Plame story would have simply faded into oblivion like so many other disturbing suggestions of Bush administration misdeeds. And it would have faded away because lots of high-profile journalists at The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, and NBC wanted it to.

In a sense, it was Watergate in reverse. Instead of digging for the truth, lots of journalists tried to bury it. The sad fact remains the press was deeply involved in the cover-up, as journalists reported White House denials regarding the Plame leak despite the fact scores of them received the leak and knew the White House was spreading rampant misinformation about an unfolding criminal case.

And that's why the Plame investigation then, and the Libby perjury trial now, so perfectly capture what went wrong with the timorous press corps during the Bush years as it routinely walked away from its responsibility of holding people in power accountable and ferreting out the facts....

Regardless of the outcome from the Libby perjury case, the trial itself will be remembered for pulling back the curtain on the Bush White House as it frantically tried to cover up its intentional effort to mislead the nation to war. Sadly, the trial will also serve as a touchstone for how the Beltway press corps completely lost its way during the Bush years and became afraid of the facts -- and the consequences of reporting them.

In so many ways, Mary Matalin stands as a cautionary tale to the very media folks that she has, for so long, sought to manipulate into printing her bidding. Arianna summed up Matalin's credibility gap months ago, during Matalin's disastrous appearance on Meet the Press just after Vice President Cheney shot his hunting companion in the face, with this concise description:

But the segment began with Tim basically giving Mary the first third to lay out her side of the story. It was bad enough to just have an administration mouthpiece on to regurgitate talking points, but why not allow -- in old Meet the Press fashion -- the journalists to question her? Maybe Mary demanded some solo time, but, if so, it didn't serve her boss well.

The impact of her appearance was to make the whole story seem even less under control than having a beer and shooting your friend in the face. As for what she said, there were so many intelligence-insulting lies and half-truths it's hard to know where to start.

And there it is in a nutshell -- not just about Mary Matalin, but also about so many people connected to Vice President Cheney and the Bush Administration.  Arianna got it exactly right: so many intelligence-insulting lies and half-truths it's hard to know where to start.   The trouble with Mary is that she's told so many of these whoppers that she no longer knows where they start and end -- so much so that she had to call back into the Imus show this morning to correct her earlier unscheduled, phoned-in correction of what she says she said or meant to say or may have said to Scooter, but maybe not.

Petard.  Meet hoist.

UPDATE:  Bless Duncan.  He's got the transcript for the call-back up.  And it's a doozy.  Here's a taste:

You can't twist our words or mischaracterize our conversation. You said to Kelly just now that I essentially deny this. So let me be clear, crystal clear.

If Scooter wrote it down, then I said it.

I don't remember saying it. I was trying to explain to you what it could have meant. What it does not mean is that Tim literally hates Chris.

But if Scooter wrote it down, then I said it.

So don't say I deny it, or don't characterize it in any way.

If Scooter wrote it down, then I said it....

Ummm....as Duncan asks, can you tell what her talking point was for the call back? Can you say "questioning Scooter Libby's credibility during his criminal trial was not smart"? I can. I can also say "someone placed a call to Mary and asked for an immediate correction on the record." Any guesses on who that might have been? (Hi, Babs.)   (H/T to CityGirl.)

The fine folks at Crooks and Liars have the clip up of Matalin's performance on Imus.  Do take a peek.