When the Press Does It, That Means It’s Legal

When someone steals top-secret documents during wartime—about a war Americans are fighting—while the dead average 46 per week, every week, for a year; when someone photocopies 7,000 pages about military planning—about U.S. military plans in Southeast Asia—while the President of the United States seeks to end what his predecessors started; when someone watches the flash from a 648-pound Xerox machine, as if he were a VIP (without safety goggles) sitting on an Adirondack chair at the Pacific Proving Ground, instead of a thief in a room 11 miles from the Pacific Ocean; when the bulb inside that machine flashes at least 10,000 times in a single night, until what was not Daniel Ellsberg’s or Anthony Russo’s to give becomes the media’s gift to all enemies, foreign and domestic—when the press does that, it is legal. But when Donald Trump repeats what the press reports, that is illegal. OK.

Now that we understand the rules, that there are none, this much is clear: that the press reserves the right to print what it wants, despite the wanton behavior of others, so long as no member of the press behaves improperly. Or, the Fourth Estate reads the Eighth Commandment to mean, “Thou shall not steal—unless thou art on deadline.”

How else to explain the press’s coverage of not only what WikiLeaks has, including 50,547 pages of emails sent to and from Hillary Clinton’s private email server, but also what the most incriminating emails say? The explanation is simple: What was good copy then is still good copy now—except Mrs. Clinton’s bad press was good enough to help her lose the 2016 presidential election.

For that crime, the press finds President Trump guilty. May he serve the remainder of his sentence, until January 20, 2025, in the White House.

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