I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Monday, September 18, 2006

David Broder, Poster Child for the sickness of American journalism

(updated below)

This simply defies commentary, so I will let the Dean of Washington Journalists, "liberal" David Broder, illustrate with his own words the profound sickness at the heart of so much of our political dialogue. From his "online chat" on Friday (h/t Byron York), Broder explains why Bill Clinton should have done the "honorable" thing and resigned as Preisdent, but President Bush should not:

Washington, D.C.: Mr Broder, if you feel Karl Rove is owed an apology from the pundits and writers over Valerie Plame, did you also call for an apology to the Clintons after Ken Starr, the Whitewater investigation and the failed attempt to impeach President Clinton? If not, why not?

David S. Broder: As best, I can recall,I did not call for such an apology. My view, for whatever it is worth long after the dust has settled on Monica, was that when President Clinton admitted he had lied to his Cabinet and his closest assoc, to say nothing of the public, that the honorable thing was for him to have resigned and turned over the office to Vice President Gore. I think history would have been very different had he done that.

So David Broder still thinks that Bill Clinton should have resigned as President of the United States because he lied about having sex with Monica Lewinsky. So do these high moral standards mean that Broder thinks Bush should resign from office -- how about for continuing to claim a Saddam/al-Zarqawi connection long after it has been clear that no such connection ever existed, or for any other credibility-destroying action taken by this administration? No, of course not - the mere suggestiong is absurd:

Princeton, N.J.: Since one can lie by omission, do you believe the President and Vice President (at least) should resign because of the lies about Iraq's atomic program and their link with Al Qaeda? As phase II of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report appears and leaks pop up about the rest of it, it becomes clearer and clearer that we were lied to.

David S. Broder: I think if you want to disqualify as lying everyone in government who believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, you would empty not only the White House but most of Capitol Hill. I think the way to do that is through election, not mass resignation. Resignations seem appropriate to me when individual responsibility is clear and unique.

So, lying over an extramarital affair is serious enough to justify the resignation of a President. Leading the country to invade another country on false pretenses, and then plainly invoking fictitious justifications for why we did so, is just a routine political matter that ought to be addressed by elections.

How about the fact that the administration is engaged in systematic law-breaking -- does that compete in importance with lying about an extramarital affair? Why, no, of course not -- to the upstanding, responsible Dean of Washington Journalism, the notion that there is anything unusual going on with this administration is just all a bunch of shrill, overheated "rhetoric":

Kingston, Ontario: I'm rather surprised by your and your correspondents' calm tone of voice this morning. Unless the New York Times editorial page is wildly off-track, the U.S. is in the grip of a major constitutional crisis, with the government trying to set aside long established guarantees of legal behavior, both internally and in relation to international law. Where's the sense of urgency?

David S. Broder: Far be it from me to question the New York Times, but I'd like to assure you that Washington is calm and quiet this morning, and democracy still lives here. Editorial writers sometimes get carried away by their own rhetoric.

Protesting presidential lawlessness is shrill and overheated. Demanding that the President of the United States resign his office for lying about an extramarital affair is sober, serious and responsible. What is it, then, about Clinton's actions in the "Lewinsky scandal" that justified resignation? The Dean soberly explains:

We return a second time to President Clinton. What bothered me greatly about his actions was not what he said to his lawyers but what he told the Cabinet, his White House staff--You can go out and defend me because this did not happen. And he told the same,e lie to the American people. When a president loses his credibility, he loses an important tool for governing--and that is why I thought he should step down.

So to recap: President Clinton "lost his credibility" because of what he said about having sex with Monica Lewinksy, and therefore he should have resigned as President. But President Bush hasn't said or done anything to lose his credibility -- needless to say -- and, therefore, only respectful political disagreements with him, to be resolved only at the ballot box, are permissible. That's a pretty comprehensive picture of what has been going on with American journalism over the last decade or so.

UPDATE: As Crust points out in Comments, David Broder probably missed this April, 2004 speech from George Bush -- who, whatever else a reasonable, serious commentator might want to say about him, never lied about anything the way Clinton did: "Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."

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