It’s a good thing a US president has never shuttered newspapers (Lincoln), suspended habeas corpus (Lincoln again), prevented their distribution through the mail (Wilson), arrested tens of thousands of war dissidents (Wilson again) or imprisoned tens of thousands of Americans because of their ethnicity (Roosevelt), because otherwise we might have had a precedent to work off of for dealing with Obama’s monitoring of reporters who routinely leak classified information to the public.
Of course, this is not to excuse Obama’s monitoring of the AP’s electronic communications, or to explain away their close surveillance of Fox News correspondent James Rosen. The thing is, the government has spied on itself and on the reporters who cover it, and leaked with bizarre, destructive, gleeful abandon, since secrets were invented.
That doesn’t make any of it okay. But while we charge up our outrage motors to flank speed ahead, perhaps a tiny bit of perspective could inform precisely how we choose to freak out and reign back in such excesses. The country — and free speech — has weathered far worse, and come out stronger. We’ll deal with this, too, in good time.