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Robert G. Kaiser defends the press, convincingly

The Washington Post's Robert G. Kaiser asks an interesting question: "Why does The Washington Post willingly publish "classified" information affecting national security?"

His answers are entirely persuasive.

"Some readers ask us why the president's decisions on how best to protect the nation shouldn't govern us, and specifically our choices of what to publish. The answer is that in the American system of checks and balances, the president cannot be allowed to decide what the voters need to know to hold him accountable. A king may have such power, but the elected executive of a republic cannot, or we will have no more republic."

NYT editor Bill Keller probably agrees with most of Kaiser's nuanced but appropriately combative piece. Unfortunately, the evidence of Keller's good sense is cited by some right-wing watchdog groups as evidence of a "liberal bias" at the NYT.

Anti-fascist bias would perhaps be a better way to describe it.

Comments

It seems that his answer:

"The answer is that in the American system of checks and balances, the president cannot be allowed to decide what the voters need to know to hold him accountable."

is an entryway to another question - If the president is not deciding what information should or should not be making public, who is deciding and how should they do it? Although it would be easy enough to specify that all information should be released, this is hardly practical. Both the press and the press releases are filtering the information presented to them and neither is really interested in 'all' of the information.

Thusly, certain types of information are sought (eg the press secretary's brand of socks will probably be of a lower priority than their political persuasion). And this is really where any answer to the question you laid out must lie (and where the WaPo article, I think, misses the boat). No one disagrees that the American people need the right to know about the President's actions, but do they have an absolute right over such actions? Where does that right end? Who's authority makes that decision? How can the answers to this question be applied to our situation? I think these are the more interesting, and ultimately, the questions that are essential towards moving anywhere in the debate.

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