July 9, 2006


Many press-bashers lacking in credibility (Nicholas Kristof, 7/9/06, New York Times)

With President Bush leading a charge against the "disgraceful" New York Times and a conservative talk-show host, Melanie Morgan, suggesting that maybe the Times' executive editor should be executed for treason, we face a fundamental dispute about the role of the press in America.

At stake is the Bush administration's campaign to recast the relationship between government and the press. [...]

Two disclosures by the Times have sparked particular outrage: a report about National Security Agency wiretapping without warrants and one about a program to track terror financing by examining bank transfers.

The first scoop strikes me as the best of journalism, for it revealed possibly illegal behavior without any apparent risk to national security. [...]

The more recent disclosure about bank transfers seems to me a harder call. The program seems both legal and sensible, and it would be a setback in the unlikely event that bankers backed off in the glare of publicity.

So, I might have made that decision differently. But so far, there is no evidence that the banking story harmed national security. And I'm sure that editors of the Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal weighed their responsibilities seriously, for they have repeatedly held back information when necessary.

In contrast, the press-bashers have much less credibility. [...]

More broadly, the one thing worse than a press that is "out of control" is one that is under control. Anybody who has lived in a communist country knows that. Just consider what would happen if the press as a whole were as docile to the administration as Fox News or the Wall Street Journal's editorial page.

When I was covering the war in Iraq, we reporters would sometimes tune to Fox News and watch, mystified, as it purported to describe how Iraqis loved Americans. Such coverage (backed by delusional Journal editorials baffling to anyone who was actually in Iraq) misled conservatives about Iraq from the beginning. In retrospect, the real victims of Fox News weren't the liberals it attacked but the conservatives who believed it.

The Bong-Hit School of Political Analysis strikes again. Imagine what kind of amnesiac partisan chucklehouse the New York Times has entered for them to accuse others of lacking credibility.

Posted by Matt Murphy at July 9, 2006 7:42 PM

"The first scoop strikes me as the best of journalism, for it revealed possibly illegal behavior without any apparent risk to national security." 'Possibly illegal, apparent risk' That means the operation can be illegal and there's no risk to national security, or the operation can be totally legal and there is real risk to national security. The NYT doesn't know, he doesn't know, and we don't know which is which. Then how in hell can he conclude that the scoop was the best of journalism?

Posted by: ic at July 10, 2006 2:04 AM

Being accused by Nicholas Kristof of a lack of credibility has got to be at least several points in your favor.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at July 10, 2006 4:52 AM