The NYT's Cooperation With the Bush Administration
The wiretap story is the biggest non-issue of a story that the media could ever have trumped up. But what gets me is the pervasive impression that the Democrats' primary voice, the New York Times, sat on the story because the Administration asked them to do so on the eve of a very close election.
If America were made up of ACLU lawyers, it would indeed have been a huge issue, an October surprise of massive proportions that would have sunk his reelection bid for certain. But then again, an America with an ACLU vision would not be America at all, but rather an absorbed ally of the still strong Soviet Union. But the left is not so blessed. America is made up of much more plain and happier folk who go to work every day, want to provide for themselves and their kids, and generally enjoy life, rather than basking in the misery and disappointment that characterize the elite left's search for significance.
And I think that the Times' decision to hold a story at the request of the Bush Administration is akin to their sitting on reports that Osama bin Laden had been captured or killed in the days before the election, or a report that John Kerry had received a dishonorable discharge from the Navy for meeting with the North Vietnamese in Paris while still an officer. The reasons are simple--John Kerry was a terrible candidate and would have butchered the issue, which no matter how spun by the left, works well for Bush.
Kerry was and remains a dissembler. He would have argued the legal nuances of the program, and his viewpoint would have been completely incomprehensible, which would have been a significant minus for him. Americans don't like terrorists. And many of them are wondering where the Democrats stand on the issue. After the 1970s and 1980s, they saw the Democrats as soft on the Soviets, and now are wondering if sympathy exists for the kind of people who fly planes into our buildings and long to destroy our civilization. So any response to terror fighting efforts short of, "yeah, get those creeps" will doom a national candidate. On the flip side, releasing the story would have shown that Bush was in control of the terror war, giving America's enemies no quarter. It would have further sharpened the focus of the election into fighting terror and national security--a guaranteed loser of an issue for Kerry.
Releasing the story just after the election would have been equally dumb, and would have likely fallen flat. Folks would have asked (and should ask now) how important an issue the Times really thought it was if they waited till after the election to air it, when they had nothing to lose by doing it. A manufactured non-story with a side of sour grapes. But the NYT waited, being content to raise it under the cover of a faux concern about Americans' civil liberties being threatened. It was also conveniently released as the President's poll numbers were rising in response to his defense of the Iraq war and the global war on terror.
But in all fairness to the Times, we ought to evaluate the matter with the same seriousness that it did. It sat on the story for over a year, intending to use it at an opportunity when it could cause the most damage for the President. And if the NYT sees this story as less of a concern about American's civil liberties and more of just another pawn in a game of politics, we ought to do the same.