The Daily Banter

Sorry, No, Obama Is Definitely Not “The Greatest Enemy To Press Freedom In A Generation”

The New York Times‘ James Risen is by most accounts an outstanding journalist. But being an accomplished reporter evidently doesn’t immunize him from jumping aboard the outrage machine, claiming that President Obama is the worst [you name it] ever. In her column this past week, Maureen Dowd talked with Risen about the Obama administration’s record on press freedom, prompting Risen to announce:

A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin. They don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistle-blowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.

We should probably grant Risen a bit of latitude here. He’s been under considerable pressure from the Justice Department going back to the Bush administration for his reporting on a Clinton-era CIA operation involving Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Risen has repeatedly and justifiably refused to give up his source for the 2006 story, inciting the Bush and Obama administrations to issue subpoenas for Risen’s testimony (Attorney General Holder renewed the Bush subpoena in 2009). But, to date, DOJ hasn’t arrested or detained Risen. So, indeed, for Risen himself, I suppose he could make such a broad claim about Obama, but considering how the Bush DOJ first issued the subpoena, it would seem the title of “greatest enemy” should be a shared honorific.

Beyond Risen’s specific case, there’s simply no way Obama is the “greatest enemy to press freedom.” Either Risen is lashing out in reaction to his own situation or he’s piling onto the administration along with so many other sufferers of the dreaded Obama Derangement Syndrome, or maybe it’s both. But any reasonable comparative analysis of the last several administrations reveals a very different viewpoint — that, yes, other previous chief executives have been about the same if not worst than Obama on press freedom.

Assuming Risen was specifically referencing the records of U.S. presidents on press freedom, recent history tells us the following:

1) Jailed journalists. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, there haven’t been any American journalists jailed inside the U.S. by the Obama DOJ — save for several journalists detained recently in Ferguson, MO, but such actions can hardly be blamed on Obama. Roger Shuler, meanwhile, a blogger for something called “Legal Schnauzer,” was arrested for contempt of court by Shelby County, Alabama authorities. On the other hand, the Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press listed the following journalists who were arrested during both the Clinton and Bush administrations… CONTINUE READING

(ht Thomas Soldan Attorney at Law)