A closer look at the Bush record -- from
the war in Iraq to the war on the environment
take the exit ramp off the Bush presidency in November?
Colin Powell's Legend
Colin Powell's sterling reputation in Washington hides his life-long role
as water-carrier for conservative ideologues.
Recounting the controversial presidential campaign
Is the national media a danger to democracy?
The Clinton Scandals
The story behind President Clinton's impeachment
Pinochet & Other Characters
The Dark Side of Rev. Moon
Rev. Sun Myung Moon and American politics
Contra drug stories uncovered
How the American historical record has been tainted by lies and cover-ups
The October Surprise
The 1980 October Surprise scandal exposed
From free trade to the Kosovo crisis
Other Investigative Stories
Editor's Note: Urged on by George W. Bush and
Dick Cheney, right-wing pundits, politicians and radio talk-show hosts
are denouncing -- and trying to intimidate -- the New York Times and
other mainstream news organizations that have begun to show some
independence in reporting about the "war on terror."
Hurling charges of "treason" and threatening
prosecution of editors, this right-wing assault appears to have two key
goals: first, to reestablish Bush's monopoly over which secrets can be
released and which ones can't, and second, to rile up the Republican
base for the congressional elections in November.
In this guest essay, political analyst Brent Budowsky
criticizes this assault on independent journalism as an affront to the
democratic vision of the Founders, who -- more than two centuries ago --
recognized that the patriotic role of a free press was to keep the
American people as fully informed as possible:
celebrates July Fourth -- honoring Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and
the other Founding Fathers who committed treason against tyranny and
defeated an empire of kings with the power of freedom and truth -- we
are reminded again of the preeminent importance of the First Amendment
to a nation governed by the informed consent of a democratic people.
Had the New York Times and others in the profession now accused of
treason or violations of the Espionage Act not reported the facts in
their stories, on fundamental matters involving our freedom and
security, the American people would have been deprived of their right to
give their informed consent.
The courts would have been deprived of their constitutional duty to
judge whether laws are being faithfully executed. The Congress would
have been deprived of its constitutional duty and its share of
responsibility in the policies of waging war, the oversight of
government actions, and the protection of our liberties.
What is under attack, with these partisan charges of treason, is not
some abstract notion of "the public's right to know" but the core of the
matter of the American system of government. Freedom of the press was
not created by the Founding Fathers for the convenience of either the
politicians or the press, it was created as a guarantor and protector of
an informed citizenry, without which we have no democracy.
Freedom of the press was created as a Fourth Estate, a primary check and
balance to a free nation whose governance is carefully balanced between
the executive, legislative and judicial branches, designed to limit each
other's power to protect the common good of America.
When Thomas Paine wrote that the sun never shined on a cause as great as
ours, that cause was not the monarchy of King George where those who
knocked on doors at night could write their own search warrants. It is
no coincidence that after freedom had triumphed in the new world, Paine
and others took the cause to France and continental Europe, followed
generations later by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the triumph of
Paine's successors over not only the Soviet Politburo's crimes but their
agents of lies from Pravda to Radio Moscow.
I make no brief for contemporary American media, and have harshly
criticized in public and private the insiderism in which far too many
pundits become courtiers of power, in which far too many "journalists"
become mini-conglomerates trading off their historic role of the
courageous search for truth for endless searches for cable TV contracts
and lucrative book deals. And I have predicted and worked for a new
courage and new media that is emerging, through trial and error, to
challenge and, I predict, ultimately supplant the more fossilized and
corrupted of the older insider media, with its corporate cheapening of
news and "entertainment."
So: I make no brief for conventional media. How ironic that the New York
Times, which for so many months allowed its front page to be used as an
agent of propaganda to drive our nation to war, and which withheld the
NSA wiretapping story for a year, preventing the American people from
knowing the truth prior to voting in our last presidential campaign, is
now accused of being unpatriotic by the triumphant ideologues who got
the war they so hungered for, and won their election without the
American people voting with fully informed consent because of important
And I make no brief for Democrats. Is there anyone not on the payroll of
the party who believes that the collective leadership of the Democratic
Party has shown courage, clarity or coherence on the great controversies
of our age?
Reasonable people can disagree and debate whether the New York Times
should have published its stories about eavesdropping on Americans
without court order. Patriots can stand on both sides of the divide
about whether it was wise or appropriate to publish stories about
alleged secret prisons. Honorable Americans can take different sides
about whether it was proper to publish news about monitoring of
But words like treason? Traitors? Charges that the New York Times wants
to impede the war on terrorism?
Having dealt with much classified information in my days of government
service, I can attest: Sometimes information is classified to cover up
wrongs, hide blunders, protect political convenience. Other times
information is classified to protect legitimate secrets or help defeat
Every day in every newsroom these matters are debated endlessly, and
decisions are made, sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but the charge of
treason is different, the sign of a darker impulse in a politics
increasingly dominated by demeaning tactics that violate the cardinal
rules of the legacy left to us by the greatest collection of minds who
ever sat together on earth, in 1776, and 1789.
We have a President who claims the inherent, presumptive power to
abrogate provisions of the Constitution and throw aside the Bill of
Rights, a monarchical power he literally asserts with a doctrine
championed by our current Attorney General.
Those who do not agree, are charged with treason, and threatened with
prison. We have a President who claims more than 700 times that he can
break the very laws he signs, and those who challenge this are called
traitors, and threatened with retribution. We have an Attorney General
who believes the Geneva Convention, championed by virtually all in the
military who our President falsely claims he always heeds, is some quant
relic of the past, and those who reveal the truth of abuses are called
unpatriotic, enemies of the state, and threatened with investigation.
Our answer to 9/11 must be to unite our people to kill the terrorists
who genuinely threaten us, not to divide our country with charges of
treason, not to create a hidden secret regime of secret prisons, secret
courts, secret trials, secret spying on our fellow Americans, secret
intrusions on personal freedom, secret policies by secretive partisans
who disrespect the very notion of democratic debate, destroy the very
institutions of checks
and balances, and demean and threaten those who dissent and even those
who hold majority views in a nation that demonstrates its strong
disapproval, in every poll.
Some of these secrets are valid, some not, but taken together these
aggressive attacks against time-honored practices and time-honored
values are a dangerous departure from our democratic tradition.
These deviations from our democracy create far more divisions and
dangers than a foreign enemy that will never defeat us, but is used as
pretext for treating our neighbors as enemies, fomenting a politics of
fear, twisting war from a mission that should unite the nation into an
unprecedented weapon of partisanship that abuses the national trust,
with charges of treason unbecoming any commander in chief, or any
partisan who acts in his name.
Freedom of the press, with all its flaws, protects a freedom that
involves three branches of government, not one; gives voice to a
politics that includes two parties, not one; informs a citizenry that
defends freedom with bravery,
rather than surrendering freedom after appeals to fear.
Freedom of the press, with all the petty corruptions of the old media
and Wild West styles of the new, gives voice to an America where many
voices are singing, where many opinions are heard, where many truths are
Editors, publishers, readers, viewers, citizens of our Republic: our
cities may be bombed but our freedoms will never be taken by terrorists,
they can only be surrendered by ourselves.
It is time to man the barricades of democracy in defense of all three
branches of government and the Fourth Estate, in the defense of the
200-year-old notion that we are indeed in this together, that we share a
fellow patriots where the voices that charge treason are not the voices
of true Americanism, and that Thomas Paine's greatest sun that ever
shined on earth is now ours to preserve, protect and defend in a nation
of fellow patriots on a common mission, based on courageous search for
truth defended by courageous heroism in war.
God Bless America. Happy Fourth of July.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen on intelligence
issues, and served as Legislative Director to Rep. Bill Alexander when
he was Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Leadership. Budowsky
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org..
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