By: Joe Strupp
Sen. John McCain in comments at the Associated Press Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. today said he would support the Federal Shield Law in the U.S. Senate but couched it in terms that indicated that he wants to make sure the press, with these protections, acts responsibiy.
?I must confess there have been times when I worried that the press’ intent to get a scoop can conflict with other priorities,” he said. “I think that the New York Times’ decision to expose surveillance practices came too close to crossing that line. I can understand why the government would want to discourage that from happening….
?The Shield Law is frankly a license to do harm, perhaps serious harm, but it is also a license to do good. I know that the press that discloses security secrets that should have remained so also revealed the disgrace of Abu Ghraib. So I have decided to support [the bill]. If the vote were held today, I would vote yes.?
That drew big applause from the packed room. Sen. Barack Obama will speak at the annual AP luncheon this afternoon.
Attendees who heard McCain speak were not subjected to bag search or metal detectors.
The AP meeting is being held in conjunction with annual conferences of American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Newspaper Association of America.
?I trust that in the use of confidential sources you won?t do more harm than good,” McCain added. “There will be times that I suppose I will wonder if I should have supported this measure. The workings of America?s newsrooms are some of the least transparent. I think it is an impression that the press should work on correcting.?
Before all that he said, ?I have always tried to be very open with the press, and will continue,? although he recalled times he wished they had not been around when he misspoke.
Asked whether he was too old at age 71 to be president, McCain pretended to doze off, then vowed to out-campaign anyone. he also called himself a “Teddy Roosevelt Republican.”
When he finished AP reporters gave him coffee and Dunkin donuts. “Sprinkles?” he said in wonderment or admiration.
Soon, a blogger for The Atlantic posted on its web site the claim that in backing the shield law, McCain was simply “pandering to his base”–that is, reporters.