Victor Davis Hanson

Four hundred reporters even formed their own off-the-record shared email chat group, JournoList, to strategize attacks against Obama's political opponents. AttackWatch.com (paid for by Obama for America) read like some sort of secret-police operation, asking readers to report any criticism of Obama, as it compiled "Attack files" in blaring black and red headers.

When President Obama kept open Guantanamo Bay or expanded the Bush war on terror, he was described as "anguished" and "torn" as he broke his earlier promises. Bad news like unemployment spikes or flat GDP growth was customarily editorialized with adverbs like "unexpectedly" -- as if Obama's setbacks surely were aberrant and would quickly subside. In one of the 2012 presidential debates, the moderator, CNN's Candy Crowley, was so exasperated that Obama seemed to need help that she jumped in to challenge Mitt Romney.

Obama rightly assumed that when the Benghazi scandal surfaced during the 2012 campaign, the press would largely ignore it. Likewise, he knew that the politicization of the IRS would not warrant headline news. Ditto Fast and Furious and the NSA mess.

But then a Faustian thing happened. This year it was also revealed that the Obama administration had monitored the communications of Associated Press reporters on the suspicion that they were publishing leaks. For the first time, outrage arose: Liberal presidents were not, in Nixonian fashion, supposed to go after liberal reporters.

The Obama administration did not object to AP reporters leaking classified information per se. Indeed, it had leaked the most intimate details of the cyber war against Iran, the drone protocols and the bin Laden raid to pet reporters like the New York Times' David Sanger and David Ignatius of the Washington Post. The election-year "exclusive" revelations of both usually portrayed Obama as an underappreciated, muscular command in chief.

The crime instead was that AP was freelancing and might publish leaks that were not always flattering. Since long ago the media had made a pact, it was natural that the Obama administration assumed it had a right to monitor what it had bought.

In one version of the tale, Dr. Faustus at least got 24 years of freebies before being hauled off to Hell. Our poor media did not even get five years of adulation before Obama called in their souls.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.


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