Maybe it’s the approach of Halloween, or an impending sense of defeat for pro-Obamacare Democrats like Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Whatever the reason, the Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng is trying–rather desperately–to scare voters by resurrecting a long-dead argument: that Rep. Tom Cotton, now just days away from winning Pryor’s U.S. Senate seat, wants to prosecute journalists–just like the Obama administration has been doing.
“Does Tom Cotton Still Want to Jail Journalists?” Suebsaeng asks. Three years ago, in an attempt to head off Cotton’s electoral ambitions, Mother Jones tried the same trick in a piece entitled: “The GOP Candidate Who Wants Journos Jailed.” The accusation–extrapolated to “journalists” in general for maximum hysteria–refers to a letter Tom Cotton wrote to the New York Times while serving on the front lines in the U.S. Army in Iraq.
The Times had just published an exposé on how President George W. Bush was using electronic information to track terror financing. The program put private information at risk–but exposing it put lives at risk, since terror organizations would now know how to evade U.S. monitoring. Cotton, writing from the front lines, expressed his hope that the journalists in question, Eric Lichtblau and James Risen, would be prosecuted for espionage.
No prosecutions were undertaken. But President Barack Obama has indeed considered prosecuting Fox News’ James Rosen, whose private emails and phone records were monitored after he published information about a secret North Korean nuclear test. The outrage was compounded by the fact that Attorney General Eric Holder allegedly committed perjury when he told Congress there was no thought of “potential prosecution of the press.”
Suebsaeng tries to connect the two, suggesting that Cotton and Obama “can find some common ground over their mutual annoyance at this New York Times reporter”–i.e. Risen, who has been subpoenaed in another case. Nowhere does Suebsaeng appear to acknowledge that there are actually situations in which journalists might be subject to prosecution for violating espionage laws. His point is merely to take a late swipe at Cotton.
The fact that the world might look a little different from the perspective of a soldier losing companions to terror attacks on a daily basis–fighting for the very freedoms Suebsaeng cites–is also something he deliberately sets aside. No doubt it will be raised again if Cotton aspires to even higher office. The problem for Suebsaeng is that this hyperbolic attack on Cotton is several years old already. And it has failed every time it has been tried.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak