Bill Keller of the New York Times, you are on the border of journalistic malpractice that brings your integrity into question. Ditto for Marcus Brauchli of the Washington Post. Katie Couric and Brian Williams, Wolf Blitzer and Chris Matthews, Eugene Robinson and E.J. Dionne, and every other “establishment media” bigwig in the country. If you Google-search your names and see this column, good. Your sin of omission in one particular story is becoming so flagrant, so blatant, so inexcusable, that you have no more excuses for not covering it.
Let’s stick to indisputable, objective criteria for what sorts of things constitute news, and what things don’t. Take away the particulars of party affiliations, of ideology, of political advantage, and just consider the basic facts. By any standards of journalistic judgment, the following occurrences — each one individually — constitute major news, and in combination with each other should make headlines for weeks:
1) One agency of the federal government is in a pitched battle with another entire federal department, with the first agency possessing subpoena power that federal law mandates all other departments honor; yet the department in question is refusing the subpoena and ordering its employees not to comply with it. A major constitutional showdown could loom.
2) Key members of one separate branch of government are being stiffed by the department in question, setting up a battle in which key precepts of the separation of powers, and the prerogatives of each branch, are directly at issue. Again, a major constitutional showdown could loom.
3) The department in question is claiming all sorts of privileges from disclosure of information — to the press, to the public, to other agencies and branches of government — that are stretched, or obviously inapplicable, or that have never before been claimed, or that either flat-out don’t exist or else seem invented out of whole cloth. Remember when any assertion of “executive privilege” was automatically treated as inherently suspicious? Now we see all sorts of subsets of executive privilege claimed even when they not only do not directly involve the president, but also on behalf not just of presidential staff or presidential appointees but “career” employees as well.
4) The department in question is ignoring, or refusing to comply with, or claiming exemption from, official Freedom of Information requests by accredited media outlets. Administration vs. media, on matters of fundamental media rights: How is that not a big story on which every single major media outlet rallies to the side of the media organization that is getting stiffed?
5) Directly at issue are serious accusations of political interference, possibly including from the White House itself, with specific court cases. Just as occurred with the accusations that Karl Rove and other Bushies improperly fired several U.S. attorneys, the allegation is that political appointees for political reasons interfered directly with the work of “career” employees of the Justice Department. Politicization of the Justice Department is always a front-page story — right?
6) Outside observers, analysts, and federal agencies are suggesting that the Justice Department is deliberately protecting the civil rights of one race but not of other races. Read that again. We’re talking civil rights, the media’s favorite hobby-horse for lo these 50 years. We’re talking allegations that the U.S. Department of Justice is deliberately favoring one race over another. If that isn’t explosive news, nothing ever is or will be.
7) At issue are voting rights. Race-based voting rights. Specifically, voter intimidation. Wow, that’s big. Think Bush/Gore in Florida in 2000. Remember all the media fulminations about a cop car parked about a mile from an individual polling place, supposedly constituting such an intimidating presence that black voters were too scared to continue on to the polls? Now move the intimidation a mile closer, to right outside the polls. Now put a weapon in the hands of one of the alleged intimidators, and paramilitary garb on both of them, while they use racial epithets and strongly implied race-based threats. Holy Toledo, anybody who gets to the bottom of this race-based conspiracy should win a Pulitzer Prize at least, and possible a Nobel.
8) Now, put all these strands together. Add some less major but clearly interesting and important color, such as the fact that two of the main government attorneys involved have records of being sanctioned for misconduct, and that details of the case were discussed with outside third parties while the case was pending, and that one of the lawyers with a spotty record worked on a case on behalf of the controversial group ACORN for which one of the attorneys directly representing ACORN’s interests is now the president of the United States. Oh, and try this on for size (and a rather big size at that): One of the vote intimidators was an official poll-watcher for one of the nation’s two major political parties, and four days after his case was dropped he again served as an official poll watcher. Oh, and that he is directly affiliated with an organization officially identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. And that one of the group in question is on a National Geographic video saying: “You want freedom, you’re gonna have to kill some crackers. You’re gonna have to kill some of they [sic] babies.” And, finally, that the very investigator assigned to the case is being vetted for a federal judgeship by the same people she is supposedly investigating!
This is, of course, the story of the voting intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party, inexplicably dropped after the case already was won, by political appointees or temporary political appointees of the Obama administration.
There is no way, none at all, that it does not qualify as major news. Unless, of course, you are a journalist with biases so deeply ingrained that you can explain away the world’s biggest double standard (your own) by pretending the story doesn’t exist at all. If you don’t think the same standards of what constitutes news apply when the suspicious activity is by liberals rather than conservatives, then you’re free and clear of all normal strictures of journalistic ethics.
Free, clear… and deeply dishonest and intellectually corrupt.