From NYT reporter Charlie Savage, via Twitter:
White House this morning asked Senator Schumer to reintroduce the media shield bill which died on Senate floor in 2010.
— Charlie Savage (@charlie_savage) May 15, 2013
I’m terminally bored with our current scandal hat trick, which in record time has reached the meta-stage where it produces no actual fresh news, just a steady flow of lazy thumbsuckers about how President Obama is now inundated with scandals. This despite the fact that Benghazi is still the nothingburger it’s always been, and everyone knows it; the DOJ episode is a policy debate, not a scandal; and it’s vanishingly unlikely that Obama had even the most tenuous connection to the IRS targeting of tea party groups, the only genuine scandal in the bunch.
Still, this is an interesting tidbit of news from Savage, both on substantive and political grounds. Substantively, Obama is making the point that legislation has been introduced before, and can be introduced again, that would restrict DOJ’s ability to target the phone records of media organizations. In 2010, such legislation was introduced, and died when it was filibustered by Republicans in the Senate. More generally, media organizations have been lobbying for a federal shield law for decades, and Congress has been resolutely unwilling to pass one, even though nearly every state has a shield law of one sort or another.
Politically, Obama is basically daring Republicans to put their money where their mouths are. You want to make the DOJ leak investigation into an issue of executive overreach? Fine. Then rein it in. Pass a law making it clear what DOJ can and can’t do in leak investigations.
This is a win-win for me. If Republicans take Obama up on his offer, then we get a law I approve of. If they don’t, then they need to shut up. What’s not to like?
UPDATE: It’s not just on Twitter anymore! Savage’s piece for the Times is now up.
UPDATE 2: Several people have pointed out that this bill doesn’t provide the press with much protection in national security cases, so even if it had been in effect it wouldn’t have had much impact on the DOJ subpoena of AP phone records. That’s true, but I still think this is a worthwhile effort. Congress can certainly provide the press with increased protection in national security cases if it wants to, and that’s the point of all this. Do they want to? Let’s find out. I want to know which side of this issue everyone is really on.