We don't much like panel discussions. No one says anything new, no one changes anyone's mind, and the food is rarely any good. But Court TV promised breakfast at Michael's and a crew of media bigshots who don't much like each other, and so it seemed worth showering earlier than we have in months and getting on the E train to midtown.
With our low expectations — free food and barely restrained animosity — the event more than delivered. For a delightful hour, a group of bald, balding, or white-haired old Jews yelled at each other. Wolff badgered Abrams, Lemann lectured Wolff, Cohen taunted Pearlstine, Schleiff served as tummler — "we need to continue this," he yuk-yukked in closing, "but unfortunately I think they have the Rosenberg bar mitzvah coming in right now" — and the whole thing felt like a particularly cantankerous condo-board meeting in Boca. Except with trayf. (Which was, incidentally, delicious. The accompanying scrambled eggs, less so.)
What did everyone have to say? Exactly what you'd expect them to, of course. For a Gawker abridgement of Court TV's "The Case of the Rule of Law vs. The Rule of Journalism," you might as well jump.
Henry Schlieff, Court TV chairman and CEO: Welcome. I don't understand the facts of the Plame case, but I think we're all very smart.
Catherine Crier, Court TV anchor, moderator: I will ask questions, which you will ignore to argue among yourselves.
Michael Wolff, Vanity Fair columnist: Fuck confidentiality. Karl Rove is evil, he committed a terrible, treasonous crime, and Miller and Copper abetted him. Fuck 'em all.
Nicholas Lemann, Columbia Journalism School dean: I am a journalism professor.
Floyd Abrams, noted First Amendment lawyer: Reporters must always keep promises. Also, I am a noted First Amendment lawyer.
Norman Pearlstine, Time Inc. editor-in-chief: Don't hate me. It's really all Matt Cooper's fault. He never should have promised Rove confidentiality.
Richard Cohen, Washington Post columnist: Treasonous crime? Feh. Third-rate burglary.
Wolff: Rove, crime. Big fucking story.
Paul Holmes, Reuters global editor for political and general news: This is stupid. Reuters, real news.
Pearlstine: Don't hate me. Grand jury. National security.
Cohen: Kay Graham was a god.
Wolff: Dick Parsons, not Norm, would be Kay Graham.
Pearlstine: I don't get Michael's joke. Also, don't hate me.
Wolff: Liars. Everywhere. You struggled with your decision, Norm? You had no choice — Time Warner's board would have forced you. Plus your stock sucks. Also, Judy Miller is indefensible.
Cohen: I detest Michael. "You don't know anything. You suppose. You guess. And then you write. If you stick to what you know, you have very little to say."
Lemann: It's good that this is a bad case. I am still a professor. Also, editors are demanding.
Crier: Banal witticism.
Cohen: Reporters didn't get prewar coverage wrong. The government did, and we reported what they told us.
Wolff: So you got it wrong. Fess up.
Cohen: "If someone tells me the building's burning and I write that the building is burning, is that wrong?"
[Gawker: It depends. Look at the fucking building. Is it burning?]
Wolff: Rove, evil; reporters, conspirators.
Abrams: Reporters must always keep promises. Also, I am a noted First Amendment lawyer.
Wolff: Fuck off, Floyd.
Crier: Banal witticism.
Schlieff: We're a bunch of Jews.
Our pals at FishbowlNY have a less abridged, more respectful transcription, if you're a stickler for those sorts of things.