The apologists for this administration in the press corps responded predictably enough as one scandal after another was unfolding in Washington: They went after those who revealed the scandals, not those who perpetrated them.
Benghazi? All those cover stories, one after the other, for weeks? Why, the White House was just patching together the usual talking points from all agencies concerned. Happens all the time. Move on, folks, there's nothing to see here.
Hillary Clinton's words, "what difference, at this point, does it make?" To quote Jay Carney, the president's press secretary, "Benghazi happened a long time ago." Especially for those who'd just as soon forget it.
The IRS' targeting of conservative organizations, Jewish groups sympathetic to Israel, pro-Republican outfits? That was all the work of a "rogue agent" or two in far-away Cincinnati.
The left-leaning part of the American press seemed prepared to sleep through one wake-up call after another, hitting the snooze button every time. But then something happened. It seems the administration's gumshoes had been turned loose on the press, too. And the sleepers stirred. Sic the IRS on the opposition, endanger our diplomats, no big deal. But this was coming close to home.
Talk about echoes of Richard Nixon's enemies list: The AP's records were subpoenaed. James Rosen, a reporter for Fox News, had his emails pried into. Even his parents' phone calls. To top it off, he was named a possible "co-conspirator" and a "flight risk" in legal papers. And what was that criminal conspiracy? Doing his job.
That did it. Suddenly the administration's Amen corner in the press corps woke up and remembered the First Amendment. The usually tame lions of the press began to roar.
The usually compliant Al Hunt, a columnist for Bloomberg, declared that "Obama is no better than Richard Nixon."
Bill Press, another liberal of the kneejerk school, started squawking now that the attorney general was going after the press: "What 'breach of national security' are we talking about re the AP story? It's BS and Holder should be fired."
Katrina Vanden Heuvel of The Nation, a normally dependable defender of all things Obaman, broke ranks, too. She noticed that the Obama administration had failed to uphold "what it promised (and) has had the worst record on press freedom."
Why, even Chris Matthews of MSNBC, the president's lapdog network, let out a bark: The president, he said, "obviously likes giving speeches more than he does running the executive branch." It sounds as if the thrill is finally gone.
Keith Olbermann (remember him?) may be an unemployed news commentator at the moment, but even he chimed in and joined the growing chorus of awakening libs. He may have had his differences with Fox News and its James Rosen in the past, but he rushed to Mr. Rosen's defense this time, noting that "I fully support him against this unwarranted act by DOJ."
So did the New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, who would never be confused with a conservative.
This is what happens when a whole segment of the American press forgets that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and falls into lockstep with those in power. The awakening can be rude.
. . .
Those who remain silent when government harasses those of another political persuasion, or even make excuses for such tactics, may soon enough find themselves in the position of the German pastor Martin Niemoeller in the 1940s:
First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.