Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Maybe the Bush Administration Does Think the Media are Traitors

Perhaps the Bushies really do believe that the news media is aiding and abetting "the enemy." Has anyone considered that possibility?

In a post about Brian Ross's stories on ABC saying that a source had told him that the government knows who he's calling, Josh Marshall wrote this:
Given the Bush administration's self-servingly indulgent definition of the War on Terror, I don't doubt that they would define finding leakers as a subdivision of fighting terrorism, or for that matter scrutinizing political opponents.

I think that there's no doubt that this is true -- and by extention, I don't doubt that the administration would define the tracking of calls made by reporters benefiting from leakers as a subdivision of fighting terrorism, too. But this gives rise to a question. Would the administration define tracking these calls as fighting terrorism simply as a matter of legal convenience, or out of actual conviction?

When Republicans go out and blast the media for helping terrorists, we naturally assume it's pure cynicism, a political tactic designed to discredit the media in the eyes of the electorate and frighten the big news orgs into submission and silence. And certainly in many cases it is no doubt pure cynicism. But given all we know now about this administration, why shouldn't we take them at their word that they do believe the press is helping the terrorists?

For now there's a ton we don't know about Ross's story -- we can't be sure whether the tracking of calls was authorized by routine subpoenas or by so-called "National Security Letters" from the FBI, which would be far more serious -- and I'm hoping to dig into the legal guts of it later. But for the moment, suffice it to say that it's hard to know which is worse: That the White House routinely smears the press purely as a cynical political tactic, or because it genuinely believes that the media are traitors in league with "the enemy."

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I think there are some actual Repubs who believe that tracking Cokie Roberts is vital to national security -- young, true-believer types. And it's the growth of this group that I find so scary. The older crowd of deeply cynical cronies -- a group to which the Preznit, Rove, Cheney et al. belong -- is on some level rational: they're self-serving. But the youngins' are scary because they really think Cokie is a threat (and that cutting taxes causes economic growth, and that gay marriage is a threat, etc., etc.). I fear there may be no reasoning with these people, who believe they are on a messianic crusade to save the world from us evil libs.
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