The growing rift between the Justice Department and the media just keeps getting worse.
On orders from the president, Attorney General Eric Holder has agreed to meet with the Washington bureau chiefs of several media outlets to discuss guidelines for journalists in leak investigations. Mr. Holder has requested that the discussion be kept off the record.
The New York Times, Washington Post and Associated Press have declined to attend, citing the “off the record” request as a non-starter. Several other media outlets are expected to follow suit.
The Obama administration and the Justice Department in particular have a real obsession with “leaks.” In the case of the AP scandal, the Justice Department alleges that the leak in question threatened national security and endangered the lives of American operatives. They responded by subpoenaing the phone records of the Associated Press and FOXNEWS, reasoning that the records would trace back to the leak. This ham-handed approach has infuriated the press and handed the president’s opponents grist for their conspiracy theory mill.
Democrat administrations generally get pretty favorable coverage from the media. This president in particular has been given the benefit of the doubt more often than not. Pissing off a strong political opponent can make life difficult. Pissing off the media can be political suicide.
The media can attack with the ferocity of a shark when they smell blood in the water. But they are terribly thin skinned when finding themselves on the other side of the barb. They can turn on you in an instant.
Obama needs the media to help push through his second term agenda. No, he doesn’t rely on the “lame stream” media to the degree his predecessors did because his administration has been so successful in using social media to carry his message. But he DOES need the Fourth Estate if he has any hope of advancing his policies.
Is the Obama administration justified in wanting to ferret out leaks that may threaten national security and endanger the lives of American operatives and citizens? Absolutely! Did the Obama administration trample all over the 1st amendment by pulling the phone records of the press? Absolutely! Did they add insult to injury by agreeing to discuss the matter with the media “off the record?” No doubt about it!
Former Indiana congressman Charles Bruce Brownson once famously said: “Never argue with someone who buys ink by the barrel.”
Perhaps the president should pass that bit of wisdom along to Eric Holder.