Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Don't take your toys & go home

Earlier this week in National Review, the editors suggested that -- in the aftermath of the New York Times' decision to expose the Treasury Department's terrorist finance tracking program -- the White House should revoke press credentials for the newspaper's reporters:
President Bush, who said on Monday morning that the exposure “does great harm to the United States of America,” must demand that the New York Times pay a price for its costly, arrogant defiance. The administration should withdraw the newspaper’s White House press credentials because this privilege has been so egregiously abused, and an aggressive investigation should be undertaken to identify and prosecute, at a minimum, the government officials who have leaked national-defense information.
I think this would be a big error. Essentially what it would say to the country is that the Bush adminstration is a bunch of crybabies. You didn't play fair, so I'm taking my toys and going home!

The latter part of that National Review paragraph, however, is entirely appropriate: investigate, identify and prosecute the leakers, who did so with the knowledge that they were breaking laws they agreed to follow when they took their jobs. And if that means that a few reporters are subpoenaed with the expectation that they reveal their sources or follow the trail of Judith Miller to the graybar hotel, so be it.

I also think it's somewher counter-productive for the Congress to consider resolutions condemning the media for these revelations, despite the emphasis Hugh Hewitt (someone I respect and admire) has put on such resolutions. The media couldn't care less what the Congress has to say about the way it does its job, and will spin any such resolution to make it appear the government wants to infringe on the media's First Amendment rights (watch for all the usual key phrases: "censorship," "chilling effect," "Big Brother," etc.). It will also cast the Congressional action as a Republican willingness to deal in political gamesmanship instead of facing the important issues of the day.

(It might be rightly called gamesmanship, were it not for the fact that the Times decision has likely hurt our fight against terrorists and put American lives at risk. Other than that, it's all political.)

The censorship charge is ridiculous, of course -- no legitimate public figure is arguing that the New York Times didn't have the right to run that story. The legitimate argument is two-fold: the Times should have exercised self-restraint and recognized how such a story would affect the security of the United States and its citizens; and having made the decision it did, it will have to face the consequences of that decision.

Obviously, there is a political consideration at play in both situations, one that must be considered. If the White House and/or Congress say nothing, it comes across like they're admitting they got caught in something illegal. And I'm not advocating at all that the adminstration stay mum. In fact, I loved what Tony Snow said in a press conference earlier this week:
...the New York Times and other news organizations ought to think long and hard about whether a public’s right to know in some cases might override somebody’s right to live, and whether in fact the publications of these could place in jeopardy the safety of fellow Americans....

In response, one of the things Bill Keller said is, "It is not our job to pass judgment on whether this program is legal or effective." Well, it is your job to exercise editorial judgment. All of us got into this business -- I've been in journalism 27 years -- when I got into the business, one of the things that everybody learns is you have to exercise editorial judgment. I daresay many people in this room have been faced with difficult decisions in their careers, and probably all of us have had stories where we killed them because there was somebody's own privacy right or interest involved.

So you simply cannot say, we got this story, we're going to publish it, but we don't have to worry about whether it's legal or effective. In this case, I think it does bear on the debate.
But the bottom line is that Congress and the White House must weigh their responses carefully so that they come across as rightfully pointing out how the media's actions have degraded our nation's security, how a few government leaks have violated the law, and how our neighborhood is less safe now that the terrorists have another clue about how to avoid detection. All without sounding like whiners in the process.

3 Comments:

  • At 6/28/2006 9:50 PM, Blogger Capitol 3 said…

    Hello ken
    rightfully pointing out how the media's actions have degraded our nation's security, how a few government leaks have violated the law, and how our neighborhood is less safe now that the terrorists have another clue about how to avoid detection. All without sounding like whiners in the process.
    Good post !!!
    Gods blessings

     
  • At 6/28/2006 9:54 PM, Blogger Capitol 3 said…

    Hello ken
    Gods blessings
    capitol 3 republican
    s you likely know by now, the New York Times has once again
    put our nation at greater risk of terror attacks, this time
    by carelessly reporting on a classified financial monitoring
    program used to trace terrorists.

    The Times is deliberately pushing a left-wing agenda, and it's
    one wherein its editors and publisher knowingly are putting our
    country at risk. It is disgraceful. The New York Times deserves
    to be prosecuted for treason.

    + + Immediate action needed

    I am outraged, and every American should be as well. Below,
    I've listed several resources for you assembled by our team,
    led by our TimesWatch Project that monitors the New York
    Times on a constant basis.

    Please access these resources. Then, as a member of our MRC
    Action team, take action with me to hold the New York Times
    accountable!

    + + Action Items

    #1--Call the New York Times and express your outrage.
    Reader comment line: 888-NYT-NEWS (888-698-6397)
    The public editor: (212) 556-7652.

    Talking points
    --I am outraged that the Times reported on the government
    classified financial monitoring program.

    --The Times' irresponsible actions have put our nation at
    risk and undermines the war effort.

    --I am calling on the Times to apologize openly and publicly
    for this grave error.

    #2--Would you use our online form to submit a Letter to the
    Editor of the New York Times?

    I know I just asked you to email the media about the outrageous
    cover-up regarding the WMDs found in Iraq. But I need you to
    once again take action. Go here for "talking points" and to
    formally submit your letter by email to the New York Times:

    http://www.mrcaction.org/email_times.asp?ind=14

     
  • At 6/29/2006 11:44 AM, Blogger Ken said…

    Anthony & Tammy -- I appreciate your interest in the subject, but this post is really more appropriate on your blog than as a comment here. Thanks.

     

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