Earlier this year Washington Post beat reporter Dana Priest was awarded journalism's highest honor, the Pulitzer Prize, for her reports exposing the government's secret 'black site' prisons and other controversial counterterrorism tactics. On NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, conservative blowhard hypocrite William Bennett was quoted from April as saying that Priest was "not worthy of an award but rather worthy of jail." The basis of Bennett's argument echoes the Busheviks' incendiary rhetoric that the media is committing treason, putting the nation in grave danger by publishing articles on classified spy programs such as the NSA wiretappings and the SWIFT financial transaction-monitoring program. Priest, other journalists and in particular, the New York Times, have come under the Busheviks' fire.
But in response to Bennett's outlandish statement, Priest put the smack-down on the 'recovering' gambling addict when she told host Andrea Mitchell: "Well, it's not a crime to publish classified information. And this is one of the things Mr. Bennett keeps telling people that it is. But, in fact, there are some narrow categories of information you can't publish, certain signals, communications, intelligence, the names of covert operatives and nuclear secrets. Now why isn't it a crime? I mean, some people would like to make casino gambling a crime, but it is not a crime. Why isn't it a crime? Because the framers of the Constitution wanted to protect the press so that they could perform a basic role in government oversight, and you can't do that." As Jon Stewart's homeboy would say, "Oh snap!" As Priest delivered her "gambling" line, the bloviating Bennett became visibly disturbed as he winced, shook his head, wringed his hands and muttered what appeared to be something like "..a mistake," as in, it was a mistake to come on this show. Bennett had been combative and belligerent from the get-go, looking disgusted throughout, and as if his head was about to blow. Early on, he rudely interrupted Mitchell with, "Is that it? Is that it for me? when she turned from him to ask a question of another guest, former NY Times columnist William Safire. "No. No. Stand by," Mitchell responded as if she was dealing with a petulant 10-year-old. "I want to ask Bill Safire to weigh in on this."
Priest's bitch-slap was a beautiful thing to witness, and it was done in the most subtle, seemingly unrehearsed manner, yet with the overall effect of castration. And it was well deserved. Bennett is a classic Repuglican hypocrite, author of The Book of Virtues, a collection of parables on morality and personal responsibility; a guide for parents. Furthermore, during Bill Clinton's ugly, highly partisan impeachment hearings, Bennett was relentless in his attacks on the former president for his "sins." And then in the Spring of 2003, this virtue magnate was outed for having a very serious gambling addiction, which he fessed up to and likened to a "drinking problem." So much for morality, huh? It's the same old story with these Repugs: do as I say, not as I do.
Over the controversial SWIFT program in particular, Bennett was the show's lone defender of King George's attempt to crucify the media. "I've been in the Times for 30 years disagreeing with Times editorial policy right down the line," said Safire. "On this one, I think they did the right thing" in publishing their story last month exposing the Busheviks' tracking of terrorists' funds within the world banking system.
And the Wall Street Journal's John Harwood said he believes the controversy is nothing more than a drummed up effort on the part of Bush and the GOP to distract voters from the real issues: "If you're a Republican in the White House or in Congress, would you rather talk about immigration, gas prices, the estate tax, all the things that you can't get done right now, or would you rather go after The New York Times, the Supreme Court on the Guantanamo ruling...and say "They're tying our hands in the war on terrorism?"
One question that comes to mind is, if this is not a highly political ruse by the Busheviks to scapegoat the NY Times and divert attention away from their policy failures, and it's truly in the interest of national security, why then have they singled out the left-leaning NY Times and not the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, which ran similar articles? Because they know that, overall, the press was justified in publishing these stories. As Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote Sunday, "Is the press a traitor when it tells you, or when it doesn't?"