Neither he nor his magazine had anything to do with the SWIFT expose, but you don’t pass up opportunities for self-congratulation when the getting’s this good. So here he is, carrying water for the Times and admiring his own reflection in the surface. As Thomas Jefferson said, exposing legal and effective counterterrorism programs is the highest form of patriotism:
The line between dissent and disloyalty, between harmful revelations and vital ones, is murky. Often we never really know. But I would argue that the judicious questioning of the conduct and morality of war is the furthest thing from disloyalty: it is an expression of deep patriotism and the essence of responsible citizenship.
Very often in our history, that task has fallen to the press. From the publication of the Pentagon papers and the Watergate probe to TIME’s recent revelations about the tragedy at Haditha, our job is to speak truth to power. It is a messy process, and we have not always succeeded.
Ah, the adversary media. I would have thought their job was simply to speak truth, unless of course to do so would directly endanger lives (an exception Stengel himself acknowledges). As for Haditha, he’d better hope that the Navy’s investigation confirms that it is, in fact, truth that Time’s been speaking or else he’ll be looking at a backlash that will make this week’s Times dust-up seem like child’s play. I wonder, in fact, if this isn’t his way of hedging his bets a bit: note his emphasis on the media’s good intentions even when they mess up and miscalculate.
Keller’s been getting knocked around for arrogance, but good luck finding anything he’s written that’s as patronizing as what follows. Suddenly it’s clear why Time finds Sullivan so appealing:
I would urge you to listen closely to that debate. The government’s assertion that it must be unhindered in protecting our security can camouflage the desire to increase Executive power, while the press’s cry of the public’s right to know can mask a quest for competitive advantage or a hidden animus. Neither the need to protect our security nor the public’s right to know is a blank check. So listen carefully because, after all, you are the judge. It is the people themselves who are the makers of their own government. “The best test of truth,” as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously wrote, “is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.”
I was planning to ignore the debate, but now that I’ve read this, I’m going to listen “closely” and “carefully.” I urge you benighted morons to do the same because, after all, we are the judges.
Bonus free-speech martyrdom! Here’s video from this morning’s Meet the Press of Bill Safire and John Harwood taking a warm bath in platitudes. Safire’s point that the Times’s news section can’t be biased against Bush because of the “wall of separation” that divides it from the editorial page is especially precious. Bennett nailing Harwood on the fact that the program was catching terrorists two years after they supposedly knew about it is fun too. But my favorite bit is Dana Priest’s nonsense at the end about how much damage Guantanamo has done to our reputation overseas. Compare it to Harwood’s earlier assertion that GOP media-bashing is just a pretext to avoid dealing with real problems. As always — as always — when the American right expresses moral outrage, it’s a bad-faith attempt to distract us from some ulterior political motive. When the international left expresses outrage, it’s because they care that much.