So now the New York Times is playing Louie in "Casablanca": "I am shocked, shocked that gambling is going on in this establishment!"
The New York Times used to be called "the good gray lady" because of her all-black-and-white coloration and solemn parade of long, narrow columns of calm prose detailing real news stories with accuracy. She was a steady presence in an unsteady world, not an hysteric pretending to being shocked over old, old news.
Well, those days are sure gone!
With the rest of the thundering media herd she is crying out in horror about the feds gathering huge amount of records of US citizens' phone calls and e-mails. And she is blaming Obama for massive intrusion on citizens' privacy.
Hey. folks, these are GW's programs and have been repeatedly approved by Congress for ten years right up until NOW. Among the chief Democratic proponents of these programs is Sen. Diane Feinstein of San Francisco, the Big Mama of the liberals in the Senate. This is not a new scandal; this is an old activity subjected to much debate at its outset.
WE have known about these programs all along because the New York Times and other media have TOLD US, especially in the beginning. If there's any finger-pointing to be done now about the scope of these programs, it should be three-pronged:
(1) How come the media dropped the ball for ten years on covering the issue?
(2) How come the ACLU, etc. on the left, and the Pauls, pere et frere, on the right weren't raising a stink in the courts these past ten years? Or did they? And lost in the courts?
(3) Could this massive record collecting have caught the Boston Bombers before they struck? And why didn't it? (I may have an answer to this last one, but that has to wait for another time.)
Ten years ago I was upset by George W's intrusion on our privacy with the insultingly named "Patriot"s Act" but even more appalled by the stunning silence of the American people. A New Yorker magazine columnist wrote a heart-broken column about how W and a handful of his neo-conservative boss-men had stolen America. He and I were apparently the only Americans who cared about the massive roll-up of our freedoms. This can't have been true, but it sure felt like it, especially in that pre-social media time.
So where was everybody else? Afraid. Afraid to speak out and then be help responsible if more Americans had to leap 90 floors to their deaths from burning buildings. None of us wanted this spectacle of horror and suffering again.
But Americans have short memories. Oddly, we remember Pearl Harbor but apparently aren't doing so well with September 11. Even with nudges from the sky over Detroit. the underwear bomber, the mad doctor at Ft. Hood, and the Boston Bombers, we aren't frightened or horrified enough any more to scream for security before freedom. Has "Give me liberty or give me death" gained traction?
Only tenuously. If Obama cuts back on security, as he's now proposing with the "end of the war on terror", he'll get creamed for any massive attack that follows. He knows that. He's a constitutional law professor, but that doesn't make him stupid. (As a retired law prof, I have known some stupid con law profs.)
More to the point, he doesn't want to see Americans get massacred on his watch or at any time. He genuinely cares about people. This is refreshing. I could - and sometime will - give you examples of the massive non-caring of Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Sr., Richard Nixon. and - surprise! - Bill Clinton. In fact Bill Clinton not only didn't care all that much about people and our precious rights, he shat upon not only the Constitution but upon Magna Carta and our Great Writ of Freedom, the writ of habeas corpus.
If Obama knew about the massive record collecting of Americans' communications, someone must have persuaded them that these could catch bad guys before they strike. In effect, he was trusting the same intelligence organizations that helped him kill Bin Laden. He was doing it for us.
But it's still the silly season of summer in D.C., with a seeming dearth of real news. The New York Times is forced to go howling after old news. Only a columnist or two has nodded at the real story of these weeks of the GOP in Congress confronting the immigration reform issue. The real story is the steady demise and repeated false moves of the GOP, especially now that it must defy its base if it is to make any start at repairing relationships with the Latinos and young voters. But a massive die-off of a major American political party, like a terrible creeping virus, apparently can't compete with a hoked-up "scandal" no matter how old the supposed scandal.
When I was pushing news stories for twenty years for political candidates and good causes in the Santa Clara Valley south of San Francisco, the stories were solid ones, real news. They had to be. Even though Santa Clara Valley far outnumbered San Francisco in population and subscribers to SF newspapers, the bar for getting a Santa Clara story published was very high. By way of coaching me, the bureau guys in Santa Clara Valley explained it like this: "If there aren't at least four people dead in a car wreck down here, our editors don't want to hear about it."
The GOP is dying, and almost half the voting population is in the clown car headed off the cliff, but this auto accident is in very slow motion compared to the media's fun of rediscovering an old "scandal".
Ah, good old gray lady, where are you when we need you to help us keep focused? To prevent a fine president from being lynched for what he didn't do? And, yes, I said "lynched". There is such a blind readiness on the part of even the New York Times to flail at this man that it reminds me more than anything else of a crowd-driven lynch mentality. Obama's supporters won't say this. They won't risk "the race card", but I will. A 77-year-old woman gets to tell it like it is in the light of a lot of history she has seen. For Libya, for the AP thing, for the IRS flagging of Tea Party groups - Obama gets blamed for all. Yes, the buck stops here on the President's desk, but the IRS was being run by an independent Bush appointee. And flagging "Tea Party" as possibly political strikes me as eminently sensible. As for the AP leaks, do we really want our "plants"in terror organizations to be unmasked? And the CIA was running the Libya embassy, and we grown-ups all know the CIA never tells a president or anyone else anything if it can help it. But the New York Times seems to be having a touch of Alzheimers in her old age, a bit paranoic and a very forgetful.
Ah, good gray lady of yore, you New York Times, you. This gray old lady misses the real you.