As a journalist, I am offended by the latest Republican assault on The New York Times and freedom of the press.
As an American, I am afraid for the future of my country when politicians so casually discard our founders’ belief that a free press is a necessary Constitutional guarantee.
The last time an American president went after the press with such a vengeance was during Richard Nixon’s second term. We all know how that one ended.
President George W. Bush and his Republican sycophants actually want The Times prosecuted for treason for daring to publish news. They’ve been pissed at the Times for breaking the story about Bush’s questionable domestic spying program last December and they’ve now focused on a recent Times story about administration monitoring of overseas financial transactions.
Says GOP Rep. Peter King, the lead attack dog in this assault on the press:
The Times can’t have it both ways, They can’t on the one hand say there’s no harm in releasing this. Everybody knew about it. But on the other hand, we had to put it on Page One because it was so top secret.
Responds New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller:
The Bush Administration likes to have it both ways. They confide in us when they want to advertise the programs that are successful. And then they rebuke us if we write about something they would prefer we didn’t write about.
It’s an election year. Beating up on The New York Times is red meat for the conservative base. But I don’t think this is all politics. I think the administration is a little embarrassed. This is the most secretive White House we’ve had since the Nixon White House.
There’s no doubt the Bush Administration would like to conduct all of its business in secret and then dole out bits and pieces that are only favorable to their cause. They decry news reports from Iraq that show the war is not going well because the truth directly contradicts their fantasies that conditions are improving in the country.
They cringe when the facts dispute their outrageous claims in the so-called “war on terror” because keeping America scared is a key part of the Republican plan for success.
John Dean, the White House counsel who helped bring down Nixon, says the Bush Administration sees secrecy as the path to power:
The issue of state secrets is a relatively old concept, but it has been used dramatically under the Bush presidency.
When you get into the area of national security, there are few guidelines. It’s the grayest area.
Dean places the blame for the Administration’s obsession with secrecy and power on Vice President Dick Cheney, who served with him in the Nixon White House and later served as President Gerald Ford’s Chief of Staff:
He was working in the White House in that period after Watergate when the president lost some of his powers. He has publicly announced that one of his missions was to strengthen the presidency, and we’ve seen him push the envelope.
In Washingtonese, “push the envelope” means finding ways to skirt or evade the law. Most politicians, Republican and Democrat, become adept at it but few have honed the art as well as the Bush Administration.
Any student of government knows controlling the flow of information provides an easier path to absolute power. If the Bush Administration succeeds in muzzling the media and destroying the Constitutional guarantee of a free press, there will be nothing left to stop their determined, resolute march to complete and total control of the government of the United States.