Listen To You Tell Me Texas Friday 2/9/18
I have not seen the movie “The Post,” starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks but I intend to. I am told that it’s a good movie – good being defined as quality story-telling that is well-acted and well-directed.
The movie is about Washington Post publisher Kay Graham’s decision in 1971 to defy the Nixon administration and publish the so-called “Pentagon Papers” The Pentagon Papers were documents leaked by Defense Department analyst Daniel Ellsberg and that detailed the degree to which the American people had been lied to about the Vietnam War.
Though the material was an indictment of the Johnson administration, Nixon vigorously opposed its publication because of the precedent it would potentially set.
The fact that the American people had been lied to about the Vietnam War was a major scandal. Its revelation by the media serves as the basis for the movie that’s in theaters today.
The Post was passed over for a Pulitzer Prize that year. But it wouldn’t have to wait long for another chance at one. Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein would win a Pulitzer for their reporting on the Watergate scandal. Watergate crippled the Nixon administration’s second term and eventually drove Richard Nixon from office. The episode resulted in its own 1976 movie – “All the President’s Men” – starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. Today, if you add the suffix “—gate,” to any word, you connect that word to scandal.
Politics aside, in both of these episodes the press did its job of doggedly and unrelentingly holding the government accountable to the people – the very role for which it is specifically protected by the Constitution.
In a court proceeding surrounding the Pentagon Papers and the Nixon administration’s attempt to prevent their publication, U.S. District Court judge Murray Gurfein said,
A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, a ubiquitous press must be suffered by those in authority to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know.”
It is precisely such cantankerousness, such obstinacy, such ubiquity that gets celebrated in movies like “The Post” and “All the President’s Men.”
But there will likely be no movie celebrating journalism in connection with FISA-gate – a scandal with the potential to dwarf the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. The media of today – including the Washington Post – are astonishingly uncurious about credible allegations that the FBI and the Justice Department grossly abused their powers for partisan political purposes and in direct contravention of the will of the voters.
Uncurious is putting it kindly.
Rather than being cantankerous, obstinate or ubiquitous, when it comes to stories like FISA-gate, a story that puts establishment liberals in a very ugly light, today’s media has become some combination of docile, compliant or absent.
Journalism has been dominated by liberals for decades. But there was a time in American journalism when a story would get so juicy that reporters would go after a liberal anyway.
That day has apparently passed.
Our republic stands threatened and vulnerable as a result.