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March 08, 1966 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1966-03-08

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Truthfulness Discussed

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(Continued from Page 3)
of its pants and do more itself
in the war.
Casualty Reports
Among war reporters in Viet
Nam, the question often is asked,
is the government leveling with us
on enemy and American casual-
ties? The government insists it is.
How, asks the reporter, can you
call our losses "light" when a
whole company was wiped out?
You can, says the government,
when a batallion was involved. But
was a battalion involved, asks the
reporter? The question goes round
and round.
Jim Hagerty has been on both
sides of the fence as press secre-
tary for President Eisenhower and
now as a television news executive.
"Are reporters getting the truth
in Viet Nam?" he asks. "I don't
know. Probably we're not getting
the whole story. But should we? I
kind of think it's legitimate for a
government not to tell the whole
story., But then I am forced to
remember how White House re-
porters used to scream at me for
more information and sometimes
they turned out to be right."
Government vs. Press
In the eternal war between
government and reporters, be-
tween the keepers and the seekers
of the facts,-there is a disposition
on the highest levels of govern-
ment to charge news media with
pious hypocrisy. When, it is ask-
ed, do editors admit their own
contributions to the credibility
gap, their own errors in print and
on the air?
In this context, a high official
of the Johnson administration
told this reporter somewhat bit-
"I have never lied to the press.
Compare the government's stand-
ards of credibility with other seg-
ments of our society, including the
press, and you'll find the govern-
ment's standards high.
Little Secrecy
"Only two to three per cent of
government business involves any
secrecy. And only a tiny fraction
of that remains secret. The gov-
ernment has an obligation to be
as open as possible, and is. But
the government is not given the
presumption of good faith we gve
to other things.
"The American people have a
right to know but they also have
a right to have dangerous prob-
lems handled properly by respon-
sible officers and not by the press.
Nobody elected them."
The view from the government
foxholes also includes a sensation
or contradictory assault. On one
hand, it was criticized for saying
too little about the first alleged
Hanoi peace feeler. On the oth&r,
it was criticized for talking too
much about the second feeler, one
relayed by Italian officials.
Peace Overture
In the latter case, the story was
broken by a reporter who said
Washington had rejected that
peace overture. This was not true.
"We could not say nothing or
make a 'no comment'," said a
State Department officials. "To
do so would have made it appear
that we were rejecting the offer.
We hadn't."

Transcending the battle of press,
and government in the arena of
credibility is the ultimate agency
of the Viet Nam problem itself. A
war difficult to understand is easy
to misunderstand. A m b i g u i t y
breeds dissent and dissent, espe-
cially as it hardens, breeds suspic-
The war in Viet Nam has no
battle lines, no chartable progress,
no easily seen goals. The United
States is not fighting the real vil-
lians, we are told, but their prox-
ies - the Viet- Cong for Hanoi,
Hanoi for Red China, with the
Soviet Union a questionable stock-
holder. We are not fighting all out
because we dare not, it is said,
risk a large war. We are fighting
them on the ground but we dare
not risk commitment to a ground
war in Asia. We advise, we esca-
late, we bomb, we pause, we seem

seems to be more of it." makes for grease in our social re-
"We are constantly torn be- lationships.
tween our notions of democracy Gentle Deception
and what the world today de- "In foreign affairs we us" the
mands," says Henry Grass, Co- same gentle forms of deception,
lumbia University historian. "But which deceives no one but gets no
m o s t successful governments one mad. There are accepted
maintain some mystery. forms of deception but we do not
As it is with all nations, Amer- deceive our enemies or friends or
ican history abounds not only in ourselves about our serious intent.
examples of official secrecy but These recent difficulties you men-

also contradictions between gov-
ernment postures and government
acts, between the promises of can-
didates and their deeds after elec-
tion, between the "inside" atti-
tudes of government and the pub-
lic positions taken under political
Jefferson's Role
Thomas Jefferson as a candi-
date opposed creation of a na-
tional bank, and supported it as
president. During the Texas revo-

to beg the world, anybody, to get lution against Mexico, the U.S.
us out and to the conference ta- government pretended to be neu-!
ble, we bdmb again, we ask the tral but wasn't. The contemporary'
United Nations to do something public was never told of Grover
while we firm up our commitment Cleveland's cancer operation in
to Saigon with a hastily called 1893 nor later the extent of the
conference in Hawaii. illnesses of Woodrow Wilson in
Cold War Complexities 1918 and Franklin Roosevelt in
The complexities of'the cold war 1945.
almost defy understanding, if not Wilson, the apostle of "open
hope. covenants openly arrived at," was

tion don't require a change in pol-
icy but a change in stage manage-
"Where spies are involved, we
must decide in advance how we
will behave in all contingencies.
It was ridiculous for Eisenhower
to deny that that U2 plane over
Russia was engaged in espionage
and then admit it was. In my
time, we had planes that strayed
off course. We never admitted
anything else or used cover stories.
We simply said they wandered off
accidentally, so sorry. This sort
of thing went on in Britain for
1,000 years and there was no fuss
because it was done so skillfully.
"The government did not le
about its Dominican intervention.
But I think there is a grave dan-
ger of the government talking too
much. It was a confused situation
which suddenly became worse.
The government should have said
nothing until it had the situation
under control and then issued a
white paper.
No Immediate Explanation
"No, I don't think our relations
with Latin America required an
immediate explanation. My
friends in Latin America, in gov-
ernment and business, tell me pri-
vately they thanked God we in-
tervened. They had to complain
publicly or be crucified at home.

"Old tyrants depart," a sad,
Harry S. Truman noted recently.
"New ones take their places. Old
differences are composed, new dif-
ferences arise. Old allies become
the foe. The recent enemy be-
comes the friend. It's all very
baffling and trying."
"There were hawks and doves
arguing loudly in 1941," recalls a
State Department official. "But
then came Pearl Harbor and we
were in it and the arguments stop-

forced, when the chips were down
at Versailles, to negotiate the
t r e a t y in secrecy with Lloyd
George and Clemenceau while an
American Marine with bayonet
kept out all intruders, including
representatives of minor allies, de-
feated Germany and, even, the
president's own associates in the
American peace delegation.
In 1939 Franklin Roosevelt, the
president, at the start of World
War II, said America would be

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ped. In a declared war, there is "neutral in fact, if not in spirit." But they don't believe it for a
less questioning of ourselves. and the country was neither. In moment. It was all window dress-
Gray World 1952, the Eisenhower admiristra- ing.
"Now we are in a gray world tion came in with much tax of Among students of the Lyndon
fighting dirty little wars without "massive retaliation" and tlhe "un- Johnson school of wdow dress-
a declaration of war, where the leashing" of Chiang Kai-shek, and iig there are those who detect a
enemy is not a uniformed army, delivered neither. tendency to be passionately secre-
where there is no wartime censor- Stevenson and China tive about innocuous details, to be-
ship and none of the regimenta- In 1961, according to the A'- come righteously indignant when
tion we customarily accept in war. thur Schlesinger memoir, Presi- transparent political motives the
And hilewe fght, F 'suggested, to give reporters the
And while we fight, Detroit sells dent Kennedy told U.N. Ambas- feeling that everywhere in govern-
nine million cars to add to the un- sador Adlai Stevenson: "You have ment "Big Brother" is watching,
reality." the hardest thing in the world to and to overdress the window.
Always there is the big bomb to sell. It really doesn't make any andeforerdethitmd s-i
complicate the complications, to sense - the idea that Taiwan rep-P Before his death, it is saidd
quicken the doves and slow the resents China. But, if we lost this President Kennedy had commited
hawks. fight, if Red China comes mnIo the himself to a budget under $100
"The last three presidents of the U.N. during our first year in town, billion and the work in that direc-
United States," it is pointed out your first year and mine, they'll tion was already well advanced
on a penultimate level of govern- run us both out. We can delay the when President J o h n s o n was
ment, "have had to think of a full admission of Red China till afterI sworn in. Then Washington began
nuclear exchange as a real possi- the election." to hear about the monumental
bility. Thus, neither President In the campaign of 1964, Lyn- difficulties involved in keeping
Johnson nor Secretary Rusk ever don Johnson appeared as the the budget under $100 billion.
blasts the other side by name. apostle of restraint in Viet Nam Groans and Moans
They have avoided creating a war and Barry Goldwater, the' knight "The most wonderfully dra-'
psychology because it would be too of escalation, and the war was matic, superbly audible groans and
dangerous in the nuclear age. escalated a year later under Pres- moans began to be heard from the
Thus, the dissenters are left more ident Johnson. White House," wrote columnist
room to creat a psychology in the "Reader's Choice" Joseph Alsop. "They were the bat-
other direction." In all these examples in history, tle sounds of a conservative Her-
Views of Historians the reader takes his choice, be- cules, fighting the hundred-head-
Among historians, tne whole tween a suspicion of deliberate de- ed Hydra ,of left-wing extrava-
question of government credibility ceit or a more gentle consider- gance. Bulletins were issued from
is viewed with varying degj ees of ation, that events can make a lie time to time to a breathless na-.
concern. of the best of promises. tion, suggesting that Hydra had
Henry Steele Commager is dis- There is in Washington today Hercules cornered.;
turbed, he says, by the "increased a man of great experience in gov- "Finally, a budget below I100
trend" in Washington to disguise ernment and the world, who has billion was breathlessly unveiled,
the truth. ben high in the inner councils of as an astonishing triumph of nard
"It is due to the heavy role of several adminstrations. He no work and fiscal responsibility -
the military. Countries confronted longer holds office and, in semi- and naturally in a White House,
with military problems act this retirement, enjoys a relaxed ur- all but deprived of electric light,
way. They justify it in terms of banity about recent world history. in order to dramatize the Presi-
national security. I don't- think All the talk of double-talk in dent's penny-pinching principles.!
it's justified now. The habits of Washington, from the U2 incident The flim-flam got results ... per-
deception carry the danger of self- onward, fills him with an amused suaded businessmen that President
deception; you can begin to be- sense of irony. Johnson was a sound fellow, with
lieve your own propaganda." "For a people with a supposed his heart in the right place."
No Trend sense of humor," he says, "we Among others, .Alsop suspected'
Samuel Eliot Morison is less Americans are so ponderous. In elaborate stage management in
disturbed. 'I think in war or at diplomacy and government, there the intensive series of White
a time of delicate negotiations you are various grades of the truth as House conferences last summer
can't hold a government to admit there are in private life. When a that preceded announcement of"
everything. There is no more of hostess we detest invites us to escalation in Viet Nam.
a trend now than there has ever dinner, we don't tell the truth. Big Expectations
been but in recent years events We say, 'Oh, darling, I'm simply "Day after day, the bulletins
have come so fast and thick there devastated but we're tied up.' This were issued, suggesting that the

Reserves and the National Guard hundreds of press agents. He can,
might soon be called up, that a by the timing of his announce-
state of war emergency perhaps ments, achieve maximum effect
impended. Then very softly, the favorable to him and unfavorable
na ion was at last told that the to his opposition. Headlines and
Reserves would not be called up TV cameras follow a president
after all. The step that was taken, everywhere.
which was really a very big step, Thus, there was nothing un-
was made to seem no more Lhan American in the suggestion that
a tiny, modest step by the care- perhaps one of the reasons John-
fully created expectation of some- son hurried to Honolulu for a con-
thing bigger still." ference about Viet Nam was to
Politics includes many kinds of take the play away from a Senate
charades and one of the tradition- inquiry into his Viet Nam policy.
al favorites among incumbent News Manipulation
candidates is to rise above the "Manipulation of the news is a
battle in the role of a statesman constant activity of both parties.
who is too concerned with tne Only they do it better." This was
public business to engage in crass said by a Republican, who was an
campaigning. This is effective assistant to President Eisenhower,
campaigning. Roosevelt did it in with equal parts of envy and in-
1940 with a "non-political insiec- dignation.
tion tour" of defense plants. Ear- Under Lyndon Johnson, the
ly in the campaign of 1964, the White House controls the vast
White House kept insisting that flow of official information from
Lyndon Johnson, a Roosevelt dis- the countless mimeographs of the
ciple, was making "nonpolitical" executive branch. For example, It
speeches. announces monthly national rec-
"But there was a big difference," ords of personal income, which
says a man who knew both cam- used to be announced by the Com-
paigns. "FDR did it with tongue merce Department.
in cheek. He knew that we knew The President is almost never
that he knew his 'non-political' lacking in announcements. On the
trip was very political. But early last Labor Day weekend, which
in the 1964 campaign, wheni we he spent at his ranch in Texas,
suggested those 'non-political' sp-. there were 42 news releases in
pearances were political, the White four days from the "Pedernales
House jumped down our throats." Press Service."
Sense of Secrecy Intense Interest
Lyndon Johnson has been known The President takes an intense
to have an acute sense of secrecy interest in what is written about
dating back to his Senate day. An him and his administration. With-
old friend and aid once tried to in minutes after he reads the
explain it: "I think it's the gai- news tickers in his office, he has
bler or politician in him. He just been known to complain to re
doesn't like to reveal his next porters about stories he considers
move. He plays things close to inaccurate.
the vest." Finally, no study 'of government
Thus, there have been occasions credibility is complete without
when neither the press covering considering the question of "free-
him nor the Secret Service pro- dom of information." Periodically,
tecting him nor thet crew flying over many years and administra-
him knew precisely where the tions, reporters and editors have
President was going until they complained fiercely of undue of-
were airborne, ficial secrecy under which bureau-
Thus, nothing is said to infuri- cratic error or worse might have
ate the President more than to been hidden under the veil of "na-
have one of his appointments tional security."
leaked before he makes the an- Ten years ago a committee was
nouncement. It is a common joke set up in the House, chaired by
in Washington that the best way Rep. John E. Moss, a California
to kill a presidential appointment Democrat, to investigate. s u c h
is to rumor it in advance. One complaints. It found many, rang-
former government official insists ing from official reluctance to di-
he knows of two appointments vulge details on government con-
that were rescinded because of ad- tracts-where there was no com-
Vance leaks. petitive bidding - to the Penta-
Occasional Confusion gon's insistence that the Pentagon'
Thus, occasional confusion and telephone book was classified, as
incredulity; James Deain, White was the work of the Lincoln Cen-
House reporter for the St. Louis tennial Committee.
Post-Dispatch, wrote in the New Many Improvements
Republic: The Moss committee, Demo-
"On July 27, at an impromptu cratic-controlled, brought many
press conference in his office, the improvements. It appears to have
President said he had not begun been busiest during the Republi-
to consider an appointment to the can adiminstration of Dwight Eis-
Supreme Court to replace Justice enhower. It is considerably less
Goldberg. The next day he an- busy during the Democratic ad-
nounced the appointment of Abe ministration of Lyndon Johnson.
Fortas as Goldberg's successor. Why?
Why mislead when you don't have "On the basis of complaints we
to? Whatever happened to 'no receive," said Moss, "this admmn-
comment'?" istration has a reputation for an
On Jan. 22; 1965, two days after almost perfect score in not abus-
the inauguration, reporters asked ing the handling or withholding of
White House press s e c r e t a r y information. We get fewer conm-
George Ready whether the Presi- plaints now. If anyone feels I'm
dent had made a disability agree- playing politics, let him bring in
ment with Vice President Humph- E a complaint."
rey. "No," said Reedy.. "We just But then there is Sam Archi-
haven't gotten to that yet." bald, staff director of the commit-
Agreement Revealed tee, who told this reporter: "Yes,
Later that month, when the there have, been improvements.
President went to the hospital But it is also a fact of life that
with a cold, reporters again asked Democrats are less inclined to
about the disability agreement. clobber a Democratic president."
Ready answered two days later: Archibald, an appointee who can
Johnson and Humphrey had made be fired by the committee, auth-
the agreement "sometime before orized the use of his name behind
the inauguration." that quote. Either he has a pri-
The tools for image-making, a vate income or he must be one of
common phenomenon in America, the bravest men in this town,
are prodigious in the presidency. where anonymity is fearless and
He controls the vast machinery of truth, a sometime mystery of mir-
the executive branch and its rors.





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