Over the weekend some conservatives began batting around an idea: Congress, both the House and the Senate, should draft resolutions expressing their disapproval of the the NY Times decision to run a story outing the existence of a classified anti-terrorism program.
Hugh Hewitt, in a conversation with Bill Kristol, got the ball rolling:
The irresponsibility of the New York Times and Los Angeles Times combined with the arrogance of their management in refusing to be available to anyone concerning their decisions puts the burden on Congress to act.
Not, of course, with a law curtailing press freedom, which would be unconstitutional and opposed by any friend of the Constitution.
But rather, as Bill Kristol and I just spent a segment discussing, with House and Senate Resolutions –preferably drafted, debated and voted on next week– expressing outrage at the endangering of national security via the publication of sensitive national security information that obviously assists terrorists in eluding capture or killing.
Perhaps the papers would find some supporters among the congressmen and senators, but I believe that a strongly worded condemnation of the papers’actions would pass, and would as Bill argued, send the message that it isn’t the Bush Adminsitration the papers are defying, but the legislative branch as well.
Kristol then touted the idea over the weekend on the panel segment of Fox News Sunday.
Aside from the above arguments, there is another reason that this idea is worth following up on. Right now in the Senate conservatives are facing a dilemma. The Senate will be in session this week, and then out for a week of recess over the July 4th holiday. After that week, they will return for a three week run up to August recess.
This week is supposed to be consumed with a flag burning amendment and a half-loaf death tax compromise. How to fill the remaining three weeks is up in the air. Their are some outstanding legislative items, but their is worry amongst some conservatives on the hill that those items are not time consuming enough to fill all three weeks — leaving a window of perhaps a few days of free floor time.
Free floor time more often than not means mischief.
One particularly worrisome agenda item that could consume that floor time would be a stem cell research package. This package would force the President to veto a politically popular bill because of his adamant pro-life stand. The veto would become the big story heading into August, and would likely shift the abortion debate from being about fully formed unborn children — a la partial birth abortion — to being about dehumanized cells — a la stem cells. It is a political disaster waiting to happen.
Why not ensure that that floor time is not available? Granted, that would mean the Majority Leader has to acquiesce and forego his stated desire to pass the anti-pro life stem cell legislation, but I think Bill Frist may be inclined to do that in order to avoid splitting his caucus.
Schedule debate this week on a NY Times Sense of the Senate resolution, and eat up a few days. A win win…
UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds’ response to NY Times Editor Bill Keller today is a must read. Reynolds:
A deeper error is Keller’s characterization of freedom of the press as an institutional privilege, an error that is a manifestation of the hubris that has marked the NYT of late. Keller writes: “It’s an unusual and powerful thing, this freedom that our founders gave to the press. . . . The power that has been given us is not something to be taken lightly.”
The founders gave freedom of the press to the people, they didn’t give freedom to the press. Keller positions himself as some sort of Constitutional High Priest, when in fact the “freedom of the press” the Framers described was also called “freedom in the use of the press.” It’s the freedom to publish, a freedom that belongs to everyone in equal portions, not a special privilege for the media industry.