Conventional wisdom has presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain (R-AZ) looking for issues where he can put some political daylight between himself and President George W. Bush, who remains mired in approval levels in the 30% range. It appears that he has found one in the federal reporter shield bill.
Most states have some form of a reporter’s shield, which protects a reporter’s right to protect anonymous sources who can provide important information but cannot risk revealing their identity for fear of repercussions. Often the information relates to government activity. Bipartisan legislation to add a federal shield has been moving through both houses of Congress, but faces threat of a presidential veto.
McCain said the bill poses risks, but that the risk is balanced by the possibility of doing good, in the form of uncovering "injustice and unlawfulness and inequities…" He said he is willing to trust reporters’ discretion, noting that rarely has critical confidential information been made public.
"Sen. McCain’s support for a federal shield law is welcomed news," Society of Professional Journalists President Clint Brewer said. "At a time when overzealous prosecutors are attempting to use national security as an excuse to force journalists into acting as an arm of the law, it’s good to know that a presidential hopeful understands that the responsibility of the press is to keep a watchful eye on government."