James C. Goodale, the so-called “father of reporters’ privilege” and the author of a new book called Fighting for the Press (CUNY Journalism Press, 255 pp., $20), was in his office at the Debevoise & Plimpton law firm, where he’s a partner, comparing Barack Obama to Richard M. Nixon...That's one. Here's another:
Mr. Goodale, 79, was the general counsel of The New York Times during the 1971 Pentagon Papers case, when President Nixon ordered the old grey lady to cease publication of excerpts from a 7,000-page document, which detailed America’s involvement in Vietnam over the course of three decades. The Times published the first excerpt on June 13, 1971. By June 26, the case had reached the Supreme Court. Over the course of a few days, the justices ruled in a 6-3 decision that the U.S. government could not censor the Times. Nixon then convened a grand jury to indict the Times for conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act—”which really doesn’t mean anything,” Mr. Goodale said, rubbing his forehead in distress—but the case quickly fell apart. Fighting for the Press reads like a political thriller, with Nixon providing some dark comic relief. The guy was not exactly subtle: “As far as the Times is concerned,” he said to John Mitchell, the U.S. Attorney General, “hell they’re our enemies.”
Now, the man who successfully fought Nixon says President Obama has an even more troubling record.
Investigative reporter Carl Bernstein on Tuesday called the scandal involving the Department of Justice securing telephone records of Associated Press reporters and editors a "nuclear event.""This administration has been terrible on this subject from the beginning." Why is this the first we're hearing of it from you, Mr. Bernstein?
"This is outrageous," Bernstein said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "It is totally inexcusable. This administration has been terrible on this subject from the beginning.
"The object of it is to intimidate people who talk to reporters," he said. "This was an accident waiting to become a nuclear event, and now it's happened."
While I have no sympathy for the press as victims—they've been absolutely complicit since before he was elected—I’m glad they’re finally starting to see the light:
The town is turning on President Obama — and this is very bad news for this White House...This is nothing compared to the way they'd treat a Republican president, but I guess it's a start.
Obama’s aloof mien and holier-than-thou rhetoric have left him with little reservoir of good will, even among Democrats. And the press, after years of being accused of being soft on Obama while being berated by West Wing aides on matters big and small, now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be.
This White House’s instinctive petulance, arrogance and defensiveness have all worked to isolate Obama at a time when he most needs a support system. “It feel like they don’t know what they’re here to do,” a former senior Obama administration official said. “When there’s no narrative, stuff like this consumes you.”
Update, 5/17/13: And now Bob Woodward joins in:
Bob Woodward, who helped break the Watergate scandal as a Washington Post reporter in the early 1970s, sees a similarity between those events and the Benghazi scandal now embroiling the Obama administration.
He pointed to White House laundering of its talking points after last year's attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
"I have to go back 40 years to Watergate, when Nixon put out his edited transcripts of the conversations, and he personally went through them and said, Let's not tell this, let's not show this,'" the political author told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.
"I would not dismiss Benghazi. It's a very serious issue. As people keep saying, four people were killed."