Thursday, August 20, 2009

Another Public "Servant" Blows the Whistle, Only AFTER the Game Has Ended

So now it's official: Tom Ridge, former Secretary of DHS, "was pushed to raise the security alert on the eve of President Bush's re-election, something he saw as politically motivated and worth resigning over."

First of all, if this is news to you, let me quote Congressman Barney Frank for you: "On what planet did you spend most of your time?"

Secondly, what did Tom Ridge do? Did he resign rather than comply? No. He waited until 2009 to admit that he had been pressured to politicize public safety information to help a crook get re-elected, then he put the "explosive" revelation in a book that will probably finance a run for office in 2010.

Frankly, I am tired of people who kiss and wait years to tell, when the information the held secret could have helped the country change its disastrous course. People like Ridge, Scott McLellan, etc. But more than ever, I am also pissed off that cable news networks give people like them a forum where they can advertise their works and make money they do not deserve. They should be portrayed as traitors. Instead, they never go away. They get rewarded with board memberships, think tank positions, appearances on cable news channels, and--yes--book sales.

We should, but we cannot, punish them harshly for their failure to do the right thing AT THE RIGHT TIME, and not years too late. We cannot punish them because that would have a chilling effect on their willingness to come forward. But we should learn from past mistakes, and be savvy to their shenanigans, and we should learn to recognize the signs of their complicity in the havoc wreaked upon us by people in power, and we should get smart enough not to vote them in, or the people that hire them, and to vote them out when it is apparent that they are putting their self-interest ahead of their oath of office and their duty to serve the people of the United States.

News organizations are the element in our society with the highest responsibility to keep people like Ridge in check, to question them, to expose their betrayal. Instead the press is more concerned with "access" than with its institutional duty to help protect the public from crooks.

Interviewing a Ridge or a McLellan on a talk show five years after the fact makes for good entertainment, but it is not investigative journalism, which is a disappearing craft. We need more people like Seymour Hersh, Greg Palast, the Bob Woodard of Watergate--not the one of Plan of Attack. We need them as much as we have ever needed them, just as news organizations all over the country have figured out that it costs more to finance a good investigative reporter than to produce a canned segment with the help of the very people they should be keeping a watchful eye on.

As Ridge's case reiterates, our democracy is in worse shape than most of us realize.

No comments:

Copyright 2004-2012