New York Times legal reporter Charlie Savage’s two stories on libertarian Sen. Rand Paul holding up extending sections of the Patriot Act ignored the huge hypocrisy of the act’s newest vocal defender, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The paper also demonstrated a new-found comfort on the part of the Times for the act, which it excoriated during the Bush years.
Reid attacked fellow Sen. Ron Paul in personal terms on the Senate floor Wednesday, but the Times ignored both the attack and Reid’s overheated defense of the Patriot Act, which would surely have been denounced as demagoguery coming from a Republican. Liberal journalist Spencer Ackerman called Reid a demagogue, saying "Dick Cheney would be proud." (Ouch!) Ackerman fumed:
Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, charged that Paul’s efforts would "increase the risk of a retaliatory terrorist strike against the homeland and hamper our ability to deal a truly fatal blow to al-Qaida."....Remember back when a Republican was in the White House and demanded broad surveillance authority? Here’s Reid back then. "Whether out of convenience, incompetence, or outright disdain for the rule of law, the administration chose to ignore Congress and ignore the Constitution," Reid said about Bush’s warrantless surveillance program.
Those details were left out of Savage’s Thursday summary, under a headline that suggested the necessity of the act: "Patriot Act Battle Could Hinder Investigators."
The standoff led to a harsh exchange Wednesday. Mr. Reid accused Mr. Paul of putting the country at risk with ‘political grandstanding.’ Mr. Paul accused Mr. Reid of breaking a promise to allow a full debate over the Patriot Act, which he portrayed as a threat to constitutional rights.
Consider that headline. The Times has certainly become more comfortable with the Patriot Act since the Bush administration. An April 24, 2005 story on extending a Patriot Act provision allowing searches of library records likened paranoid librarians to the original freedom-fighting American colonial rebels.
This is all Savage said about Reid and Paul showdown on Friday:
Congressional leaders had agreed to extend the provisions before they expired. But Senator Rand Paul, a libertarian-leaning Republican from Kentucky, initially blocked an expedited vote on the bill because he wanted Senate leaders to allow a vote on several amendments. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, allowed votes on two Paul amendments, which would have offered greater privacy protections for records involving gun sales and banking.