Trial by media

Today we’ve got two stories about national security that provide a nice contrast: the drone strike program Obama has been keeping secret, and the cyber-war program that was suspiciously “leaked” last summer, just in time to polish up the President’s anti-terrorist credentials for the election.  

What both of these stories have in common is the indispensable role of the media as prosecutor and jury.  Both of these stories would have been huge scandals in a Republican administration, especially that of George Bush.  They would have been tied into a “narrative” of a bloodthirsty President carelessly willing to compromise national security in the pursuit of political success.  Quotes from foreign leaders outraged by drone assassinations would have been solicited; civil libertarian concerns about American citizens terminated without due process would have filled the headlines and spilled over into Hollywood movies.  Remember the Hollywood Left got the vapors when they thought Bush was just arresting terror suspects without due process, or making them temporarily uncomfortable to collect valuable information?

Throw in stuff like Obama violating the War Powers Act or consistently ignoring the 1921 Budget Control Act’s deadlines – after making a big deal about how budgets are the morally obligatory expression of our national priorities during his re-election campaign! – and you can see that most of the laws binding our government are now enforced only through Trial By Media.  If the media gets everyone whipped into a lather, the political class (especially the GOP political class) will react pre-emptively, out of fear.  But if these stories are blown off as nit-picking against a righteous central authority and its bold agenda, the ruling class grows somewhat amused by suggestions that it shouldn’t be ignoring the law.