January 24, 2004

JACK SHAFER COMMENTS on the Senate computer-files scandal:

I wonder how the Globe would have covered the story had a Democratic staffer stumbled upon a stack of incendiary strategy memos by Republican staffers. If she shared them with her colleagues and then with the Globe, would the Globe have eagerly printed excerpts of them? You betcha. And would Republicans scream holy hell and demand an investigation after the Globe went to press? You betcha. And would the Globe and the Times be editorializing about the investigation’s “chilling effect” on dissent and free speech? You betcha, again.

Clearly, whenever the Senate investigates itself, it’s news. Likewise, the identity, motivations, and modus operandi of these leakers is news, too. But, like York, I can’t help but think there’s a journalistic double standard operating here in which partisan leaks to conservative journals and journalists (the Novak-Plame incident, for another example) are treated as capital crimes, but partisan leaks that wound Republicans are regarded the highest form of truth telling.

And it gets worse, apparently, in an election year.

UPDATE: Robert Racansky emails:

One doesn’t have to wonder too much.

Back in 1997, the New York Times printed transcripts of an intercepted telephone call between Newt Gingrich and Republican strategists. The tape was provided to the press by Rep. Jim McDermott (one of the “Baghdad Democrats” Link):

Jan. 10, 1997 — The New York Times and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution report on an intercepted cell phone conversation indicating Gingrich may have violated his Dec. 21 agreement with the panel not to orchestrate a GOP counterattack against the charges. In a telephone conversation taped that day, and subsequently obtained by the two papers, the speaker is heard reacting favorably to strategy concocted by GOP operative Ed Gillespie.

Jan. 14, 1997 — Under fire for accepting the tape of Gingrich’s phone call, the ethics committee’s ranking Democrat, Jim McDermott (Wash.) recuses himself from further consideration of the Gingrich matter, on condition that one Republican also step aside from the ethics committee to maintain the panel’s partisan balance. Unrepentant, McDermott blasts ethics chair Nancy Johnson (R-Conn) and committee Republicans, who he says “stonewalled or otherwise “obstructed sensible efforts to get at the whole truth.”

Yes, I remember that incident.

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