One day during the Nixon Administration I had lunch with Bob Semple, the New York Times White House correspondent, and Dan Rather, then the CBS White House reporter.
They were trying to plot a strategy for the President’s next news conference that would maneuver Nixon into a corner so that he could not avoid a follow- up question when he gave an evasive answer. Nixon was adept at dodging tough questions. Reporters who sought clarification from the press secretary, Ron Ziegler, got more evasions. The White House press corps was irate.
Press conference? Mere evasion? What kind of fairyland was this? Today, a substantial minority of those covering the White House are right-wing whores who not only do not care about being lied to, but are actually complicit in the lies. News conferences have virtually ceased to exist. Reporters are called into staged events where cameras and audio recorders are not allowed. Neither is truth.
Nobody is protesting. Even the reporters for major, responsible news organizations troop into these little bits of theater and dutifully take notes on the latest bovine excrement from Spicer or Conway or the designated liar du jour.
The New York Times recently compiled a list of just the most blatant, obvious lies uttered by the so-called president in his first five months in office. They filled an entire page!
The people shrugged.
American media have entered into a conspiracy of silence on the work of Seymour Hersh, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who exposed U.S. war crimes in Viet Nam and has been turning over rocks ever since, catching government sleazes and sinners in the act.
Now, so-called news outlets in this country reject his best work. It appears in the London Review of books or, in the case of his latest truth-bomb, in a German publication. It reports in excruciating detail how Donald and his minions lied to the American people about an invented sarin gas attack in Syria. There was no such attack and the officials knew that, from their own most senior intelligence officials.
And the people yawned.
The highest officials in the Environmental Protection Agency ordered a scientist to lie about the dangers of weakening the Clean Water Act and when he refused, they fired him.
On and on.
In 1979 the Reaganites, the media and the armchair patriots deemed Jimmy Carter unfit to continue in office because he told a truthful tale about an angry swamp rabbit.
The current occupant of the Oval Office has told a pageful of lies about the important issues of our times — and he remains in office with a 40 percent approval rating.
In the rest of the world, 75 percent of poll respondents disapprove of or distrust him, the worst scores ever for a U. S. president. It is not merely sad, but terribly dangerous that we cannot see ourselves as others see us.