June 28, 2006

Nuking the "Treasonous Press": I Am the State

A propos my recent piece about "A Press that Holds Itself in Contempt," Dan Froomkin's column yesterday is noteworthy. In particular, I offer these excerpts:
In accusing the press -- and specifically, the New York Times -- of putting American lives at risk, President Bush and his allies have escalated their ongoing battle with the media to nuclear proportions.


It's a monstrous charge for the White House to suggest that the press is essentially aiding and abetting the enemy. But where's the evidence?


But not once has the White House definitively answered this question: How are any of these disclosures actually impairing the pursuit of terrorists?

Terrorists already knew the government was trying to track them down through their finances, their phone calls and their e-mails. Within days of the Sept. 11 attacks, for instance, Bush publicly declared open season on terrorist financing.

As far as I can tell, all these disclosures do is alert the American public to the fact that all this stuff is going on without the requisite oversight, checks and balances.

How does it possibly matter to a terrorist whether the government got a court order or not? Or whether Congress was able to exercise any oversight? The White House won't say. In fact, it can't say.

By contrast, it does matter to us.

This column has documented, again and again , that when faced with a potentially damaging political problem, White House strategist Karl Rove's response is not to defend, but to attack.

The potentially damaging political problem here is that the evidence continues to grow that the Bush White House's exercise of unchecked authority in the war on terror poses a serious threat to American civil liberties and privacy rights. It wasn't that long ago, after all, that an American president used the mechanisms of national security to spy on his political enemies.

The sum total of the administration's defense against this charge appears to be: Trust us. Trust that we're only spying on terrorists, and not anyone else.

But what if the trust isn't there? And what if they're breaking the law?

That's why it's better to attack. It makes for great soundbites. It motivates the base. And perhaps most significantly, it takes attention away from Bush's own behavior.
"Trust us" is, of course, the phrase that I mentioned the other day in connection with these issues.

In a section entitled, "Red Meat Watch," Froomkin notes some other commentary:
Heather MacDonald writes in the Weekly Standard: "By now it's undeniable: The New York Times is a national security threat. So drunk is it on its own power and so antagonistic to the Bush administration that it will expose every classified antiterror program it finds out about, no matter how legal the program, how carefully crafted to safeguard civil liberties, or how vital to protecting American lives."

And the editors of the National Review write: "President Bush, who said on Monday morning that the exposure 'does great harm to the United States of America,' must demand that the New York Times pay a price for its costly, arrogant defiance. The administration should withdraw the newspaper's White House press credentials because this privilege has been so egregiously abused, and an aggressive investigation should be undertaken to identify and prosecute, at a minimum, the government officials who have leaked national-defense information."

Ooh, that would show them. Banning Times reporters from the nearly meaningless rituals of noncommunication that pass for briefings? They should be so lucky.
At the end of his column, Froomkin offers this excerpt from Jane Mayer's New Yorker profile of Cheney chief of staff and legal advisor, David S. Addington:
"Bruce Fein, a Republican legal activist, who voted for Bush in both Presidential elections, and who served as associate deputy attorney general in the Reagan Justice Department, said that Addington and other Presidential legal advisers had 'staked out powers that are a universe beyond any other Administration. This President has made claims that are really quite alarming. He's said that there are no restraints on his ability, as he sees it, to collect intelligence, to open mail, to commit torture, and to use electronic surveillance. If you used the President's reasoning, you could shut down Congress for leaking too much. His war powers allow him to declare anyone an illegal combatant. All the world's a battlefield -- according to this view, he could kill someone in Lafayette Park if he wants! It's got the sense of Louis XIV: 'I am the State.'"
And that, my friends, is where we are in this, the Sixth Glorious Year of the Reign of Our Noble King, George the Fool.

He's not using all his absolute powers -- not yet. But wait until the next attack within our own borders, which our enlightened elite assures us is inevitable. Then it may be dictatorship all the way.

George Bush is the State. They are one and the same. And you will shut up and obey -- or else.

I'm sure you can fill in the details on your own.

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