Schieffer Nails It: Are We Chipping Away at the 1st Amendment?

I’m a Sunday news program junkie, but I’ve rarely given Face the Nation as much of my viewing attention as in the last couple weeks.

The consummate news man, Bob Schieffer, seems to have taken his job as the program’s host and his position to call out President Obama’s administration and the rash of scandals rather seriously.


It’s a nice change of pace from the ho-hum baloney churned out week in and week out by David Gregory and Co. on NBC’s Meet the Press – a rather long-in-the-tooth institution.

This morning, my eyes popped, my heart sang as Schieffer used his commentary to do what news organizations used to do with greater directness.

He defended the First Amendment.

Mediaite found this week’s episode as thrilling as I did calling it a “terse critique that skipped the easy shots but did not spare the president.”

It’s not easy being a fly in the ointment. The Fourth Estate’s rarely beloved for long by the public before it’s hated. The media, as I tell my clients ad nauseum, isn’t your friend – they are the public’s protector, the seeker of information and that means they align with no one.

Somewhere, the Obama Administration forgot this or at least, they foolishly believed perhaps to live above such scrutiny. Nixon thought so too famously telling TV interviewer David Frost: “When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.”

Our Founding Fathers, for all their many faults, knew men with power are corruptible. Oversight helps keep these imbalances in check.

Thomas Jefferson once opined on the need for a free press: “No government ought to be without censors; and where the press is free no one ever will.” 

Naturally, it’s most amusing to hear the president’s grand scheme of getting to the bottom of these scandals by way of Attorney General Eric Holder. The irony wasn’t lost on Schieffer either.

“The president needs to rethink his entire communications policy top to bottom. It is hurting his credibility and shortchanging the public. And to head the review, how about someone other than the attorney general whose department is so deeply involved? That makes no sense to me.”

Nor to me, Mr. Schieffer.

Earlier in the segment, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer outlined a scheme in which a panel – another Gang of 8 (ugh) – would be introducing legislation setting up “rules where… if the government wants to go to a member of the press and say you have to divulge your sources and certain information, they would first have to go to a judge, and that judge will impose a balancing test [and say] ‘which is more important? The government desire to find out who leaked the information or the robust freedom of the press.’ “

Hold up, Chuck. Now we’re not a free press but a press limited by way of reverse oversight from the Legislative, Judicial and Executive branches? Well, while we’re at it, let’s take back Watergate and all the many betrayals perpetrated upon the American public. Whose to say we’d know about any wrong-doing were the government to have its thumb on the media?

Jefferson also warned of such foolish and rash actions: “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”



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