The latest editorial from the New York Times, Spies, Lies and Wiretaps, is a wonderfully dense text that outlines clearly the massive problems facing George Bush and his illegal NSA wiretaps. One by one, the editorial exposes and destroys the cynical arguments put up by the president and his staff in defence of their actions.
But you can almost see the writer/s of the editorial wondering how far they should go. They build up a big case... and then, nothing.
The editorial should have been more courageous. Rather than ending with a limp reminder to the Congress that they should "rein in" the president and "not betray the public once again" they should have been more strident. Maybe it was the fear of being labeled partisan. The Times has, in recent weeks, been highly critical of the Bush administration, but there is one word they have yet to print - "Impeachment".
I know that the Times has a long and glorious journalistic history, but the last few years has seen three major journalistic scandals that have tarnished their reputation: Jayson Blair, Judith Miller and the decision to withhold reporting on the illegal NSA wiretaps for twelve months. Their integrity in tatters, the Times deserves to fold, and the journalists who wish to maintain their own reputation need to jump a sinking ship.
But as the ship sinks, it would be wonderful if it takes the Bush Administration with it. Two out of the three scandals I just mentioned directly benefited the president: The first, the Judith Miller scandal, allowed the administration to plant false news stories in the Times (and thus in other Mainstream media publications) in order to bolster the case for invading Iraq; the second, the illegal NSA wiretaps, was kept from the public for a full twelve months until the Times belatedly reported it a few months ago, thus allowing George Bush a reasonably scandal-free presidential campaign in 2004 - one wonders how Bush would have fared had the news been broken then?
The impression that I now have is that the Times, humiliated by their failure to behave ethically and angry at how they have been used by the White House, has now decided to target the administration. Drawing upon what is left of their reputation, the Times has begun to forcefully disagree with the president's decisions, expose the administration's faults, and call for action. This activity may be considered "partisan" by supporters of the Bush administration, but, to me, it is simply the result of various revelations over the last 12 months that show the adminstration's incompetence and lies. While it is important to remain neutral in its factual reporting, the Times does have a responsibility to editorialise for the good of the American people - which is why it has taken this recent anti-Bush stance.
But, as I said, "Impeachment" is missing. If the Times is truly concerned for the people of America then shouldn't they be as clear and as truthful as they can? While they have exposed the administration's lies and illegalities, why not take such an argument to its logical conclusion? Why not say "If the president has broken the law, then congress should seriously consider impeachment"? How hard is it to print that? Such a sentence should have been added to this editorial because, firstly, it summarises the seriousness of the crime in question and, secondly, because it calls for a formal investigation into the matter which allows for a full and fair response to what has happened. Remember, "Impeachment" does not mean removal from office, it means "considering removal from office" - Bill Clinton was impeached, but was not removed from office. If Bush has not committed "high crimes and misdemeanors", then he will walk away from the proceedings an innocent man.
As the Senate Judiciary Hearings into the illegal NSA wiretaps gets closer (I think they meet in early February), the Times (and other members of the mainstream media) should "ramp up" their calls for justice by including impeachment in their editorials. For the Times, at least, it will be a chance for them to restore some pride and maybe, just maybe, drag the Bush administration down with their own sinking ship.
From the One Salient Overlord Department
© 2006 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
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