Does the press have a constitutional double standard?

You bet they hold such a double standard (along with others which I have outlined in the past here, here, and here). Slate magazine founding editor Michael Kinsley writes this piece in response to recent mainstream articles that have asserted that the President has reserved the right to ‘ignore’ certain laws:

Bottom line: It is not necessarily an outrage for the president to run the government according to his own interpretation of the Constitution. And it is certainly not an outrage for the president to simply state his view and then do nothing about it. Legitimate outrage comes when the president acts in flagrant violation of the Constitution, defending his actions unconvincingly, disingenuously, or not at all. And Bush has offered plenty of grist for this mill in his assertion of the right to kidnap people off the streets, keep them locked up for years without a trial or even a public acknowledgment of their existence, to torture them, and so on. But nailing him simply for stating his views on a constitutional issue, without even asking whether those views are right or wrong, is wrong.

It’s wrong especially when contrasted with another current fever running through the nation’s editorial pages: the ongoing issue of leaks and anonymous sources. Many in the media believe that the Constitution contains a “reporter’s privilege” to protect the identity of sources in circumstances, like a criminal trial, in which citizens ordinarily can be compelled to produce information or go to jail. The Supreme Court and lower courts have ruled and ruled again that there is no such privilege. And it certainly is not obvious that the First Amendment, which seems to be about the right to speak, actually protects a right not to speak. Yet many in the media not only believe that it does. They believe passionately that it is not merely OK but profoundly noble to follow their own interpretation and ignore the Supreme Court’s.


Maybe journalists sincerely believe they are entitled to such constitutional special treatment. Maybe they are even right about this, and the courts are wrong. But who wants to live in a society where every citizen and government official feels free to act according to his or her own personal interpretation of the Constitution, even after the Supreme Court has specifically said that this interpretation is wrong? President Bush would top my list of people I don’t want wandering through the text and getting fancy ideas. But why should he stay out of the “I say what’s constitutional around here” game if his tormentors in the press are playing it?

Read the whole thing.

Hat tip: Stephen Spruiell at NRO’s Media Blog

Comments are closed.