Ambrose: A news outlet that's out of bounds

Ambrose: A news outlet that's out of bounds

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Imagine you see someone standing on the sidewalk as a car passes by, going through a mud puddle that splashes all over him. The next day you read about the event in a newspaper. The headline says, “Auto Driver Tries to Drown Pedestrian,” and you realize you are reading The New York Times, the same paper that tried to make it sound evil that President Donald Trump had a telephone call with the prime minister of Australia.

The call was not all that extraordinary, just the kind of thing presidents sometimes have to do. The Justice Department, you see, is investigating whether the Mueller probe into Trump allegedly colluding with the Russians was baselessly instigated by government officials. We already have had some scary developments along those lines, and, if it should be true, this could be even worse than Russian interference with our elections. If our own government and partisan politicians get away with turning laws and principles upside down so that bureaucrats instead of voters decide with help from members of Congress who presidents are, the America republic is gone, kaput, finished.

They are at it again, with the usual assistance of certain news outlets that are more nearly views outlets. Part of the Justice Department probe concerns Australians playing a role in the shenanigans, and so, before department agents started checking out these people, Trump was asked to call to assure the prime minister’s concurrence. As a signal of the threats to our system of governance, sources of some devious kind related the call’s content to the Times, which had this to say, high up in a front-page story:

“The president is using federal law enforcement powers to aid his political prospects, settle scores with his perceived ‘deep state’ enemies and show that the Mueller investigation had corrupt, partisan origins.”

This opinion, which does not belong in a straight news story, runs counter to the fact that Trump’s phone call was run-of-the-mill stuff in this sort of situation. What’s more, the idea of “corrupt, partisan origins” of a two-year, multimillion-dollar effort finding nothing is hardly a Trump invention. It is the consequence of revelations the Times surely has noticed. 

Of course, the media focus has lately been on Trump’s impeachment-inducing Ukrainian phone call, which could be serious if Trump is proven to have had ulterior motives in temporarily withholding aid to Ukraine. The whistleblower seems to have based his or her charges on what others said, not direct knowledge, and now he or she wants to remain unidentified. The reason cited is fear of physical attack when the real fear may be that the whole truth comes out. 

This business of revealing what is said in presidential phone calls is itself frightening, to say the least. How can presidents and foreign leaders have candid, strategic exchanges if the whole world has a chance to learn what was said. Those telling us it’s wrong to try harder to protect the information would probably advise unlocked doors after burglaries.

What I am writing is a self-confessed opinion article, not a straight news story, and so I think it is OK for me to end with a sentence about the Times like the sentence I quoted by the Times: The newspaper is using freedom of the press to aid its get-Trump agenda, flatten those whose common sense gets in the way and show that this president is guilty of everything and anything no matter what the facts are.

Ambrose writes for Tribune News Service.

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