Next on Bush's chopping block: the First Amendment

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The Bush administration and its top officials have a new target – the First Amendment.

That is the essence of the attacks on the New York Times by the president, vice president, secretary of defense, secretary of the treasury, and Republican allies in Congress.

The Times, these officials charge, disclosed top-secret information on the government tracking of bank transfers on international databases. The president called it "disgraceful." Vice President Cheney, speaking to a GOP fundraising audience in Nebraska, said that the Times had harmed national security.

Don't believe it!

This is nothing but politics and a transparent effort to disparage and intimidate the so-called liberal media in an election year. Bush, Cheney, and company know the press is an easy target when the choice is the majesty of the White House versus the messenger of bad or untimely news.

There is evidence that the terrorist organizations already knew something about the transfers program and were moving to personal transfers of these transactions.

Every administration, Democrat as well as Republican, has its periods of torment from the media. For example, President Clinton was outraged at the same New York Times and other publications for publishing seamy details in the Monica Lewinsky scandal as well as the Whitewater real-estate deal in Arkansas.

It was not a national security matter, but it demonstrated a willingness to tar the press in a period of stress.

This current episode comes at a convenient time for Bush. His congressional leaders have pressed votes in Congress on same-sex marriage and flag burning. Both issues are designed to pin down Democrats on political issues as well as send signals to the religious white and conservative base of the GOP.

The tactics of the administration have had some benefits. The president's approval numbers in the polls have jumped a few points – but at what price?

The First Amendment is the shining light of our Constitution. It is a little dimmer today.