Monday, August 27, 2007

Atrios, Is It Time For A Blogger Ethics Panel?

Watching CNN’s coverage of the whole Alberto Gonzalez thing just now, I heard CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin casually mention that he once interned for Dept. of Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, back when Chertoff was a prosecutor.

I did not know this.

I’m waiting for CNN to post this morning’s transcript, and will link to it when they do. In the meantime, I’m thinking it would have been nice of Toobin to mention this back when he interviewed Michael Chertoff about the UK terror bombings and illegal immigration on July 1. But I see no mention of that.

Toobin might also have mentioned it during the Samuel Alito confirmation hearings, when he incorrectly claimed that a then-judge Chertoff ruled with Alito that it was OK to strip-search a 10-year-old girl in Doe v Groody. In fact, Chertoff wrote the majority opinion in this case, that the strip-search violated the Fourth Amendment.

However, his history with “Mike” did come up on a January 11, 2005 appearance on Paula Zahn’s show:

ZAHN: I don't know if this will make you feel really old or really young, but the fact that you were actually interned for Michael Chertoff at one time, what were your impressions?

TOOBIN: It was 1986. It was a summer job for me. And he was in charge at a young age of the famous commission case, which was the prosecution of the heads of the five families who ran the Mafia in New York City. And Paula, I've got to tell you, I don't think it was just because I was a naive young law school graduate, Mike Chertoff is just about the smartest lawyer I have ever encountered. The guy is just absolutely superb.

ZAHN: But in spite of how smart he is, you heard a number of people in Jeanne Meserve's piece saying, smart is one thing, this is a guy who doesn't have a resume to suggest he could actually run a bureaucracy as unwieldy as this department is.

TOOBIN: Well, I think if you had told me a year ago that Mike Chertoff would wind up attorney general of the United States, I'd say, of course, that makes a lot of sense. That seems to be how his career has been pointed. Homeland security is completely new. In fairness to Mike, and I suppose anyone, it's not clear that anyone can run this department, given its vast size. But most of Mike's career has been as a lawyer, a judge, and a little bit as an administrator, and now, it's mostly an administrative function, as you point out.

ZAHN: And it seems to me the president was sending a clear signal, given the fact that this man has been confirmed three times so far by the Senate, he views this as almost a sure shot.

Is that the way you look at it?

TOOBIN: II think it is. You know, The only person voted against him consistently as attorney general and as a judge is Hillary Clinton, who, of course, was the subject in large a part of Mike Chertoff's Whitewater investigation. Which was, I think it's fair to say, not a high point of Chertoff's career. That was Al D'Amato's investigation in the Senate, which really didn't go anywhere. It made -- it made Mike some very good connections in the Republican Party and his career has flourished. But I don't think that was particular success of his.

ZAHN: But I wouldn't say that was a real high point from him. You can't blame it all on Al D'Amato. What share of the blame does he take for the tone of that investigation?

TOOBIN: I think, you know, when I've spoken to him about it, he sort of screws up his courage and says, well we did the best we could. I think he's a lot more comfortable. He -- I did a profile of him for the "New Yorker" when he was head of the criminal division. And that was job he really loved. He was in charge not only of the post 9/11 investigations but all of the post Enron white collar investigations. Chertoff did the Arthur Andersen case. He was basically single handedly responsible for putting Arthur Anderson out of business. Now, you can argue whether that's a good thing or bad thing, but that's the world he has so far been much more comfortable with, much more than politics and Whitewater or homeland security where he has next to no experience.

I’m sure if Michael Chertoff does become the new Attorney General (and that’s a big if, of course), Jeffrey Toobin will recuse himself from covering the AG’s office.

Ha. Good one, I know.

[UPDATE]: The CNN Transcript is up:

TOOBIN: Well, I have to confess a certain bias about Michael Chertoff. In the summer of 1986, right after I graduated from law school, I was Michael Chertoff's intern in the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan. And you know, I've known Mike for a very long time. He was a wonderful prosecutor.

Again, I did not know this.

[UPDATE 2]: CNN reporting Chertoff will replace Gonzalez and Clay Johnson will replace Chertoff. (h/t, NiT).