My Very Own Juror
By MAUREEN DOWD
When the Scooter Libby trial ended, the media was found guilty. By the media. Which likes to obsess on itself. In the media.
The press gave short shrift to poor Scooter, whose downfall came from doing Dick Cheney’s bidding with “canine loyalty,” as Chris Matthews told Don Imus yesterday morning. Scooter’s facing hard time, even though others in the administration also spread the word about Valerie Plame.
But let’s get back to the media decrying the media, and the incestuous Beltway relationship between journalists and sources. Listening to all the lamentations, I excitedly realized I had a potentially incestuous relationship with a source inside the Beltway.
I went to Nativity grade school in D.C. with Juror No. 9, Denis Collins. I had an unrequited crush on his brother when I was in seventh grade. His dad was my dad’s lawyer, and both were Irish immigrants. My brother Kevin coached his brother Kevin in touch football. Our moms were in the Sodality together. His mom once chastised me for chatting up a little boy in church. We started in journalism together, Denis at The Washington Post as a sportswriter and Metro reporter, and me at The Washington Star as a sportswriter and Metro reporter.
This was a sure thing. I could get him to come over to my house and spill all the secrets of the jury that had convicted the highest-ranking White House official to be found guilty on a felony since Iran-contra days.
Unfortunately, Denis spilled them on the way over. By the time he got to my house, he was already so overexposed he announced, “I’m sick of hearing myself talk.”
From the moment he stepped out of the courthouse and into the press mob in his green Eddie Bauer jacket, Denis became the unofficial jury spokesman, bouncing from Larry King to Anderson Cooper and “Good Morning America.” I thought there still might be enough jury dish for me until I heard him say “Huffington Post blog.”
“Blogs are the future, right?” he said, explaining that he’d already posted his diary of adventures in federal court — right down to our incestuous Catholic past, which came up in the voir dire, when he also mentioned living across the alley from Tim Russert and working at The Post for Bob Woodward, and his nonfiction book about spying and the C.I.A.
“I was the perfect storm,” he said. Instead of me milking him for information, he tried to milk me for information. He asked about the pitfalls of being in a media maelstrom.
“Somebody called me up today and said: ‘Turn on Rush Limbaugh. He’s saying terrible things about you.’ ”
I empathized. One of my brothers always used to call Mom and tell her: “Turn on Rush Limbaugh. He’s saying terrible things about Maureen.”
Also, Denis’s wife, Pam, told him gleefully that someone on TV was making fun of his jacket. “Somebody said, ‘What’s with the green coat? It looks like something he got in high school.’ ” I asked him if he’d used any lessons from the nuns. “Accountability,” he said. “Do the right thing or get whacked over your head with the bell by Sister Mary Karen.”
Was Scooter’s fall Shakespearean? “He’s too many steps away from the king,” he said. “One of the jurors said, ‘He was too busy looking out for No. 1; he should have been looking out for No. 2 and then he wouldn’t have gotten in trouble.’ One of the witnesses told us that Libby spent more time with Cheney than he did with his own wife and kids.”
What did the jurors think of Scooter’s wife? “Well, the alleged wife,” Denis corrected me. This was a very skeptical jury, then?
“We didn’t know anything about her,” he said, adding: “I said, ‘So, that’s Scooter Libby’s wife?’ and another juror jokingly said, ‘Do you have any evidence?’ ” So the jurors began calling her “the alleged wife.”
Like a good Catholic boy, he noted that the people who put “the longest nails in Libby’s hands were not reporters — they were people who worked for the government.”
I asked him how he would feel if W. pardoned Scooter.
“I would really not care,” he replied. “I feel like the damage has been done in terms of his reputation and the administration’s reputation.”
And what about the calls for Dick Cheney to resign or get the boot?
“Here’s the thing: Libby followed Cheney’s instructions to go talk to reporters, but there’s no evidence at all that Cheney told him to lie about it. So the question is, was Libby just kind of inept at getting this story out?”
Denis had to leave. He said he felt as if he were “coming out of a tunnel.” I just felt happy to have a hot source — even if I had to share him with the whole Beltway.