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Friday, March 09, 2007

Charles Krauthammer Writes About Memory

The thrust of his column is that people forget stuff:

Scooter Libby has just been convicted for four felonies that could theoretically give him 25 years in jail for ... what? Misstating when he first heard a certain piece of information, namely the identity of Joe Wilson's wife.

Think about that. Can you remember when was the first time you heard the name Joe Wilson or Valerie Plame? O.K., so it is not a preoccupation of yours. But it was a preoccupation of many Washington journalists and government officials called to testify at the Libby trial, and their memories were all over the lot. Former presidential press secretary Ari Fleischer testified under oath that he had not told Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus about Mrs. Wilson. Pincus testified under oath that Fleischer definitely had.

Obviously, one is not telling the truth. But there is no reason to believe that either one is deliberately lying. Pincus and Fleischer are as fallible as any of us. They spend their days receiving and giving information. They can't possibly be expected to remember not only every piece, but precisely when they received every piece.

Should Scooter Libby? He was famously multitasking a large number of national-security and domestic issues, receiving hundreds of pieces of information every day from dozens of sources. Yet special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald chose to make Libby's misstatements about the timing of the receipt of one piece of information — Mrs. Wilson's identity — the great white whale of his multimillion-dollar prosecutorial juggernaut.

Tim Russert forgets stuff, too:

But he is not the pope. Given that so many journalists and administration figures were shown to have extremely fallible memories, is it possible that Russert's memory could have been faulty?

I have no idea. But we do know that Russert once denied calling up a Buffalo News reporter to complain about a story. Russert later apologized for the error when he was shown the evidence of a call he had genuinely and completely forgotten.

There is a second instance of Russert innocently misremembering. He stated under oath that he did not know that one may not be accompanied by a lawyer to a grand jury hearing. This fact, in and of itself, is irrelevant to the case, except that, as former prosecutor Victoria Toensing points out, the defense had tapes showing Russert saying on television three times that lawyers are barred from grand jury proceedings.

This demonstration of Russert's fallibility was never shown to the jury.

I forget stuff, too - I misremembered something I saw on an episode of Heroes:

I remembered one thing incorrectly from last week's episode: Hana Gitelman wasn't part of the confrontation at the Bennetts' house.

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