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You know what I think is disgraceful?

The wanton sacrifice of our nation’s most treasured rights—those to free speech, press, petition, religion—by an administration driven by a megalomaniacal desire to hide or eliminate all evidence of their mistakes.

You know what George Bush thinks is disgraceful?

Reporters who do their jobs and investigate actions taken by the government. Reporters who dare ask questions about the limits of executive power. Reporters who have the courage to imply the administration may have erred in the past. And reporters who work daily to ensure such mistakes won’t be repeated in the future.

Basically, he finds reporters disgraceful. (If I were petty, I’d say that reporters represent accountability and freedom. And that a hatred for the press just reveals a deep-buried hatred of freedom. But I’m not petty.)

In a press conference televised this morning from the White House, a reporter questioned the President about the newly revealed program that secretly monitors the financial transactions of suspected terrorists. The question was not posed in an inflammatory manner—the reporter asked for details about the program and about legislative oversight of it.

In response, President Bush went on a bitterly worded diatribe in which he condemned the member of his administration who revealed the existence of the program, criticized the press for reporting the information, defended the program without revealing anything about it, and essentially refused to offer anything that approached an answer to the question.

“For people to leak that program and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America,” the President said with emphatic gestures. Disclosure of the program “makes it harder to win the war on terror,” he continued.

The program the President defended so ardently was begun shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and was disclosed last week by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times. You can read the original report here at the New York Times. According to CNN.com, the program uses “broad government subpoenas… and allows U.S. counterterrorism analysts to obtain financial information from a vast database maintained by a company based in Belgium. It routes about 11 million financial transactions daily among 7,800 banks and other financial institutions in 200 countries.”

Let’s set aside, for the moment, the idea that once again our government is spying with questionable legal authority. Instead let’s concentrate on the fact that once again, the Bush administration is less worried about doing something potentially illegal than they are about people finding out about it.

Our country is based on the principle that we elect our leaders based on substance—the substance of their campaigns, the substance of their administrations, what they plan to do, and what they do. And after observing the things they have done for us, we get to judge for ourselves the merits of their actions. We get to decide whether the things they have done have improved our lives or made them more difficult. Then we vote again, to voice our approval or condemnation.

We can’t do our job if the press can’t do theirs. The press—the fourth branch of the US government—is an essential part of the system that must not be silenced. This administration has tried time and again, through methods direct and indirect to do just that. By offering only carefully rehearsed press conferences, and showing an obvious contempt for their services, the administration has marginalized a noble profession.

Sure, it’s weird that I’m defending those members of our society who are often driven more by the dream of a Pulitzer than by one of defending freedom, but they need defending. Reporters, journalists, correspondents, and commentators are the newest target of the Bush administration, but they can’t well tell us that.

It’s our turn to point our fingers.


Adam Hearts Dems said...

jenna, i completely agree. even worse than the absolute stupidity of this war in iraq, the true danger of this administration is its reckless disregard for the constitution, our history, and our freedom, and a contempt for anyone who disagrees with them and challenges their gross abuse of power, if we let up for a moment, this president and his cronies will take away the only thing we have left, our basic liberties

Anonymous said...

Not to mention, this implies that someone in the Administration probably tipped off the news media about the leak. But Bush never talks about firing the leak anymore, does he...