A muckraker's day in the sun
How were you getting your information?
Why won't you do TV?
There's not much of it that really enlightens us. There are journalists who don't do journalism anymore. They go on television; they're blogging; they're giving speeches; they're going to parties. And then at the end of the week they've had four or five hours devoted to journalism. TV takes time away from actual reporting. An acquaintance of mine, [Doonesbury cartoonist] Garry Trudeau, went a long time without going on TV, and we talked about having a 12-step program for people who appear on television too much. It would be a boom business in Washington. But Garry has lapses he's been on Nightline, Charlie Rose. I also believe he did a morning show one time. But I've been steadfast. I have not been broken. I thought it was me and Garry against the world, the two amigos. He's left me hanging out there.
What are your politics?
My politics are I won't comment about my politics.
What do you know about Dusty Foggo, Porter Goss, and Hookergate?
Nothing. Only what I read in the paper. It's salacious and interesting.
Are you working on stories other than those involving the Fitzgerald investigation?
I've been working on a long, explanatory piece about healthcare issues, the cervical cancer vaccine. Why isn't that vaccine going to get to the people it should get to? Is it going to be locked away?
Are you getting relevant information in the Fitzgerald inquiry from both the prosecutor's office and the defense?
I won't talk about sources. The stories speak for themselves. You always want to identify the sourcing as much as possible for readers to see if there's an ax to grind and so the reader can see the authority of the source. It's a difficult story because sources are few and far between and reluctant to go on the record. An advantage has been that a lot of the stories have come right from public court records.
Since the records are public, are other reporters not seeing what you see or looking for what you're looking for?
They're not looking. They're not reading. I think they're on television. They need to come to Garry and my 12-step program.
Do you think White House aide Karl Rove will be indicted?
I don't know, and even if I did, I wouldn't say because it would be unfair to him. The difficulty of these stories is being fair to people under investigation. One of the things I learned from the so-called Clinton scandals is there's a lot of hyperventilation, a lot of baseless allegations, and an assumption in Washington that being under investigation is a presumption of guilt. The desire and necessity and prodding of editors to be first with every new increment or detail was not only unfair to the Clinton administration during Whitewater, but there's a lot of unfair stories about Bush administration officials, particularly Rove. There is the presumption of innocence. A grand jury appearance does not mean an indictment. An indictment does not mean the person's guilty. And an allegation is simply an allegation. Journalists have failed to point this out, and should on a regular basis.
How did your National Journal gig come about?
I was going to freelance a piece last year for the Atlantic . . . and we didn't think the news would hold until the magazine published. [National Journal Editor] Charlie Green asked if I could do it for the National Journal. [The Atlantic and the National Journal are both owned by David Bradley.) Did a second piece, did a third piece. Every story is a collaboration with Charlie Green and [Managing Editor] Bob Gettlin. But I'm largely independent. They let me roam to do the story, and as it takes shape we're on the phone several times a day. No story goes a moment before its time, but once we're certain about it, we go with it.
What's your next story?
It's another story about the level of knowledge among high-level administration officials about attempts to discredit Wilson and when they knew about it.