Newsweek columnist John Alter has a telling footnote about the NYT's publication of the story last Friday on the US wiretaps on Al-Qaeda. (QN) Apparently the person empowered by the voters to perform the Constitutional role as commander-in-chief requested that Times publisher Pinch Schulzberger and exec editor Bill Keller to come to the Oval Office Dec 6 where Bush 43 made a personal appeal that they not publish the story they had about the NSA program. (Alter) As students of history and public affairs, all three men no doubt took this meeting seriously, and echoes of past appeals of this type during pervious wars no doubt informed the consciousness of each about the roles they were playing. A war is on. All are wise enough to know that no one ever has a complete corner on the truth. It is a question of judgment and responsibility. And trust. And law. The fact that the story appeared shows that the Times denied the president's request. A profound break down in trust has occurred here. I question the judgment employed by Pinch Schulzberger and Bill Keller and believe they did not show the kind of responsibility the American people expect from their senior most publishers and editors. Now the question is whether they broke the law. I think they did and expect that serious-minded adults in the established quarters of private and public authority will begin to explore this question in earnest. (HH, Powerline, Irish Pennants, Jack Kelly RCP, NRO Robbins, NRO Byron York, Ledeen, Malkin) Quillnews question to Pinch: Who elected you to make this judgment about how to fight the terrorists? The answer is no one. Has Pinch's press finally gone too far? Or as asked in another forum of another out-of-control bully in another time, shouldn't someone be saying to Pinch: "You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?"
You can get a window into the thinking of the NYT and its like-minded types in the MSM with the following statement by Alter, which reveals a shocking lack of awareness about the nature of the threat that Bush 43 is attempting to defeat, and a delusional reading of today's political realities. In explaining to his readers the "real" motivation for Bush's request that the Times hold the story, Alter wrote:
Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story—which the paper had already inexplicably held for a year—because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker… If the Democrats regain control of Congress, there may even be articles of impeachment introduced. Similar abuse of power was part of the impeachment charge brought against Richard Nixon in 1974. In the meantime, it is unlikely that Bush will echo President Kennedy in 1961. After JFK managed to tone down a New York Times story by Tad Szulc on the Bay of Pigs invasion, he confided to Times editor Turner Catledge that he wished the paper had printed the whole story because it might have spared him such a stunning defeat in Cuba. This time, the president knew publication would cause him great embarrassment and trouble for the rest of his presidency. It was for that reason—and less out of genuine concern about national security—that George W. Bush tried so hard to kill the New York Times story.
Quillnews advice to readers: note the context of Alter's analysis - Kennedy, Nixon, Cold War, Cuba Bay of Pigs. When you read the JFK lament to iconic Turner Catledge, you also think of sage Scotty Reston and in no time you get to Halberstam and Sheehan's early coverage of the Vietnam war, then the Pentagon Papers, and Nixon and Watergate and Hoover black bag jobs and wiretaps, secret bombings in Asia, plumbers and scandal, impeachment... And heroic reporters like Woodstein at the vanguard of it all - ably assisted by brave whistle-blowers like Deep Throat who risked everything for the truth... Gaak! Will these deluded, obsessed Sixties Dead Enders in the MSM at the Times and Newsweek wake up? Get a clue, will you? Sept 11 wasn't a hit of bad acid. It was an attack upon the United States. As a result, the American people are at war and will destroy their enemies and all who get in the way. Americans are an imperfect people, but we are a nation of laws and never shrink from a fight. (Update: RCP blog) And the law says Bush 43 is charge of the nation's defense. Not Pinch. Credit to Bush 43 for his prime time speech Sunday on the war itself, and for speaking candidly Saturday and Monday about the the wiretap story to make sure the American people knew the full truth behind the disclosures in the New York Times, and what he as President is doing on their behalf:
Q1) Question: Why did you skip the basic safeguards of asking courts for permission for the intercepts?
A1) Bush: After September the 11th, I knew we were fighting a different kind of war. And so I asked people in my administration to analyze how best for me and our government to do the job people expect us to do, which is to detect and prevent a possible attack. That's what the American people want. We looked at the possible scenarios. And the people responsible for helping us protect and defend came forth with the current program, because it enables us to move faster and quicker. And that's important. We've got to be fast on our feet, quick to detect and prevent. We use FISA still -- you're referring to the FISA court in your question -- of course, we use FISAs. But FISA is for long-term monitoring. What is needed in order to protect the American people is the ability to move quickly to detect. Now, having suggested this idea, I then, obviously, went to the question, is it legal to do so? I am -- I swore to uphold the laws. Do I have the legal authority to do this? And the answer is, absolutely. As I mentioned in my remarks, the legal authority is derived from the Constitution, as well as the authorization of force by the United States Congress.
Q2) Question: Why, in the four years since 9/11, has your administration not sought to get changes in the law instead of bypassing it, as some of your critics have said?
A2) Bush 43: I appreciate that. First, I want to make clear to the people listening that this program is limited in nature to those that are known al Qaeda ties and/or affiliates. That's important. So it's a program that's limited, and you brought up something that I want to stress, and that is, is that these calls are not intercepted within the country. They are from outside the country to in the country, or vice versa. So in other words, this is not a -- if you're calling from Houston to L.A., that call is not monitored. And if there was ever any need to monitor, there would be a process to do that. I think I've got the authority to move forward, Kelly. I mean, this is what -- and the Attorney General was out briefing this morning about why it's legal to make the decisions I'm making. I can fully understand why members of Congress are expressing concerns about civil liberties. I know that. And it's -- I share the same concerns. I want to make sure the American people understand, however, that we have an obligation to protect you, and we're doing that and, at the same time, protecting your civil liberties. Secondly, an open debate about law would say to the enemy, here is what we're going to do. And this is an enemy which adjusts. We monitor this program carefully. We have consulted with members of the Congress over a dozen times. We are constantly reviewing the program. Those of us who review the program have a duty to uphold the laws of the United States, and we take that duty very seriously.
Q3) Question: I wonder if you can tell us today, sir, what, if any, limits you believe there are or should be on the powers of a President during a war, at wartime? And if the global war on terror is going to last for decades, as has been forecast, does that mean that we're going to see, therefore, a more or less permanent expansion of the unchecked power of the executive in American society?
A3) Bush 43: First of all, I disagree with your assertion of "unchecked power."
Q4) Question: Well --
A4) Bush 43: Hold on a second, please. There is the check of people being sworn to uphold the law, for starters. There is oversight. We're talking to Congress all the time, and on this program, to suggest there's unchecked power is not listening to what I'm telling you. I'm telling you, we have briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times. This is an awesome responsibility to make decisions on behalf of the American people, and I understand that, Peter. And we'll continue to work with the Congress, as well as people within our own administration, to constantly monitor programs such as the one I described to you, to make sure that we're protecting the civil liberties of the United States. To say "unchecked power" basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the President, which I strongly reject.