As we take time on July 4th to celebrate the liberty we cherish as American, it's important to recognize the critical role a free press plays in surfacing the truth "we the people" need to exercise our civic duty. All politicians promise transparency but the lure of retaining power is more likely to produce fog and spin than clarity and truth. A competent, assertive, and impartial press is as important today as it has been at any point in our history.
To acknowledge the 40th anniversary of Watergate break-in and the critical role that the journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein played, the Ventura County Star invited its journalists to a local theater for a special screening of "All the President's Men." Watching effectively acknowledged the pivotal role journalists play in surfacing the truth and challenged all who attended to recommit to the critical mission professional journalists provide in a free republic.
As a young Republican who actually helped reelect President Nixon, it angered me that such crimes could be committed in the name of a party I supported. No matter what Nixon's other accomplishments, his desire to remain in power resulted in his own demise by breaking trust with the people and Constitution he swore to support and uphold.
Watching the movie, I marveled again at the creativity and dogged determination of Woodward and Bernstein as they followed their story to its fateful conclusion. America is better because of them, but were their efforts driven by courage and professionalism or more by their contempt for a president they didn't support?
For a liberal journalist to work overtime to bring down a Republican president takes no more courage than another Hollywood star endorsing President Obama. It takes courage and character to apply the same journalistic scrutiny to a politician they otherwise support.
Whether it’s patterns in voting, financial support, or political identification, journalists are significantly more liberal than the average American. According to a 2012 Pew Research Center study, the public perception of that bias is increasing with 67 percent of Americans now believing that there is a bias in news coverage. Journalists have every right to hold liberal views, but it makes their job of objective reporting more difficult.
The best professionals in any field work hard to overcome their own biases. With the questions swirling around the current administration's national security leaks and the stonewalling on the "Fast and Furious" investigation, we are in desperate need of this generation's Woodward and Bernstein. But will journalists work as hard to hold their own accountable?
In response to President Bush using executive privilege to protect internal deliberations between Carl Rove and the Attorney General Harriet Meyer over the firing of U.S special prosecutor attorneys, Senator Obama, in an interview with Larry King, advised, "There has been (attempts) on the part of this administration to try to hide behind executive privilege every time there's something a little shaky that's taking place. The administration would be best served by coming clean on this. There doesn't seem to be any national security issues involved...."
On the eve of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee's contempt vote, President Obama, at the request of Attorney General Eric Holder, invoked executive privilege in taking the Congressional request for documents off limits. While executive privilege has been used by almost all presidents, whether this is an appropriate use to protect deliberative discussions with national security implications is not clear. With the House censure of Holder, the impasse now reached will ensure that getting at the truth will extend months beyond the coming election unless journalists do what Congress can't--get to the truth and provide transparency.
The Nixon administration initially minimized both the Watergate break-in and the administration's involvement. When Nixon invoked executive privilege, the courts ruled that executive privilege couldn't be used to protect potentially fraudulent activities. There are clearly unanswered questions and inconsistencies that must be addressed. Watergate involved political information. The Fast and Furious Operation contributed to the death of border agent Brian Terry and hundreds of innocent Mexican citizens. The national security leaks have also impacted the lives of double agents and informants.
Where are today's Woodward and Bernstein? If there are cover-ups or improprieties, will the liberal media prove as courageous and diligent in surfacing the truth on a candidate they personally support? Our republic depends on journalists with the strength and integrity to do just that. May it be so.