Tag Archives: legal

Tweaking the story

This shit just pisses me off. Really. It does. My colleagues can be such tools sometimes. So I’m working, and alluva sudden I see tweets proclaiming that the Eville president has done dissed his legal advisors who told him he needs Congressional approval under the War Powers Resolution to continue providing military support to NATO’s fight in Libya.

Now, I happen to agree. The fight in Libya is at least for a good reason for a change, but the law requires that Congress grant permission to extend such activity beyond 60 days, which ended on May 20. It’s true that all presidents since the law was established in 1973 have contended that it unconstitutionally infringes on the president’s responsibilities as commander-in-chief. All presidents except Obama, that is. His position is that what we’re doing in Libya doesn’t pass the “hostilities” test because we’re not actually fighting. It’s not our bombers, and there are no troops on the ground. The United States is just providing support, y’see. Nixon, by the way, vetoed the act, but Congress overrode the veto.

Maybe they’re even right about that. But it is the law. And 10 congresscritters have filed suit in federal court against Obama over it.

But anyway, none of that is what irks me so much. What irks me is this. Here’s the New York Times (which broke the news) headline on the story:

2 top lawyers lost to Obama in Libya war policy debate

The story is about disagreement among the president’s legal advisers. Two of them — the Pentagon’s general counsel and the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — said Congressional approval was needed. Obama’s other lawyers, including both the White House and State Department general counsels, said otherwise. Obama went with the latter.

But that’s not how the story is that spreading through the InterTubz. Instead of being a story about a policy disagreement among the advisers, the story is about how Obama “overruled” his legal advisers, “rejected” their counsel, “dismissed” their views, proceeded with the war “despite” the lawyers’ view and is worse than Hitler. As if they were the only lawyers he consulted.

Even the Times is a little misleading, focusing on the two lawyers who disagreed. Here’s my headline:

Obama’s legal team split on Libya action authority

Now, doesn’t that sound more fair? More accurate? But it wouldn’t be American journalism if it didn’t echo the right wing’s crazinesss. Hell, even John Boehner believes the War Powers Act is unconstitutional, but that hasn’t stopped him from screaming to the high heavens that Obama is violating it.

Journalism isn’t what it’s supposed to be these days. Seeking the truth and telling it isn’t in the job description. Getting ratings is.

But that’s not how I roll. In this case, I completely agree with the Pentagon and DOJ lawyers. But that doesn’t mean I don’t tell the story right.

There is such a thing as journalistic integrity, even if an awful lot of my colleagues have forgotten what it means. Of course, they wouldn’t be acting like they are if the American public wasn’t so hell bent on bullshit and Charlie Sheen. But journalists are supposed to cut through the crap, not repeat it.

At least that’s how it works in my world. Wish it were true across the board.