23 February 2004

Opinion | Jay Bookman

In addition to standards, we reputable journalists are fully cognizant of the obligations and duties placed upon a free press as one of the pillars of democratic government. As we have proved, we know that we have a patriotic duty to treat the president of the United States with total deference bordering on reverence, an obligation that includes overlooking any exaggerations or mistakes that our leader might have made in the performance of his job, even if those mistakes end up taking us into unnecessary war.

As recent events have begun to demonstrate, however, our patriotic duty changes the moment that a president slips in popularity, at which point he becomes fair game, and we are obligated under the First Amendment to attack him for even the slightest, most innocent of errors, like a pack of heartless hyenas taking down a crippled zebra.

Others may look at that pattern of behavior and claim that we simply kowtow to power but attack weakness. Such talk is truly heartbreaking, because it means that we have failed in communicating the true dignity of our role.

We understand that three seconds of a bared breast pose a threat to the foundations of society; that our renowned investigative abilities are best used tracing the activities of a National Guard lieutenant 30 years ago; that reporters embedded in the White House are obligated by law to print anonymous claims without checking to see if they are true; that we must print even a leak that threatens the life and career of an undercover CIA operative.

Doesn't this guy understand that everything changed on 911?

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