Media discovering Obama doesn't return the love

Somewhere, Andrew Breitbart is smiling. You can almost see the metaphorical light bulbs going on in bubbles over the heads of liberal media figures. Obama loyalists are expressing outrage at the subpoenaing of the phone records of 20 lines serving over a hundred AP reporters.

The timing could not be better. Just days after it has sunk in on the White House press corps that the administration has been lying through their teeth about Benghazi. On the very day that the AP published its own outraged account of the subpoena, calling it a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news, the president held a joint presser with David Cameron that earned him four Pinocchios from the WaPo's fact checker, Glenn  Kessler, calling the talking points a "sideshow."

To my mind, the AP scandal's significance entirely lies with its effect on the media's mindset on Obama. They have been cheerleading for him for six years, now. But that old story - the young, brilliant, dynamic, athletic, "sort of a god" guy who was going to unite us - is not selling anymore. So they need a new narrative.

As a scandal, the subpoenas may or may not be important. Professor Eugene Volokh offers some wise words of counsel:

DOJ is investigating a leak of national security information to AP reporters that culminated in a May 7, 2012 story that disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped a terrorist plot in early 2012. The story had the byline of five AP reporters. DOJ opened an investigation into the leak to the AP, and pursuant to its published special rules on investigations involving the media investigations, issued subpoenas to find out what numbers were dialed from the relevant AP reporters during the months of April and May 2012. Presumably the thinking is that AP reporters called their sources, and the investigators want to trace the phone numbers to see who the sources might be. As far as I can tell, the information collected by the subpoena concerned the work and personal phone numbers of the five reporters and their editor, as well as the general AP office numbers where the reporters were located and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery. The AP knows about this because pursuant to DOJ's policies found in 28 C.F.R. 50.10, the government was required to give the AP notice that the records were obtained. The AP received that notice in a letter on Friday, and then today (Monday) it released its AP story expressing AP's outrage. That's pretty much all we know so far.

Based on what we know so far, then, I don't see much evidence of an abuse. Of course, I realize that some VC readers strongly believe that everything the government does is an abuse: All investigations are abuses unless there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt to the contrary. To not realize this is to be a pro-government lackey. Or even worse, Stewart Baker. But I would ask readers inclined to see this as an abuse to identify exactly what the government did wrong based on what we know so far. Was the DOJ wrong to investigate the case at all? If it was okay for them to investigate the case, was it wrong for them to try to find out who the AP reporters were calling? If it was okay for them to get records of who the AP reporters were calling, was it wrong for them to obtain the records from the personal and work phone numbers of all the reporters whose names were listed as being involved in the story and their editor? If it was okay for them to obtain the records of those phone lines, was the problem that the records covered two months - and if so, what was the proper length of time the records should have covered?

If Eric Holder signed off on this subpoena (he would have been able to delegate his authority to do so), there will be pressure for him to resign, even though he would have been acting within the law, based on what we now know. The media wants a head to roll. Holder may not want to be a fall guy, though, and he knows a lot that could give him leverage with the president. He is watching as bureaucrats scramble to avoid being the fall guys for Benghazi. Throughout the upper levels of the Obama adminsitration, people are checking to see if any long knives are being unsheathed near them.

The other scandals currently pending are much more serious. The IRS abuses are potentially lethal. Nobody likes the IRS, and even Democrats realize that this is a chilling exercise in political suppression.

So, how's that hope and change workin' out for ya'?