Talking on the Air and Out of Turn: The Trouble With TV
Last Sunday, Times reporter Judith Miller appeared on MSNBC's "Hardball With Chris Matthews" to discuss the Iraqi elections. In the course of the conversation Miller said sources had told her the Bush administration "has been reaching out" to the Iraqi political figure Ahmad Chalabi "to offer him expressions of cooperation." She continued, "According to one report, he was even offered a chance to be an interior minister in the new government." This led Matthews to interrupt Miller, exclaim "Wait a minute!" and press her to elaborate.
Now, Matthews is the sort of television host who will interrupt a guest about as often as he blinks, and his reliance on exclamation is roughly equal to his reliance on breathing. But to anyone who has tried to follow the jagged contours of Ahmed Chalabi's connections to the Bush administration, Miller's statement was a shocker. This piece of news hadn't appeared in The Times that morning; it didn't appear in The Times the next morning; as I write this column, on Friday, it still hasn't appeared. A lengthy analysis of the election aftermath by reporter Dexter Filkins, published Tuesday, didn't even hint of any current contact between Chalabi and the Bush administration.