Saturday, June 24, 2006

Indict the New York Times? I don't think so.

William Lalor of Citizen Journal writes in The American Thinker: Attorney General Gonzales: Indict the New York Times. I don't think that's the way to go. I fear that a toe-to-toe slugfest between the federal government and various Times and Journals will sway too much public opinion over to the side of the news outlets. Call it a sympathy vote, if you will.

I think that what is happening now all over the country in other news and opinion venues, the blogosphere and, indeed, by Mr. Lalor himself, will do more long term good that a messy constitutional confrontation. The outraged commenters, the letters to the editors of the offending (or should I say, "offensive") outlets, the canceling of newspaper subscriptions, contacting advertisers and boycotting their products and the perhaps tongue-in-cheek responses are most appropriate at this time.

What a glad day it would be if sinking revenues forced Pug (Plug? Paunch? Whatever.) Sulzberger out at the NYT. Would there be applause if there were to be another major shakeup of the editorial staff at the LAT? All of those things can and most assuredly will happen if those newspapers' add revenues and copy sales continue to sink like the Bismarck. But nothing will shake those venerable institutions to their very foundations like another Republican win (or better, survival) in the upcoming mid-terms and then again in 2008.

What needs to happen, IMHO, is a continuation of the pressure that we are bringing to bear on those news outlets. Everyone from Tony Snow to President Bush and everybody in between should be taking to the airwaves to denounce this latest blow to our nation's fight against worldwide terrorism. We should see, indeed, almost daily, one expert or another marching before the microphones to detail as exactly as possible the damage being done to the country's intelligence gathering operations by these unpatriotic disclosures.

Now, another thought is that the government could say that, while the behavior of the news outlets is most reprehensible and damaging, laws have been broken by government employees and the administration could use the courts to force the newspapers to reveal their sources. There are real dangers here, also. If the reporters chose to be jailed rather than reveal their sources, the public's sympathy factor might again weigh in. The government would be taking a daily pounding from many MSM outlets, print and electronic, for every day that the battle went on. Of course, the administration takes a pretty good daily pounding, anyway, so the attitude might be, "What's to lose?"

If the government wants to take action, I think it has to be against the leakers themselves and not directly against the newspapers. Of course, taking action against the leakers will put the newspapers squarely in the crosshairs of federal judges who already have shown that they are not going to buy this press privilege business. I remember, accurately I think, the words of U.S. Attorney Wilfred Brimley in "Absence of Malice" when a smartass lawyer for a newspaper claimed the "right" of press privilege: "You ain't got that right, counseler, 'cause that right don't exist."

It's a tough call for the administration but I think that pursuing the newspapers themselves is just not a prudent thing to do. After a long dry spell Mr. Bush is finally beginning to draw some cards and I don't think it's the right time -- yet -- to bet all his chips. Besides, I don't think he has to.

New York Times Class A stock price since June, 2001 Mark in Mexico, moderate to conservative opinion on news politics government and current events. News and opinion on Mexico.
New York Times Class A stock since June, 2001

That is all.

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