When one considers the risk/benefit of a free press and becomes concerned that a fully unrestricted press poses a danger to the safety and security of the country, I would suggest reading this article about the length some will go to get elected, and how a free press is critical to protecting America’s integrity.
During the run-up to the 1968 election, Richard Nixon, in a foreshadowing of Watergate, did something in secret that is so horrendous as to defy credulity.
In what became known as the Chennault Affair—“named for Anna Chennault, the Republican doyenne and fundraiser who became Nixon’s back channel to the South Vietnamese government and lingered as a diplomatic and political whodunit for decades afterward.” (taken from the above article)—Nixon used this surrogate to persuade the South Vietnamese to delay reaching any agreement on ending the war on the promise that Nixon, if elected, would give them better terms.
This matter did not become public knowledge until 2007 with the release of previously restricted documents in Nixon’s Presidential Library.
Perhaps, if someone had the integrity and sense of honor to leak this information to the press, a quicker, less costly end to the war might have been achieved.
By 1967, the war had taken more than 20,000 American lives, wounded hundreds of thousands, and torn American society apart. But for the sake of winning an election—by preventing Johnson’s feverish efforts to negotiate an end to the war and extract American troops giving the Democrats a boost in their election prospects—Nixon sabotaged the negotiations.
The end result?
Six more years of war. More than 38000 additional combat deaths and hundred of thousands more wounded. American lives shattered, POWs languishing for five more years, and a country torn apart by anti-war violence.
This same President willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of an election victory would further sully the office with the Watergate scandal in securing another election.
Another episode which may have never come to light but for the sake of a deputy director of the FBI, a man of integrity known as Deep Throat, some enterprising reporters, and the Washington Post, a newspaper willing to fulfill its obligation as a free and independent press.
Sadly, at the cost of America’s most precious resource, the men and women willing to serve their country, this other Nixon episode never saw the light of day in time to do anything. Perhaps now it can serve as a reminder of the need to protect a free press.
Like the Pentagon Papers published by the New York Times detailing the American military consensus that the Vietnam war was unwinnable, which turned even more against the war by unveiling the truth, perhaps an exposé of Nixon’s treasonous behavior by an enterprising publisher might have saved thousands of American lives.
It is those drawn to the power of the Presidency that need bear the most scrutiny of a free press. Secrets sometimes save lives, more often they needlessly waste them.
That alone is a strong enough reason to ensure the preservation and sanctity of a free press.
And if you haven’t yet….GO VOTE!
EVERY VOTE MATTERS
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