The uproar over the spying on Americans' telephone and email communications that has followed publication of an expose by the New York Times, which has included the first calls in Congress for censure or impeachment, makes it clear that this is an issue that resonates across party lines.


Since the NY Times actually had this story for almost a year and held it at the request of the Bush administration, we can now assert, with reasonable confidence, that the nation's leading newspaper is to blame for Bush's second term. The 2004 election was so close in Ohio that had the Times acted with journalistic integrity and played the role it is supposed to play as a Fourth Estate monitor of government abuse, it seems almost certain the president would have been sunk by the ensuing scandal. As weak a candidate as he was, and as bad a campaign as he ran, John Kerry would have almost certainly been president today.


This is, of course, not the first time the NY Times has played politics by holding a story and covering up for Bush. Recall that a week before Election Day, the paper had in hand an investigative piece exposing how the president had been secretly wearing an electronic device during the three debates. Again the paper held back from publishing what it had. (For the details on that story, go to Extra!


The argument that time, as reported by the paper's own ombudsman, was that it was "too close" to the election. In other words, editor Bill Keller felt that publishing that story might "influence" the election unfairly.


But you can't make decisions like that as a journalist. Unless it's a matter of life-and-death, media organizations must publish what they know. Publishing the "Bush bulge" story might have--indeed should have--influenced the 2004 election outcome, but so did not publishing the story. Because Keller thought he knew best, the public was denied important information (that the president probably cheated in the three debates) and had to cast its votes in ignorance.


The same can now be said about Bush's unconstitutional and clearly illegal executive orders (30 of them) authorizing a massive electronic spying campaign to monitor the communications of law-abiding American citizens.


If anyone should be impeached at this point, it is the Times' Keller, who between the withheld NSA and bulgegate stories and the hyped Judith Miller WMD stories, has been functioning more as a media agent for the White House than as a legitimate journalist.


The Times needs to clean house. Keller should go.


And Bush should be impeached.