Former NYT Editor in Chief Bill Keller Hits at Mitt, 'Far Right' Talking Heads on Fox News

In his Monday online column for the Times, "The Leak Police," former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller worked in a cheap shot against Mitt Romney while arguing that the Obama administration "without really setting out to do so, already surpassed all previous administrations in its prosecution of leakers, has begun new investigations into disclosures by The Times, Newsweek, The Associated Press and others." Keller wrote:

Is this latest outbreak of leak panic just another mood swing? Or is something else going on?

There is a plausible case that more secrets are spilling these days. In part that is because so much material is automatically, needlessly classified that officials tend not to take classification as seriously. I suspect another factor is the enthusiasm with which senior officials contribute their notes and self-serving recollections for behind-the-scenes books, setting a permissive example for those farther down the official ladder. (The top officials thus assure their place in history; it’s the juniors who get prosecuted.)

Some of the current wailing is just politics as usual, or what has become usual in the pit bull arena of the modern campaign. Mitt Romney, desperate for a way to turn President Obama’s takedown of Osama bin Laden into a liability, has professed to be shocked and outraged that a president or his circle might use classified information to burnish the image of the commander in chief. The Republican nominee-to-be points to stories about Obama’s handling of the Bin Laden raid, his oversight of a terrorist kill list and the administration’s cyberattacks on Iran as “contemptible” breaches of national security.

Romney certainly knows something about keeping secrets; there have been no leaks so far of his tax returns, the names of his big-money bundlers, the records of his work as governor and Olympics czar or, for that matter, his economic plan.

In 2006 Keller presided over the notorious release of secret classified information that damaged anti-terrorist programs.

Keller talked about leaks on CNN's Reliable Sources on Sunday. Host Howard Kurtz set Keller up to issue his standard criticism of Fox News as a uniquely biased news source:

KURTZ: I'd like to see the press do more of that. You have been an outspoken critic of Fox News and in a column you describe it as Rupert Murdoch's most toxic legacy. Fox, of course, would say it's providing balance to the left leaning mainstream media. Why do you feel so strongly against what Fox News does?

KELLER: I think they -- they didn't invent the idea of partisan news. I mean, there's a long history of that in our country. But they perfected, they refined it and perfected it, and brought to it a degree of cynicism. The sort of, "we are the fair and balanced network," when they are the opposite of the fair and balanced network. They're, if they came out and said we're the right-wing network, we're going to favor Republicans, and we're going to present talking heads who are ideologically to the right or the far right, that's fine. That's, it's a free country. But what I object to is that they've abandoned the discipline, the journalistic discipline of trying to be fair, but pretending that they have not abandoned that.