Robert Knight

As a longtime ink-stained wretch, I’m actually glad that some of the Obama Administration’s bombs targeting our essential liberties found their way out of the Tea Party kill zone and were dropped instead on the Fourth Estate.

Members of the media are generally some of the Obama administration's most loyal constituents. In fact, they're almost as reliable as the voters in Chicago’s cemeteries.

A liberal administration targeting the media is a lot like giving the dog that’s been biting your opponents a swift kick in the head - the dog doesn’t like it.

By seizing the phone records of 20 lines used by as many as 100 Associated Press reporters and by treating Fox News reporter James Rosen as a criminal, the Justice Department has managed to enrage much of the media. Even the leftist Huffington Post published a May 30 column by Jonathan Turley calling for Mr. Holder to be fired.

The harassment of Mr. Rosen was so invasive that one might suspect it was the IRS running amok instead of the Justice Department. The Administration probably thought it could get away with this harassment because the rest of the so-called mainstream media disdains Fox. In fact, the Administration crossed a line, and the media has taken notice. Mr. Rosen, who was writing on North Korea’s nuclear threat, had his personal e-mails seized and was named as a possible “criminal co-conspirator” simply because he, like any good reporter, had elicited information from a government official (not a criminal action unless the reporter is spying for a foreign country). This past week, we learned that the government obtained records for several Fox bureau phone numbers and even a line that matches that of Mr. Rosen’s parents.

Spy novelist Mary Louise Kelly writes in The Atlantic that if you tried to peddle this scandal as fiction, book editors would dismiss it as too far-fetched.

“It takes an unusually egregious misstep by an administration to unite journalists from Fox News and Mother Jones in outrage,” she writes. “But that's what the Rosen affair has accomplished.”

Last week, CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson said her computer has been “compromised” for more than two years. She doesn’t know who is responsible but doesn’t rule out the Justice Department.

As the Huffington Post observed, “Attkisson has long been a thorn in the side of the White House, and a hero to conservatives for her aggressive reporting on the Benghazi attack and the "Fast and Furious" controversy.”

The Wall Street Journal notes that the Obama administration has been cultivating academic supporters. An anonymous email sent by “an administration security official” to a former Washington Post editorial writer at the Brookings Institution provided the talking point that Mr. Rosen “was actively asking people to violate the law and enabling them to do so.”

I don’t recall similar concerns when the New York Times published the classified Pentagon Papers back in 1971.

The Journal adds, “Had [Mr. Rosen] merely sat passively and received the leak, that would have been fine. ...The dangerous ignorance here about journalism and the First Amendment is astounding. ...In the real world, reporters coax and wheedle and flatter. They even use ‘false names’ the way Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward worked "Deep Throat" to expose the Watergate scandal."

The administration has now been forced to exert major efforts at damage control. Mr. Holder gave an interview to the Daily Beast, the result of which was a May 28 article entitled: “Holder’s Regrets and Repairs: How the attorney general feels about his own role in the Fox News case—and how he plans to prevent it from happening again.” Mr. Holder has even tried to charm Capitol Hill. On May 25, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer announced the formation of another bipartisan “gang of eight” to press for a media shield law. We already have such a law – it’s called the First Amendment.

Mr. Holder is also trying to meet with journalists to tamp down the fires – but only on his terms. On Thursday, he met off the record with Politico's editor-in-chief John Harris and representatives from the Washington Post, the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Daily News, according to Fox News. The injured parties – Fox, the Associated Press, and CBS News along with CNN and the Huffington Post - declined the meeting.

In all the major scandals – the Benghazi killings and cover-up, the Justice Department’s seizure of reporters’ phone records and e-mails, and the IRS’s persecution of the Tea Party - Eric Holder and President Obama seem like clueless parents constantly outraged and amazed.

Sitting in for Rush Limbaugh on Wednesday, Mark Steyn had fun with this. He said (and I paraphrase) “Forget the CIA. Forget the IRS. There’s a whole new agency that we need to worry about. It’s called The Executive Branch, and the president has no idea what it’s up to.”

With multiple investigations on Capitol Hill and the release of damning inspector general reports, these scandals have legs despite the best efforts of the administration and its still-loyal media allies.

Their insistent ploy that “everybody does this stuff; there’s nothing to see here” is big-time bombing.


Robert Knight

Robert Knight is an author, senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a frequent contributor to Townhall.

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