Tag Archives: free press

Presidents should understand value of a free press

Presidents have come and gone over the course of our beloved Republic.

Some tenets, though, remain affixed to our national identity. One of them is a free press and the guarantee that government cannot control it.

The video attached to this blog post offers an example of how one president, John F. Kennedy, understood how a free press is vital to guard against the darkness of secrecy. President Kennedy sought to defend the press as it did its job, even when its reporting cast his administration in a negative light.

The Bay of Pigs is an example of how the president likely wanted the press to look the other way. It didn’t. Nor could the president insist out loud and in public that it do that very thing. The Bay of Pigs was a disaster from the get-go. The military operation in April 1961 sought to overthrow the Fidel Castro government in Cuba. It was poorly planned and poorly executed. As JFK said at he time, “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.”

The press reported the failure … as it should have done.

What a change we are seeing in the present day with one of JFK’s successors, Donald J. Trump, who insists that negative coverage is the product of “fake news,” which is a denigration of the men and women who take their jobs at least as seriously as the president takes his.

Trump doesn’t get what damn near all of his predecessors have understood. The press is vital to hold public officials accountable for their actions. Without the media doing their job, the government can do irreparable harm to our cherished Republic.

POTUS declares war on media

It’s been on-going ever since Donald John Trump declared his presidential candidacy in June 2015.

He’s been at war with the media that seek to report the news relevant to his campaign and now, his presidency.

As Steve Schmidt, a longtime Republican Party political activist, has noted: Trump now has all but declared Fox News to be the state’s official news medium. Why is that? Because Trump just relishes the network’s obvious bias in his favor.

Other media outlets? They’re all the “enemy of the American people.” The president, with his alarming and frightening petulance toward the rest of the media, has broken with a couple centuries’ worth of tradition involving presidential relationships with a free press.

Consider, too, the words of a longtime public servant who now works as a “contributor” to CNN. Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden — the former head of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency — laid it on the line.

Hayden fires back at Trump

Hayden wrote this on Twitter: “Until now it was not possible for me to conceive of an American President capable of such an outrageous assault on truth, a free press or the first amendment.”

Think not just of what Gen. Hayden said, but also consider that this man would say it. Michael Hayden served with distinction and honor under presidential administrations of both major political parties.

Hayden was responding to this tweet from Trump: “Fox News is MUCH more important in the United States than CNN, but outside of the U.S., CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly.”

I get that Trump gored Hayden’s proverbial ox with that ridiculous message. However, I believe Hayden’s description of Trump’s view of the media is correct. He is conducting an “outrageous assault on truth, a free press” and, yes, on the First Amendment.

This individual, the president of the United States, is a disgrace to the high office he occupies.

‘W’: Free press is ‘indispensable to democracy’

Maybe you remember the bumper stickers with President George W. Bush’s face on them, with the caption: Do you miss him?

The message was meant as a dig at President Barack H. Obama.

Well, I didn’t miss him then. I do miss him now that a new president is in charge … and who’s decided to wage open war against the media.

President Bush said on “Today” that a free and strong media are “indispensable to democracy.”

Trump doesn’t grasp the notion that the media play a critical role in assuring that public officials — even the president of the United States — always stay on the straight and narrow.

“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. … Power can be very addictive,” he told NBC’s “Today.” Do you think?

George W. Bush is among a handful of men who have held those reins of power. He did so for two terms. While his record is a mixed one, he always seemed to comprehend the limits inherent in the power of the presidency.

Two presidents later, we have a guy in the White House who is trying to manipulate the media in ways most of never have seen. He seeks to shut out major media organizations from press briefings; he seeks to curry favor with “friendly reporters”; he blasts reporters and organizations openly for being “dishonest” and purveyors of what he calls “fake news.”

The First Amendment guarantees a “free press.” It prohibits the government from interfering in the media’s effort to do their duty.

Trump doesn’t get it. President Bush does get it. “We need an independent media to hold people like me to account,” “W” said.

Do I miss the 43rd president?

Yes. I do.

Afflicting the comfortable no longer in vogue?

There’s a saying that a free press’s key mission is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

At the risk of sounding like a whiny baby who never got invited to one of these gigs, allow me now to say that the Washington Correspondents Dinner is a disgrace to the high-minded mission that the D.C. press corps is supposed to fulfill.

Check out this essay about what’s become of this annual event:

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/04/white-house-correspondents-dinner-117287.html?ml=po#.VT2bCFJ0yt8

There’s something more than mildly offensive about seeing reporters and their dates parading along a red carpet, a la the Oscars, Tonys, Emmys and the ESPYs.

Those of us who toiled out here in the Heartland — aka Flyover Country — always have thought there ought to be a natural tension between the power brokers and those who cover them, reporting on their dealings to the “unwashed masses” who depend on journalists to tell them the truth.

Here’s how Patrick Gavin describes the event that occurred over the weekend: “What started off decades ago as a stately formal celebration of the best of presidential reporting has morphed into a four-day orgy of everything people outside the Beltway hate about life inside the Beltway—now it’s not just one night of clubby backslapping, carousing and drinking between the press and the powerful, it’s four full days of signature cocktails and inside jokes that just underscore how out of step the Washington elite is with the rest of the country. It’s not us (journalists) versus them (government officials); it’s us (Washington) versus them (the rest of America).”

Boy, howdy. I couldn’t have said it better.

The D.C. press corps has become something of an echo chamber, where journalists parrot each other’s views and simply cannot wait to be seen in the company of the famous and the powerful. In their own minds, that seems to fit the description of the people who cover government.

I loved Gavin’s note that unlike some of the other dinners — such as the Gridiron — where presidents occasionally are absent, POTUS’s attendance at the correspondents dinner seems to be required. Gavin writes:  “The last president to skip it was Ronald Reagan in 1981 and — let’s cut him some slack — he bailed because he had just been shot.”

The press’s mission to afflict the comfortable now seems almost quaint. How can it do so when the comfortable include the very journalists who keep slapping the backs and yukking it up with the folks they are sent to cover?

I much prefer the tension that is supposed to exist between the media and the government. It keeps everyone — reporters and their sources — a little more honest.

 

County official won't sue after all

Kirby Delauter says he’s sorry. He erred in threatening to sue a local newspaper for using his name without “authorization.”

He’s a Frederick County, Md., county councilor who got upset with a local newspaper’s account of things he had said in public. So he threatened to sue the paper and any reporter who used his name without first getting permission — from Delauter himself.

That’s a very bad call, councilor.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/01/07/kirby-delauter-apologizes/

Today he says he’s sorry. He won’t sue. Delauter understands what the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides, which among other freedoms is a free press.

Delauter said in part: “Of course, as I am an elected official, the Frederick News-Post has the right to use my name in any article related to the running of the county — that comes with the job. So yes, my statement to the Frederick News-Post regarding the use of my name was wrong and inappropriate. I’m not afraid to admit when I’m wrong.”

The threat drew a loud chorus of criticism from around the country.

http://highplainsblogger.com/2015/01/07/a-lesson-on-public-service-101-mr-councilor/

So, with that, he has apologized.

Apology accepted, Mr. Delauter.