Awright, cool yer jets, my fellows!

In scanning some conservative forums, I am seeing a lot of “Bush needs to prosecute the NY Times and if he does not, then he’s a wimpdisappointmentblah-blah-blah” type stuff.

Please. Even the normally level-headed James Pinkerton is calling Bush “yella” in 22pt balony italics and wondering why instant gratification is not possible.

Look, it’s easy – and understandable – to want to mount a few obnoxious media heads to the wall, and it feels good to say “prosecute ‘em.” But the truth is, to try to prosecute the press is political and PR suicide, particularly in an era where distortions and outright lies get served up by so many and digested by so many more.

Let’s stop being so emotional about things. Let’s stop being so quick to demand the absolutist solutions that really don’t play well to most of the country, even among conservatives (as illustrated in this election result) and which make us seem like we’re so fervent that we’re eager to go off half-cocked and eventually shoot ourselves in the foot, or worse – play into someone’s hands. Or even worse, inadvertantly create nefarious precedents which might someday benefit a less-desirable, power-mad president down the road.

Andrew McCarthy has a wise piece up at NRO and we on the right would be smart to listen to him:

Bottom line: You are engaged in wishful thinking if you believe you can prevail on an Espionage Act prosecution against the press in this Supreme Court. I wouldn’t be confident of the outcome even if I thought I had a shot at Justice Kennedy’s vote—but that’s academic, because there is a rich basis for concluding that I don’t.

Why is all this important? Because if you start down this path, it is important to win. [...]

Imagine the media as the winner of a long, bitterly contentious struggle that ends in the Supreme Court. They will have succeeded in turning themselves into martyred heroes. We may, quite justifiably, view the Times and its allies in this cause as aiders and abettors of our wartime enemy. But the history — which they, primarily, will write — will portray them as Defenders of the Constitution.

More consequentially, were the press to win such a battle, it would only encourage more leaking. Now their recklessness (or worse) would bear a judicial imprimatur. Think of it as a Pulitzer Prize … but one backed by the prestige of the Supreme Court rather than the dwindling influence of journalism’s majordomos.

Let’s remember: The goal here is to stop the leaking. It is not to mount a trophy journalist on a prosecutor’s me-wall. From that practical perspective, making the reporters and their newspaper the targets of prosecution is a double failure. Not only do you probably lose the case in the long run; you also fail to get to the root of the scandal.

Read the whole thing, and let’s stay focused on long-term effect rather than feel-good smackdowns.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Sigmund Carl and Alfred

    Clearly, Pinkerton couldn’t come up with anything really relevant to say, so he ‘harumphed,’ and no more.

    As you note, it isn’t the WH that is demanding prosecution or anything of the sort. That said, the WH is in no way obligated to give the NYT a pat on the back, either.

    In the same way the NYT can express their outrage at the some of the doings in the WH, the administration in turn can point out what is clear political posturing by the NYT.

    To the best of my knowledge, not even ordained saints are free from examination, study and critique (think Thomas Aquinas!).

    The NYT, et al, would do best to remember that. They are not beyond repraoch and they cannot point always point to the other guy.

  • Sigmund Carl and Alfred

    Clearly, Pinkerton couldn’t come up with anything really relevant to say, so he ‘harumphed,’ and no more.

    As you note, it isn’t the WH that is demanding prosecution or anything of the sort. That said, the WH is in no way obligated to give the NYT a pat on the back, either.

    In the same way the NYT can express their outrage at the some of the doings in the WH, the administration in turn can point out what is clear political posturing by the NYT.

    To the best of my knowledge, not even ordained saints are free from examination, study and critique (think Thomas Aquinas!).

    The NYT, et al, would do best to remember that. They are not beyond repraoch and they cannot point always point to the other guy.


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