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The Los Angeles Times’ Tim Rutten Goes Ahab

Saturday, December 24, 2005  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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Tim Rutten is one of the near dozen hard left columnists in the full time employ of the Los Angeles Times. (There are zero conservatives.) He is an amiable fellow, with pretensions of seriousness unsupported by either the ability or the willingness to do the work of careful research and reasoned analysis.

So instead he strikes a pose and sticks with it. There are about six of the poses, and one is that newspaper people are noble and fearless, and talk radio is shallow and shrill.

In today’s windy lecture on the glories of the New York Times, Ruttan drops this aside:

On one of the many conservative talk radio shows that would unequivocally support Bush if he unilaterally ordered the imposition of martial law, weekly human sacrifice and readoption of the Julian Calendar, John Eastman, a law professor from Chapman University, went so far as to allege that “the New York Times and whoever in the Department of Justice or in the National Security Agency leaked this ongoing tool in [the war on terrorism] have very likely committed treason.”

The talk show was, of course, mine, and it is curious why Rutten doesn’t want to name it since it is no secret that my audience on Spring Street is vast and almost always angry with what they hear on the show because it involves facts, diverse and credentialed experts, and the public is allowed its point of view, in short, everything the Times isn’t. Perhaps the patent absurdity of his description of my show —note that he neglects to alert his audience that Erwin Chemerinsky appeared alongside of Professor Eastman condemning the NSA program— is what led him to his second bit of dishonesty. No matter. I am glad he listens, as he will undoubtedly learn something. It is apparent that Mr. Rutten, like Mr. Alter, doesn’t read widely if at all and certainly can’t be troubled to tackled those long and complicated court cases central to this controversy, so I’m glad to be there for him even if most of the conversation passes over his head.

Rutten must have skipped the interviews with liberal law professor Cass Sunstein or libertarian law professor Eugene Volokh on various aspects of the surveillance issues, as his point of view is remarkably free of the information on the case law and analysis that solidly backs up the president’s statement that the Constitution and the AUMF back up the NSA program. No doubt he had a deadline, but the interviews simply expanded on essays easily available to anyone with a internet connection.

Rutten is also dismissive of the idea that the New York Times may have badly damaged the national security, though every single person I have spoken to this week with former or current access to intelligence gathering agree that the Times’ most certainly did, just as they agree that the Times’ cannot be in any way punished for it. (Note Rutten’s summoning up of Judith Miller’s cell, as though there is any danger of a reporter ever doing time for publishing classified documents. Again, more dishonesty.)

The trouble with Rutten and other MSM apologists is that they have never, ever had a job remotely close to national security operations, and get most of their understanding of the business of intelligence from Ludlum novels and bar conversations with people who say they know spooks. The irony is that the close of Rutten’s column is spent telling people that newspapers are too disorganized to conspire to do much of anything except get the paper out. He is asserting that if only you knew what went on in newspapers, you wouldn’t be so quick to criticize them –that readers should defer to his “inside” knowledge of the way it really is.

Rutten should ask himself if, just perhaps, he’d ever even a day’s responsibility in the world of intelligence collection he might have a different view of the events of the past ten days. The intelligence world is vastly more complicated than a newspaper, and if Rutten can casually assert that critics of newspapers would shut up if they only knew, you’d think he’d have seen the obvious rebuke he was serving up to himself. Vanity blinds.

The New York Times deserves thanks and admiration for the service it has done the nation. Instead it is getting bipartisan abuse and another round of endless demands for explanations and “transparency.” (In case you haven’t noticed, “transparency” is this year’s “closure.”)

Enough of the critics and their demands for candoor from self-serving, ideologically extreme and unswervingly Ahabite nutters in the newsrooms! Papers are to be worshiped, reporters exulted (and paid more) and never ever rebuked for endangering the national security!

Next week from Rutten: Why newspaper subscriptions should be mandatory, why PBS should have Bill Moyers as its boss, why reporters’ salaries should be tax exempt, and why the publication of National Intelligence Estimates on a real time basis is actually good for the country.

But if he’s going to slander me or some other radio show host again, perhaps he can borrow the spine to do so by name.

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