Following up his earlier debacles, in an TV show, Jeffrey Toobin continued his slide into complete subservience to authoritarianism, justifying the British government’s nine-hour detention of David Miranda and the confiscation of his property by saying that Miranda was similar to a ‘drug mule’.
Following the inevitable criticism from real journalists, Toobin defended himself.
He also said that anyone surprised by his enthusiastic defense of the NSA against Snowden had misjudged him.
“I am not an advocate of a party line, I hope, on any issue,” he said. “I’m not a liberal pundit. I’m not a conservative pundit. I’m a journalist.”
I don’t know (and frankly don’t care) about his party affiliations or his ideology but on the last assertion, the judgment is pretty clear. No, he is not.
As Jay Rosen says Toobin, like president Obama, has sunk into incoherence by simultaneously arguing that the debate opened up by the Snowden revelations is a good thing while demanding that Snowden be severely punished.
He doesn’t think Snowden should have done what he did. But Toobin does think the debate that Snowden started “is a good thing.” When James Risen pointed this out (“We wouldn’t be having this discussion if it wasn’t for him”) Toobin — mindlessly — agreed. “That’s true,” he said. (It’s at 8:15 on the clip.) At this point Toobin has no idea what he’s saying. The only coherent position available to him is to argue for the repeal of an informed public: “Piers, this debate we’re having right now, it’s a bad thing!”
But he doesn’t have the courage or self-awareness required to say that on television. At some point he internalized the idea of a “discussion the public cannot afford to have,” then repressed any memory of having done that. That’s why he welcomes a debate that he would also welcome the prevention of. But Congress did the same thing. So did President Obama. The Toobin principle: repeal the concept of an informed public, repress your decision to take such a drastic step because it’s too much to face.
Without Snowden, this whole debate might never have occurred.