Here we go again. Every time an administration is caught spying on the press, it professes to be "shocked, shocked." As shocked as Captain Renault in "Casablanca" on learning that Rick's Café Américain is actually a gambling joint. The captain's order to shut the place down is interrupted only briefly by an obliging waiter. ("Your winnings, sir.")
It's a scene cherished by every movie buff and connoisseur of irony. Just as every long-time Washington-watcher knew what would happen when Barack Obama and his attorney general were caught spying on the Washington press corps they'd once had eating out of their hand. Despite scandal after scandal -- from Benghazi to the way the IRS targeted conservative groups.
Benghazi? What difference at this point, as Hillary Clinton put it so memorably, does it make? As for the business with the IRS, that was all just the work of some "rogue agent" in Cincinnati. Even if the trail led to Washington, the resignation/retirement of top officials, and the customary Fifth Amendment plea by one of the ringleaders.
The sleepy watchdogs of the press managed to doze through all that without interruption. But then the administration's gumshoes were turned loose on the press, too. And finally, finally alarm bells went off.
Shades of Richard Nixon's notorious enemies' list! For it came to light that this administration had subpoenaed the records of 21 phone lines used by AP reporters and editors, and obtained a secret search warrant to pry into the emails of a well-respected correspondent for Fox News.
Uh oh. All hell broke loose. Well, sure, this was our ox that was being gored.
Even the most kneejerk members of a once adoring press corps awoke. The usually docile Al Hunt, a columnist for Bloomberg, discovered that "Obama is no better than Nixon." Katrina vanden Heuvel, she of the (way) left-of-center The Nation, decided that this administration "has had the worst record on press freedom." Why, even Chris Matthews of MSNBC, the libs' lapdog network, who used to feel a tremor down his pant leg when Barack Obama orated, awoke from his trance. The thrill was definitely gone.
Caught abusing the press and unable to deny it, the administration threw it a bone. A shield law designed to exempt the press from just the kind of abuse this administration had made its specialty was swiftly thrown together to protect journalists. Or at least those the administration was willing to recognize as such. You know, the certified, the professional, the official kind. In short, Our Sort.