The Subterfuge of the Fourth Estate

“The American public is looking for honest principled leadership. We are looking for answers.”

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Howard K. Smith anchored the evening news on ABC and provided commentary on national politics. In his commentary, he would state an opinion and come to conclusions on such national topics as the Vietnam War and Presidential politics. Yet, when he reported the news, he did it openly, honestly, without bias, and with respect for the viewers’ intellect. In a sentence, we trusted him.

Howard K. Smith was what he appeared to be, a transparent broadcaster. There was no hidden agenda. If he had an agenda, he disclosed it openly. He never attacked another individual personally. He only debated their opinions.

Today the national press corps is partisan and manipulative. They have agendas and they hide them. They leave the perception that their intellect is superior and that the end justifies the means of their actions. In the 2004 Presidential campaign Democratic primary, Governor Howard Dean and Senator John Kerry were leading candidates. National commentators were exposed in emails to each other stating that something must be done to defeat George W. Bush for President. Further, the best chance to achieve this, they opined, was to nominate John Kerry. Therefore, something had to be done about Howard Dean. The New York Times reported on the disclosed emails. Even they wondered whether or not these commentators could remain honest brokers in their national interviews given this hidden agenda. The emails were not denied. The argument was that, in the newscasters’ opinions, they were able to keep their private and professional demeanor and purposes separate. They then executed what I term “the Dean-ization” of a candidate. When John Kerry appeared on national programs, the questions went something like this, paraphrasing:

Senator Kerry, you have advocated a health care program for the United States based on the Massachusetts model. How do you propose to model that plan and make it work for all fifty states? Senator Kerry was then open to discuss his policy and therefore, his hopes and dreams for the American people.

When Governor Dean appeared on national shows, the questions went something like this, paraphrasing:

Governor Dean, you come from a state that is 92% white. Your cabinet is primarily made up of establishment Caucasians. What qualifies you to lead this country when you come from a state like Vermont that is so much less diverse than the United States?

The question is a personal attack and invades who he is as a man. Is he too flawed in his character and background to lead the country? Through this pernicious process, he has do defend himself as a person. He is not given any chance to express his dreams and hopes for the country. The purpose is to destroy him as an individual by making him, in his identity, unqualified to be President.

This past week, national broadcasters have been asking Don Trump “Dean-ization” questions. The questions go like this:

Mr. Trump, you are a businessman. You say you get things done, but you’re used to moving faster that the machinery of government. What makes you think you have the patience necessary to be the leader and President of the United States?

The question goes to his character, his identity, his experience, and his background. The questioner assumes and implies that business experience is a negative influence for government leadership. The listener is lead to believe that his character and background are flawed. A fairer question would have been: Mr. Trump, explain to us how you think your experience as a businessman has prepared you to be President of the United States. He then could have expanded upon his plans for a better America.

I am not now making a statement for Trump for President. But I am saying he is being treated unfairly by an elitist press. Find an interview where a national correspondent asked Hillary Clinton if her disapproval rating of over 50% of the American people disqualifies her to be the President of all of the people. (By the way, they asked Don Trump that question.) Or find the interview where the national press asked Bernie Sanders how he expects to lead a capitalist society when he’s an avowed Socialist (from the state of Vermont, by the way).  You won’t find those interviews. It never dawned on national correspondents to just tell the American people the truth that they prefer certain candidates. We would have understood that. In fact, Howard K. Smith endorsed Edmund Muskie in the 1972 campaign. Yes, the 1970’s were a different time. And possibly because of this ongoing bias in the press, the public would not tolerate candidate endorsements today.

But the point is this: To all leaders and commentators, trust us with the truth. Explain to us transparently what you think. Don’t play games with hidden agendas.

There is an ancient inscription on exhibit at the Saint Sophia Cathedral Museum in Istanbul, Turkey.  The admonition is this:  “Appear to be what you are or be what you appear to be.” In other words, let there be no deceptions. I would rather listen to Bill Maher on HBO than the hosts of the weekend news shows. Yes, he may be an unabashed atheist liberal, but at least he is transparent. He has an agenda and he states it openly. The debate and dialog with him is not conducted through subterfuge.

The American public is looking for honest principled leadership. We are looking for answers. It requires an honest principled press corps. The Fourth Estate needs a Howard K. Smith.

My name is Marc Nuttle and this is what I believe.

What do you believe?