Bill Bennett, racist, gambler, failed drug czar and, incredibly, author of something called The Book of Virtues, has gathered up his impeccable credibility and attacked the Pulitzer committee for awarding journalism prizes for reporting on secret CIA prisons and domestic eavesdropping.
The reporters, Bennett said, "took classified information, secret information, published it in their newspapers, against the wishes of the president, against the request of the president and others... I don't think what they did was worthy of an award — I think what they did is worthy of jail."
Bennett is — one can only hope — no longer taken seriously by most Americans. But his outburst is worthy of note because it is a slip of the tongue that betrays the real attitudes of the Bush Right. With all their talk of liberty and democracy, in their pickled little hearts they actually believe in an imperial presidency.
Bennett's phrasing was not accidental. The day journalists are beholden to the "wishes of the president" is the day we no longer have a free press. And the Republican Right doesn't believe in a free press. How can there be a fourth estate when there's only one estate — the executive, all-powerful and impervious to criticism?
First Bill Bennett revealed the Right's core racism by suggesting that crime would go down if all black babies were aborted (also cf. sweet, grandmotherly Barbara Bush's post-Katrina comments); now he's betraying its true, only halfheartedly hidden, monarchical ideal. Nicely done, Mr. B.
Appropriately, White House press secretary Scott McClellan's resignation this morning included the kowtowing due an executive who conceives himself as, in his own words, "the decider": "I have given it my all, sir, and I have given you my all, sir."
Indeed. Bush's imperial attitude has been evident for years. But with everything he's attempted going horribly wrong, the American public is waking up to it.