Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

May 21, 2013

The media’s tea party moment

Rarely has the White House briefing room so resembled the main ballroom at a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference.

After news broke of a sweeping Justice Department subpoena of The Associated Press telephone records, White House press secretary Jay Carney didn’t so much have to deal with querulous reporters pressing him on all fronts. He had to deal with citizens bristling with anger over perceived encroachments on their rights by an overweening government.

The AP subpoena is the media’s Obamacare. Their Glenn Beck is AP President Gary Pruitt; their Tea Party Express is the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; and their rallying cry is “Give me liberty or give me death!”

The reaction to the seizure of records on 20 office and personal lines of AP staff is another reminder, if we needed one, that what the press cares about most is itself.

The New York Times sniffed at the Internal Revenue Service scandal. It didn’t even put the initial story on the front page. But the paper rebuked the Obama administration for the AP subpoena in an editorial titled “Spying on The Associated Press”: The administration has “a chilling zeal for investigating leaks” and is trying “to frighten off whistleblowers.”

It sounds like the Times should go back and read President Barack Obama’s commencement address at Ohio State University, where he lamented that the students have been hearing warnings that government is “nothing more than some separate, sinister entity” and “that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner.”

Yes, why can’t all the journalists hyped up about the AP subpoena simply put more trust in the good intentions of their own government?

The Justice Department subpoena was overbroad and appears to have violated guidelines that say all other alternatives should be exhausted before resorting to such an expansive search. The press is right to be upset, and it is notable that the Bush administration never went this far. Still, some perspective is in order: There is no right to traffic in illegally obtained classified information.

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