It's important to note that the Times has been singled out for this treatment, while the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal have been given a pass for the same deed. (The crime? Publicizing an antiterrorist banking program that the president himself had publicized five years before. No, it doesn't make sense. But remember, these are conservatives we're talking about. It doesn't have to make sense. It just has to make Hulk mad.)
Anyway, while the other press reports have been ignored, the New York Times was singled out by the White House and their flying monkeys on the right as treasonous bastards who deserved to be executed or, at the very least, excommunicated from the Church of Dear Leader.
The White House and its allies have been bullying the press and their political opponents for a half decade now, so they must have assumed that this challenge would, like all others, go unanswered. They were wrong. In this morning's op-ed pages, the New York Times has responded in kind.
First of all, there's a blistering editorial, titled "The Real Agenda."
It is only now, nearly five years after Sept. 11, that the full picture of the Bush administration’s response to the terror attacks is becoming clear. Much of it, we can see now, had far less to do with fighting Osama bin Laden than with expanding presidential power.As the editors New York Times dig into Bush's efforts to make himself a king here at home, just a page later columnist Frank Rich rips into the folly of his foreign policy abroad:
Over and over again, the same pattern emerges: Given a choice between following the rules or carving out some unprecedented executive power, the White House always shrugged off the legal constraints. Even when the only challenge was to get required approval from an ever-cooperative Congress, the president and his staff preferred to go it alone. While no one questions the determination of the White House to fight terrorism, the methods this administration has used to do it have been shaped by another, perverse determination: never to consult, never to ask and always to fight against any constraint on the executive branch. ....
The president’s constant efforts to assert his power to act without consent or consultation has warped the war on terror. The unity and sense of national purpose that followed 9/11 is gone, replaced by suspicion and divisiveness that never needed to emerge. The president had no need to go it alone — everyone wanted to go with him. Both parties in Congress were eager to show they were tough on terrorism. But the obsession with presidential prerogatives created fights where no fights needed to occur and made huge messes out of programs that could have functioned more efficiently within the rules. ....
To a disturbing degree, the horror of 9/11 became an excuse to take up this cause behind the shield of Americans’ deep insecurity. The results have been devastating. Americans’ civil liberties have been trampled. The nation’s image as a champion of human rights has been gravely harmed. Prisoners have been abused, tortured and even killed at the prisons we know about, while other prisons operate in secret. American agents “disappear” people, some entirely innocent, and send them off to torture chambers in distant lands. Hundreds of innocent men have been jailed at Guantánamo Bay without charges or rudimentary rights. And Congress has shirked its duty to correct this out of fear of being painted as pro-terrorist at election time.
We still hope Congress will respond to the Supreme Court’s powerful and unequivocal ruling on Guantánamo Bay and also hold Mr. Bush to account for ignoring the law on wiretapping. Certainly, the president has made it clear that he is not giving an inch of ground.
[T]he day that changed everything didn’t change the fundamental character of the Bush presidency. The so-called doctrine of pre-emption, a repackaging of the long-held Cheney-Rumsfeld post-cold-war mantra of unilateralism, was just another gaudy float in the propaganda parade ginned up to take America to war against a country that did not attack us on 9/11. As the president’s chief of staff then, Andrew Card, famously said of the Iraq war just after Labor Day 2002, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” The Bush doctrine was rolled out officially two weeks later, just days after the administration’s brass had fanned out en masse on the Sunday-morning talk shows to warn that Saddam’s smoking gun would soon come in the form of a mushroom cloud.Placed side by side, the two pieces make a convincing case that the heated rhetoric and political passions of the War on Terra are little more than a convenient excuse to consolidate power here at home and use it for their own ends.
The Bush doctrine was a doctrine in name only, a sales strategy contrived to dress up the single mission of regime change in Iraq with philosophical grandiosity worthy of F.D.R. There was never any serious intention of militarily pre-empting either Iran or North Korea, whose nuclear ambitions were as naked then as they are now, or of striking the countries that unlike Iraq were major enablers of Islamic terrorism. Axis of Evil was merely a clever brand name from the same sloganeering folks who gave us “compassionate conservatism” and “a uniter, not a divider” — so clever that the wife of a presidential speechwriter, David Frum, sent e-mails around Washington boasting that her husband was the “Axis of Evil” author....
Since then, the administration has fiddled in Iraq while Islamic radicalism has burned brighter and the rest of the Axis of Evil, not to mention Afghanistan and the Middle East, have grown into just the gathering threat that Saddam was not. And there’s still no policy. As Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution writes on his foreign-affairs blog, Mr. Bush isn’t pursuing diplomacy in his post-cowboy phase so much as “a foreign policy of empty gestures” consisting of “strong words here; a soothing telephone call and hasty meetings there.” The ambition is not to control events but “to kick the proverbial can down the road — far enough so the next president can deal with it.” There is no plan for victory in Iraq, only a wish and a prayer that the apocalypse won’t arrive before Mr. Bush retires to his ranch....
By any measure, the administration really doesn't care about providing actual security here at home or prosecuting the real war on terror abroad. The task force hunting down Osama Bin Forgotten has been disbanded, the Taliban is making a strong resurgence, Iraq is steadily turning to civil war, and the chaos is now spreading across the Middle East. Meanwhile, madmen in North Korea and Iran are getting a free pass. Here at home, the Department of Homeland Security is doling out funds to their base in the Red States and ignoring the real threats on the coasts. (Old MacDonald's Petting Zoo and the Sweetwater Flea Market are terrorist targets, while NYC has nothing worth hitting? Are you shitting me?) Security at our ports and our chemical and nuclear plants are a joke, and the only reason they're paying any attention to the borders now is to ratchet up their base's fears of atheistic, illegal Mexlamofascist immigrants creeping across our borders to work subminimum wage jobs so they can marry gay.
The craven political calculus of this administration is clear. The writing has been on the wall for some time, but now thanks to the clumsy attacks by Rove and company, the writing's in the New York Times as well.