The Government's Current War with the Free Press ; the Watchdog Role of the Media Is a Crucial Restraint on Executive Abuse of Power during the War on Terror

By Schorr, Daniel | The Christian Science Monitor, July 7, 2006 | Go to article overview

The Government's Current War with the Free Press ; the Watchdog Role of the Media Is a Crucial Restraint on Executive Abuse of Power during the War on Terror


Schorr, Daniel, The Christian Science Monitor


In recent speeches at Republican fundraisers, President Bush has taken to criticizing the press for baring government secrets.

The outgoing secretary of the Treasury, John Snow, in what may have been his last official act, wrote to The New York Times that in exposing the monitoring of bank transfers, it had undermined a successful counterterrorism program.

A House resolution, passed by a party line vote, called on the media to safeguard classified programs.

The government has discovered what governments have discovered before, that an undercurrent of hostility toward the news media runs through the country and that there could be political advantage in campaigning against the press in general.

The champion press hater, of course, was President Nixon, who told his staff that the press is the enemy, and he proceeded to declare his own private war against the media.

In 1969, he had a speech written by speechwriter Pat Buchanan denouncing the media as a "tiny and closed fraternity of privileged men." And he gave it to Vice President Spiro Agnew to deliver. That speech is best remembered today for the line contributed by another speechwriter, William Safire, about "nattering nabobs of negativism. …

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