A Spokesman above Politics?

Article excerpt

THE naming of David R. Gergen as Mr. Clinton's spokesman is a 5-percent decision, whereas a critical mass of decisions nearer 60 percent is needed for real change.

Mr. Gergen is familiar as the tall, cerebral, Republican, Northern European-looking half of the public television duo "Gergen and Shields," who spends much of his air time chuckling at Boston Irish Democrat Mark Shields's observations.

Gergen is temperate, a bridge-builder. He is an experienced White House hand, a presidential-campaign veteran. He has more than dabbled in journalism: He was managing editor of Public Opinion magazine, when it was published by the American Enterprise Institute; more recently he has been editor at large of US News & World Report.

From one perspective, Gergen has been parked in journalism. His business is politics. He is a Yale college alum and a Harvard Law School graduate. He did not take up a lawyer's life. He floated into journalism as a time out from political operations.

We see a lot of this in-and-outing today. Perhaps one stint of service to government on the inside might be all right for journalists. But I find the ethics of revolving door journalism as troubling as I do the in-and-outing of government officials as lobbyists.

I do not think journalists should indicate or declare their political orientation. Privately they may be independents, Republicans, or Democrats, in the American context. But professionally they should have no politics.

I can safely say that no one knows how I have voted in any election - because I have never indicated how I have voted - not even to my own family or friends. I do vote. But how I vote is my own business, just as in other fundamental matters - religion, health care, friendships - my decisions are protected as private, as I see it, by the United States Constitution. Professionally the journalists's private views should be of no one's interest because they should be irrelevant to his representing clearly, fairly, the information citizens need for decisions.

Journalists must not be propagandists. …