In the lead up to the 2012 elections, Republicans were upset that the Obama administration was getting such great press on national security issues, so they pretended to be upset about the national security implications of the leaks to the AP.
In the spring of 2012, 31 Republicans called for AG Eric Holder to investigate the leaks after they accused the Obama administration of leaking stories about his toughness on terrorism to the press in order to win an election.
The Hill reported on the Republicans’ letter:
“The numerous national-security leaks reportedly originating out of the executive branch in recent months have been stunning,” they (Republicans) wrote to Holder.
“If true, they reveal details of some of our nation’s most highly classified and sensitive military and intelligence matters, thereby risking our national security, as well as the lives of American citizens and our allies. If there were ever a case requiring an outside special counsel with bipartisan acceptance and widespread public trust, this is it,” they wrote.
Republicans had really hoped the AP scandal would stick, especially with Benghazi Gate backfiring on them in numerous ways, not the least of which was the revelation on Tuesday that ABC had not actually read the emails the Republicans were using to indict the White House, and in fact the actual email said something quite different than was reported. It turned out that the email had been edited in the way it was reported so as to deliberately make Obama/Clinton look bad.
However, the AP scandal is also dying because there is no scandal. The phone records of the AP reporters were obtained legally (I’m not condoning what many see as the chilling of the press, I’m simply pointing out that it was done legally).
The Obama White House asked on Wednesday for the media shield law to be reinstated, “The Obama administration sought on Wednesday to revive legislation that would provide greater protections to reporters from penalties for refusing to identify confidential sources, and that would enable journalists to ask a federal judge to quash subpoenas for their phone records, a White House official said.”
Even worse for Republicans, AG Eric Holder recused himself from the decision to subpoena phone records of Associated Press journalists, so Republicans can’t even try to get him fired over their sudden interest in the rights of the press. (This isn’t stopping them from trying, of course. Logic and reality have no place in the never ending soap opera of hysterics.)
In June of 2012, the House and Senate Intelligence Committee leaders sought legislation to (emphasis mine) “strengthen authorities and procedures with respect to access to classified information and disclosure of it, as well as to ensure that criminal and administrative measures are taken each time sensitive information is improperly disclosed. We also intend to press for the executive branch to take tangible and demonstrable steps to detect and deter intelligence leaks, and to fully, fairly, and impartially investigate the disclosures that have already taken place.”
The investigation appears to be aimed at the leak rather than at the press, but the leak is a source and so it takes aim at the press regardless of its intent. But now Republicans are outraged that the DOJ is killing freedom.
Doug Heye, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, said in a statement to TIME, “Whether it is secretly targeting patriotic Americans participating in the electoral progress or reporters exercising their First Amendment rights, these new revelations suggest a pattern of intimidation by the Obama Administration.” Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, added, “The First Amendment is first for a reason. If the Obama Administration is going after reporters’ phone records, they better have a damned good explanation.”
Yes, well that explanation would be that Republicans demanded that the administration go after the leaks.
Why are Republicans putting on such a show? Because they insinuated repeatedly that the leak was deliberate and came from the White House. If that were true and if they were correct about Obama being a “tyrant”, why would Obama’s DOJ go after the records in order to find the leaker? Now that it’s come out that the DOJ is doing exactly what the GOP demanded, Republicans are going romantic about First Amendment rights. It’s too bad their legislation never reflects this newly claimed value.
The AP scandal represents the death of another Republican smear. How best to get out of the fact that you were wrong? Start another smear/distraction accusing the President of overreach after his DOJ did exactly what you demanded they do.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.