Lots of journalists –left, right and down-the-middle; opinion journalists and “straight news” types alike– are using the “O” word in connection with the president and his team’s snooping of journalists.
This past week, I interviewed the New York Times’ Michael Shear, Bloomberg’s Jonathan Alter and Al Hunt, the New Yorker’s (and Columbia School of Journalism’s outgoing dean) Nicholas Lemann and CNN’s Jake Tapper on the subject, and all five were indeed outraged by the policies adopted by the president and his senior lawyers to snoop the press. The transcripts of all the conversations are here or will be soon.
Fine. And more than fine, absolutely correct. As Lemann put it, “Nixon arguably wasn’t as bad with the press as this.”
BUT, where’s the Fourth Estate’s outrage over the president’s and his people’s serial misleading of Congress and the public? Either AG Holder flat out lied to the Congress this week when he said he hadn’t heard about prosecuting journalists, or he lied to the court that signed off on the Rosen warrant. It has to be one or the other. When big media gets worked up over that obvious and far-reaching deception, or the president’s speech yesterday which assured us he didn’t want to prosecute journalists and his “talk” with Eric Holder on the subject, or the “tell the president nothing” White House Counsel and Chief of Staff absurdity, then outrage will pass beyond the well-paid denizens of elite media into the ranks of the people they are supposed to serve.
The press’s standing is only important so far as they help a free people stay informed. If the press isn’t going to come down on the epic dissembling of the president and his people on Benghazi and the IRS (or HHS, or the EPA email scandal, or Fast & Furious or any of a dozen other epic head fakes given the truth in the past year), then why should the public care about what the president does to the press? You don’t water fake flowers and you don’t get outraged over harms done to a fake press.
I think this is what happens when you basically decide to be courtiers rather than reporters. Obama has a contempt for the profession. Eric Holder, his thug enforcer at the Department of so-called Justice, also has a contempt for the profession. And you can’t blame them for that when you look at what they did, the media did for Obama in 2007-2008, the idea that this, that would command any respect with a fellow whose poodle you’re volunteering to be, is completely absurd. So in a sense, I feel the media brought this upon themselves. It’s a very great loss for America, because the press is basically the one industry whose freedom is specifically guaranteed in the Constitution, and because they basically tossed that out of the window themselves, they’re now reaping a whirlwind from Eric Holder’s Justice Department.
It is a very great loss for America, but if the “non-partisan” press wants its standing back, it has to start acting like the press and not like the president’s cheer squad.
There are real reporters out there –Lemann and Tapper are two, Mike Allen, Dan Balz, Ryan Lizza, Wolf Blitzer, and, yes, Candy Crowley are other non-FNCers who are tough on all comers most of the time– but the resource allocation and story selection trends, as well as the general hard-left tilt of the permanent Manhattan-Beltway media elite has cut the profession off from its strongest source of support among ordinary viewers and voters: the reputation for pursuing every story without fear or favor wherever it leads. That ethic went deep underground in 2008, and it hasn’t come back to the surface in a comprehensive, obvious fashion since. When it does, the outrage at the outrages done the press by Team Obama will travel farther than the Maryland-Virginia suburbs and Midtown.