‘The Post’ and the Pentagon Papers

The new movie “The Post” tells the story of the Pentagon Papers from a curious perspective that ignores much of the drama of the real history, as James DiEugenio explains.

By James DiEugenio

Imagine a film about a backer of an American war in the Third World who, as a State Department official, decides to visit and observe that war firsthand. After many months he learns that most of what our leaders have been telling the public about the war was wrong.  In reality, our side was not winning, and most of the claims made for the effort were false. For example, patrols reported to protect certain areas did not even exist. The written reports describing these patrols were simply made up. Therefore both American troops, and the foreign natives we were allied with, were dying by the thousands for fraudulent reasons.

Tom Hanks in “The Post.”

When he returns from his tour abroad, the official learns about a secret Defense Department study. It exposes much of what he had observed. The study is being supervised by his old boss, who gives him access to it. He then meets with a politician who is against the war and they begin to share certain ideas about opposing it. That politician decides to run for president in order to end the war. But he is assassinated while on the verge of winning his party’s nomination.  As a result, a new president takes office, yet he is not that interested in ending what has now become a continuing disaster. In fact, the new president actually expands combat operations into two neighboring countries.

The former hawk has now become a dove dedicated to ending the war. He decides his only option is to copy the secret study since it shows all the deceptions and failures of the war. He goes to Washington and offers it to four anti-war politicians to read on the floor of Congress.  They all have reasons to refuse.

He then decides to go to an old reporter friend who, like him, went from backing the war to opposing it.  His newspaper decides to publish a long series based on the secret study.  But on the third day of publication, the new president goes to court to stop publication.  So our protagonist goes to an old acquaintance at a rival newspaper, and that paper decides to publish. They are also sued but our converted dove gets copies to many other papers, nearly twenty in all.  They all publish.  And he finally finds a senator to read the documents into the congressional record.  The new president charges him for theft and espionage.  But the president’s administration uses several unethical means in order to indict him—including influencing the judge with a job offer. These acts are publicized and the charges dismissed. He becomes a household name and, quite rightly, a national hero.

Who wouldn’t want to see a movie based on that story?  Who wouldn’t like to be part of making a movie based on that story?

Well, evidently, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg wouldn’t. Instead, they have produced a movie, “The Post,” depicting a very different set of events.

Those first few paragraphs describe the ordeal that Daniel Ellsberg went through in order to expose what came to be known as the Pentagon Papers.  By copying those secret documents and disseminating them to an array of newspapers, Ellsberg and his friend Anthony Russo risked going to prison for a combined 150 years.

Russo did go to jail for refusing to testify against Ellsberg.  Their trial went on for several weeks in Los Angeles in 1973. But while in process, it was revealed by the Watergate prosecutor that the FBI had illegally wiretapped Ellsberg, that the White House had sent burglars to break into the office of his psychiatrist, and that President Richard Nixon and his domestic aide John Ehrlichman had offered their judge, Matt Byrne, the directorship of the FBI while the trial was proceeding. As a result of these abuses, the charges against Ellsberg and Russo were dismissed.

All of this, and much more, is profusely detailed in Ellsberg’s 2002 book, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.  That book provides the scaffolding for a gripping story full of both epic and personal drama.  In the 457 pages of Ellsberg’s fine book, Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee is mentioned exactly once, on page 392.  Katharine Graham, the owner and publisher of the Post, is not mentioned at all. But it is upon Bradlee and Graham that Hanks and Spielberg decided to base their film about the Pentagon Papers.

Ellsberg and the Times

Yet, in naming the film “The Post,” Hanks and Spielberg even distort who should get credit for breaking the Pentagon Papers in the press. As noted above, Ellsberg had gone to four politicians in Washington and asked them to insert the voluminous Pentagon Papers study into the Congressional Record. He thought this would be the safest legal way for him to get the study out since the Constitution’s free debate clause protects senators and congressman from being questioned for what they say on the floor. (ibid, p. 361) But, for various reasons, Senators George McGovern, William Fulbright, Charles Mathias, and representative Pete McCloskey, all turned him down.

It was at this point that Ellsberg got in contact with a man he had met while he was in Vietnam, New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan. When first stationed in Vietnam, Sheehan—like his friend and colleague David Halberstam—had been a backer of the war.  He and Halberstam were critical of President Kennedy’s policies for not being aggressive enough and for not inserting American combat troops. (David Halberstam, The Making of a Quagmire, pgs. 321-22)  But once they saw that President Johnson’s escalation had not worked, they began to have second thoughts about the expanded American involvement. By 1971, Sheehan was now seriously questioning his former beliefs about the war.

At this time, Ellsberg had a teaching fellowship at MIT, so the reporter drove up to Cambridge. He read some of the documents, and took some notes.  He then told his editors at the Times about them. Ellsberg had given Sheehan a key to his apartment on a weekend he was not there and—unawares to Ellsberg—Sheehan copied the Pentagon Papers and brought them to New York. (Ellsberg, p. 375)

One of the hidden heroes of the Pentagon Papers case at this point stepped forward. James Goodale was the general counsel for the Times.  In March of 1971, he had been tipped off that the newspaper might be coming into possession of a large amount of classified information.  In the next three months he and his assistant studied all of the legal issues involved and predicted the possible ways President Nixon could halt publication through prior restraint.

He then looked at the stories the Times wanted to run.  This included one on how Johnson had used false information about the Tonkin Gulf incident in 1964 to pass a congressional resolution to wage war against North Vietnam.  Goodale predicted the administration would use the Pentagon Papers as a way to continue Nixon’s and Vice President Spiro Agnew’s war against the press. He then mapped out the defenses the Times would be able to utilize to neutralize the administration’s attack.

Goodale’s legal analysis was remarkably prescient: it was the issues he studied in March that decided the case for the Times in June. (Goodale, Fighting for the Press, pgs. 41-43)  Once the Times had the documents there was a debate at the higher levels of management over whether to publish. Managing editor Abe Rosenthal threatened to resign if they did not.  And it was the threat of mass resignations that convinced Punch Sulzberger, owner of the Times, to publish. But once that decision was made, the Times’ conservative Republican law firm deserted them. Therefore, on the eve of trial, it was Goodale who put together an ad hoc defense team, literally overnight. (ibid, p. 71)  It was that team—which included Yale professor Alexander Bickel and Floyd Abrams at the firm of Cahill Gordon—which argued the first hearings over the Pentagon Papers case in New York.

The Post Gets Involved

Contrary to what the Hanks/Spielberg film depicts, after the first day of publication—June 13, 1971—Nixon did not fly into a rage. After all, the Pentagon Papers stopped in 1968, before Nixon was elected.  The stories by the New York Times had focused on the escalations during the Johnson administration.  On that first day, White House Counsel Charles Colson had advised Nixon not to overreact, and he did not. (Steve Sheinkin, Most Dangerous, p. 217)

There were two people who reversed Nixon’s position. The first was Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s National Security Advisor.  Kissinger had known Ellsberg from his days at Harvard. When Nixon took office, Ellsberg had consulted Kissinger on various options for the war from his position at Rand Corporation. (Ellsberg, pgs. 231-34) Kissinger knew about the Pentagon Papers and he suspected almost immediately that Ellsberg had given them to the Times.  On the second day of publication, Kissinger talked to Bob Haldeman, Nixon’s Chief of Staff. He told him the president now had to act, for there was a wholesale subversion of the government going on. He then told Nixon that the stories somehow made him look like a weakling. (Sheinkin, p. 221)

Nixon asked Attorney General John Mitchell for an opinion on the issue.  Mitchell, who had been a bond lawyer in New York, gave Nixon some poor legal advice.  He told the president that the government had sued to stop a newspaper from publishing before. And it was customary to give the paper notice of such legal action.  (Goodale, p. 73) This information was completely wrong. Such an act—legally called prior restraint—had never happened before in America. The reason being that, in the United States, unlike in Great Britain, there is no Official Secrets Act to justify stopping publication before the information is printed.

Goodale knew this from his research.  Therefore, when Mitchell forwarded a telegram to the Times, Goodale advised them not to obey the request to stop publishing.  Mitchell then went into court to apply for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the grounds that the series was causing irreparable harm to national security.  This was granted in New York by a newly appointed judge named Murray Gurfein. In the meantime, Nixon enlisted some friends—Maxwell Taylor, John Tower, Averill Harriman–to begin attacking the New York Times. (ibid, p. 85)

It is only at this point, a year into Ellsberg’s struggle to make the Pentagon Papers public, that the Washington Post entered the picture. And it did not happen the way the film depicts it. For example, Ben Bradlee never sent a spy to infiltrate the New York Times office; therefore that fictitious spy never saw a mock up with a front page with Sheehan’s name on it.

As Ellsberg writes in Secrets, he had never planned on going to the Washington Post. Dunn Gifford, a friend of Sheehan’s—who is completely absent from the film—first suggested he go to the Post.  Ellsberg wrote that, on his own, he never would have thought of the Post himself.  (We will speculate as to why that was later, see Ellsberg pgs. 388-89.)  But it was at this point, with the Justice Department’s TRO in place, the Times going a day without publishing, with Gifford urging him to go elsewhere to keep the current moving, that Ellsberg, through a friend, called journalist Ben Bagdikian, who worked for the Washington Post. (ibid, p. 391)

Dramatic License

The problems the film has with dramatic license, which, as we shall see, are going to get worse, owe to three interwoven facts. First was the decision by the screenwriters—Liz Hannah and Josh Singer—to tell the story through the Washington PostIn turn, that choice left them with paltry source material.  And that owes to the fact that the Post only figured in the story for about two weeks. Yet, as we will see, the saga of the Pentagon Papers extended to well over two years.

The primary sources for the screenplay amount to Katharine Graham’s book Personal History, Ben Bradlee’s autobiography A Good Life, and Bradlee’s authorized biography written by Jeff Himmelman, Yours in Truth.  Those three narratives do not differ very much in information.  And the longest of the three is Graham’s, which totals a miniscule 12 pages. One dramatic problem is that Graham and Bradlee never really acted to attain a goal. They are acted upon, are therefore reacting to external events: the Times story, Mitchell’s TRO, Ellsberg and Gifford’s discussions. To work their way out of this dramatic problem the writers created Bradlee’s ersatz spy and, as we shall see, some other confections.

But there is also a different use of dramatic license that creeps into the story.  These deal with the reasons the Post wanted the story in the first place.  Throughout the film Bradlee is portrayed as some kind of crusader for both truth and the right to free speech for the press. Later in the film, to further this angle, the script fabricates another scene.  Towards the end, when Graham is deciding whether or not to print the documents—her lawyers have advised her not to—she walks in to talk to Robert McNamara, the former Secretary of Defense. This scene was manufactured—there is no evidence for it in any book on the case.  And it is fabricated for two apparent reasons.  First, to somehow convey that Graham was surprised at what had happened in Vietnam under McNamara’s direction, and second, to show McNamara trying to talk Graham out of printing the Pentagon Papers.

Daniel Ellsberg on the cover of Time after leaking the Pentagon Papers

For anyone who knows the Pentagon Papers case and the history of the Washington Post, there is no other way to say it: this scene is an insulting fairy tale. Robert McNamara actually commissioned the Pentagon Papers study back in 1967.  In order to ensure that it was objective and scholarly he deliberately did not exercise any influence over it during the 18 months it took to complete.  The chain of command in the writing and editing of this valuable encyclopedia were from McNamara’s deputy John McNaughton, to McNaughton’s assistant Morton Halperin.

Halperin appointed research analyst Leslie Gelb to supervise various teams to write the individual chapters.  According to Gelb, he never had any difficulty getting documents once he invoked McNamara’s name.  One of the reasons that McNamara wanted the study classified Top Secret was so his boss, Lyndon Johnson, would not find out about it. McNamara knew LBJ would terminate it. (Sheinkin, p. 125) In other words, without McNamara, there would have been no Pentagon Papers. And there is no evidence of him ever trying to stop any of that record from being published.

Second, the idea that Kay Graham was surprised at the revelations in the Pentagon Papers also does not jibe with the record. When Graham took control of the Washington Post in 1964, President Johnson immediately began a full court press to gain her trust and favor. One of the reasons for this was that he wanted to have her and the Post in his corner as he began to escalate the war.

Anyone who witnessed the 1964 presidential race between GOP candidate Barry Goldwater and Johnson will recall that Johnson painted Goldwater as the extreme Vietnam hawk while saying that he would not send American boys to do what Asian boys should and also that “We seek no wider war.” (Joseph Goulden, Truth is the First Casualty, pgs 38, 164) As Frederick Logevall showed in his book Choosing War, this was a deliberate deception. At the very least, by the summer of 1964, Johnson had started planning on direct American intervention in the war.  (See Logevall, pgs 128-30) This would be done by the escalated bombing of the north and, later, through the insertion of combat troops.  The target date was February of 1965.  Johnson missed it by one month: both began in March.

Are we somehow to believe that Graham did not hear Johnson make the pledges he did in the 1964 race?  Was she then blind to the air escalation through Operation Rolling Thunder, and the eventual 540,000 combat troops in theater by 1968?  And somehow she did not notice the difference? There were neither combat troops in theater nor any Rolling Thunder over Vietnam on the day John F. Kennedy was killed.

The truth is that, as more than one Kay Graham biographer has shown, Johnson’s charm offensive paid off in spades. In fact, in April of 1964, LBJ invited Graham and the executives of the Post to lunch at the White House. In the family dining room, he asked for their support for his planned expansion of the war in Indochina. (Carol Felsenthal, Power, Privilege and the Post, p. 234) In other words, Graham knew Johnson was lying as he hit the campaign trail. In spite of that, the Post endorsed his attacks on North Vietnam after the Gulf of Tonkin incident in August of 1964. (ibid)  In fact, the Post went further. They blasted the two senators who voted against the Tonkin Gulf resolution. The paper wrote that it was false to equate the resolution to a declaration of war. In fact, that is what Johnson used it for.  (ibid, p. 304)

There was never any wavering of the Post’s support through Johnson’s milestone escalations of 1965.  As one observer said of Graham, “She liked being respectable, and was very uneasy about being different from the norm.” (ibid, p. 239)  This extended to letting Johnson have assistants call her and ask for modifications to stories about the war. At times Graham would invite the whole upper level of the State Department to dinner, knowing that Dean Rusk was an unmitigated hawk. (ibid, p. 240) LBJ sent her on a tour to Vietnam where she met with General Westmoreland. Upon her return, she asked her editorial board if anyone thought they should bring up the question of withdrawal.  When one writer said he did, she replied, “You’re so stupid.” (ibid, p. 241)

As Johnson’s escalations continued into 1966, the Times began to be at least a bit critical of some elements.  For instance, they criticized civilian casualties in the bombing of Hanoi.  The Post defended the bombing and criticized the Timescomparing their story to “those in communist propaganda leaflets.” (ibid, p. 255)  The Post then criticized Martin Luther King when he spoke out against the war in 1967. (ibid, p. 256)

The Post Joins the ‘Big League’

But perhaps the strongest indication of just how far the Post would go in backing Johnson’s massive escalation of the war occurred in 1968.  Ward Just had been the main Post reporter in Vietnam. He never questioned the causes of the war, or whether America should be there.  But he was an honest and accurate reporter who tried to portray things as they were without spinning them.

The problem was that after the Tet offensive, any kind of realism made Johnson and the war effort look pretty bad. Johnson and Westmoreland’s light at the end of the tunnel had grown dark.  So Bradlee now switched out Just and replaced him with Peter Braestrup.  Like Johnson, Braestrup argued that the Tet offensive was really a failure for Hanoi and a military victory for America.  In fact, he went on to write a very long book defending that bizarre thesis. (Daniel Hallin, The Uncensored War, p. 173) This record may explain why Ellsberg never thought of giving the documents to the Washington Post.

That record made me cringe at another scene near the end.  At the Supreme Court hearing in Washington, Graham is walking into the building alone.   A young Hispanic legal assistant shows her a side door to get into the hearing room.  While walking through the corridor she thanks Graham since she had a brother in Vietnam. Understanding Graham and the Post—which the script does not want us to do—it was Graham’s support for that war that helped put her brother in Vietnam.  If one needed any more convincing of how this picture spins the facts, all one needs to know is that Graham supported Nixon’s re-election. This is not only after the Pentagon Papers case, but after the Post’s initial coverage of the Watergate break in. (Robin Lerber, Katharine Graham p. 134)

Therefore, what was the reason that the Post was so eager to publish the Pentagon Papers?  It was quite simply a matter of Bradlee’s overweening ambition. Graham even admitted this. She later recalled that Bradlee “was driven crazy by the Times having this enormous and important material.” (Felsenthal, p. 299)  Bradlee’s overarching goal once he got into an editorship position at the Post was to make it the equal of the New York Times.  In other words, when those in power talked about the “paper of record”, he wanted to alter that discussion to the “papers of record” so that the Post would have the same kind of imprimatur as the Grey Lady.  Bradlee himself admitted this was the case.

He later said that the Pentagon Papers was a key moment for the Post.  Not because what was in the documents, and not for any impact it would have on the war.  But because it meant that the Post had graduated into what, for him, was the highest ranks of American journalism. Referring to himself and Graham, he said: “One of our unspoken goals was to get the world to refer to the Post and the NYT in the same breath, which they previously had not done. After the Pentagon Papers, they did.“ (Graham, Personal History, p. 458) Or to put it in football terms, as Bradlee was wont to do, “The score was 36-0 and we were trying to get even.” (Sanford Ungar, The Papers and the Papers, p. 131)

Probably the worst scene in the film comes after Attorney General Mitchell has secured a TRO against the Washington PostTherefore, after two daysthe Post had to halt publication and await the outcome of the Supreme Court decision.  Journalist Ben Bagdikian comes into Bradlee’s office and places a tall grocery bag on his desk.  He then says something like: I always wanted to be part of a rebellion.  Bradlee looks into the bag and then carries it to Graham’s office. There he starts taking out the other newspapers that have now published the Pentagon Papers. Editor and publisher jubilantly celebrate.

Again, there is no evidence that this scene happened. What really occurred was that, after his conversation with Dunn Gifford, Ellsberg decided that he had better start making multiple copies of the documents. Therefore, on a staggered basis, he would then parcel them out to other interested newspapers.  Once they were enjoined, he would give them to another paper. All told there were four papers that Mitchell decided to sue.  In addition to the Times and Post, the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the Boston Globe were also enjoined. But the documents, through Ellsberg’s support group, kept on getting out, up to and even past the Supreme Court decision. (Ungar, p. 190)  The idea that somehow these newspapers were inspired by Graham, or empowered by her, is simply false.  It was Ellsberg who empowered them at his own personal risk.  Just as he originally empowered the Times and the Post. The Hanks/Spielberg version excises that key fact.

A ‘Feel Good’ Fairytale

Because the film was directed by Spielberg, it is quite skillfully made. He has almost always been a visually acute director. But he has also said about himself that—unlike Alfred Hitchcock or Michelangelo Antonioni—he really does not have a visual style.  He added that he saw his function as serving the writer’s intent, therefore adapting his style to the material. He does a nice job of that here.

The montage sequence where the Post gets out its first-day story based on the Pentagon Papers is a well shot and paced paragraph of action: going from the copy desk to the delivery trucks.  The scene with Graham in her den deciding to publish the documents surrounded with differing opinions by her business and editorial advisors is shot from above, conveying the idea that powerful forces are pressuring her into a fateful decision.  The penultimate scene with Graham and Bradlee in the printing room after the court decided in their favor, and they can now publish again, is nicely composed: the camera pulling back until the two characters are dwarfed by the image and sound of the printing press getting the Pentagon Papers out.

The Washington Post building in downtown Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Washington Post)

Meryl Streep is Kay Graham.  She delivers her usual studied, technically sound, precisely prepared performance.  My only problem with her acting is that the character is written as if this was Graham’s first day on the job.  At this point, Graham had been in charge of the paper for eight years. The idea that she was just finding her way into her position is hard to swallow. To say that Tom Hanks plays Bradlee would be a misleading statement. Streep does what Hanks does not do: she uses her mental and emotional powers to create someone else.  Hanks is—for all intents and purposes—Hanks, not Bradlee.  With one exception, the rest of the characters seem cast on appearances: They look like board members or cub reporters.  That one exception is Breaking Bad’s Bob Odenkirk who shows some genuine acting range in his portrayal of Ben Bagdikian.

As mentioned, in 1967-68 Ellsberg had gotten close to a presidential candidate who agreed with him about the war, but who was assassinated before the November election of 1968.  That candidate was, of course, Robert Kennedy.  Kennedy wanted Ellsberg to be his main advisor on Vietnam.  In fact, in his book, Ellsberg hints that it was Kennedy who gave some documents to the New York Times which helped prevent another escalation by Johnson after Tet. And during his presidential campaign, Ellsberg worked on a speech for RFK about Vietnam. (Ellsberg, pgs. 203, 218)  When he got the news Kennedy had been killed, Ellsberg broke down and cried for a half hour.  He then wrote, “I loved Bobby.  He was the only politician I ever felt that way about.” (ibid, p. 220)  But because the film marginalizes Ellsberg, this important and moving aspect of the story is nowhere on the screen.

And neither is the senator who actually did read the Pentagon Papers on the floor of the senate, which made the Supreme Court decision all but inconsequential as far as their publication went. That senator was Mike Gravel of Alaska. He started to read the documents late on the night before the Supreme Court decision was announced. After about four hours, he nearly collapsed and moved to place them into the record. (Ungar, p. 262) He had timed it so his sub-committee would be absent and consequently there could be no objections to his motion.  It was that stenographic record which produced the first privately published version of the Pentagon Papers, named after Gravel, from Beacon Press in Massachusetts.

After the Supreme Court ruled for the Times and Post, Nixon and Mitchell did not give up.  They opened a grand jury proceeding in Massachusetts to go after Ellsberg, Gravel and Beacon Press.  This failed because of the debate privilege enjoyed by all senators speaking from the floor. (ibid, p. 284)  But they did indict Ellsberg and Anthony Russo in California, where Rand was located.  Russo went to prison for seven weeks on contempt charges for refusing to testify against Ellsberg.  He did so even though he was granted immunity in return for his testimony. (ibid, p. 273) Mitchell charged Ellsberg with eleven counts, which carried a maximum jail time of 115 years, or life in prison. Russo was charged with three counts, which carried a maximum of 35 years in prison.

Unlike what the film tries to convey, it was this trial that was directly impacted by Watergate.  Because the Watergate prosecution uncovered the illegal electronic surveillance of Ellsberg, the burglary at his psychiatrist’s office, and the attempt by Nixon to influence Judge Matt Byrne by offering him the FBI directorship while the trial was proceeding. Because of those acts, the charges were dismissed. (Ellsberg, pgs. 444-449)

“The Post” tries to imply that the publication of the Pentagon Papers caused Watergate. As new research by writers like Robert Parry and Ken Hughes has shown, such was not the case. What caused the creation of the Plumbers Unit in the White House was Nixon’s fear that hidden documents would expose his interference in the 1968 election through Anna Chennault and officials in Saigon. That effort sandbagged Johnson’s 1968 peace efforts and helped Nixon defeat Hubert Humphrey.

As the reader can see, “The Post” does not come close to telling the full story about the Pentagon Papers, or the perfidy of the Nixon administration in trying to prevent their publication.  And what it does present is—in this reviewer’s opinion—seriously slanted. If Hanks and Spielberg were really interested in history, the only way to do this story justice would have been through a four-part mini-series. That would have made for both honest and genuine history, but also for more dramatic visuals.

Cinematically, the best parts of “The Post” are the early scenes in Vietnam and the heisting and copying of the Pentagon Papers. But in addition, that approach would have allowed for the introduction of legendary characters like General Ed Lansdale and Colonel Jean Paul Vann, since Ellsberg met and served under both in Vietnam. We then could have later met others that Ellsberg encountered like Kissinger and McGovern and RFK.  But that kind of presentation—with Ellsberg asking Kissinger in public how many civilians he and Nixon planned on killing in Indochina in one year, not knowing that Nixon had already told Kissinger he did not care about civilian deaths—-that would have produced a much harder edged film than this one. (Ellsberg, pgs. 353-54, 419)

Instead, Hanks and Spielberg have given us a combination Washington/Hollywood fairy tale. A “feel good” film that works only for those who are unaware of the underlying facts, which they and their screenwriters have truncated and altered to produce their desired effect. The best thing I can say about this film is that it could provoke the viewer to get the real story by reading Ellsberg’s book Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.

James DiEugenio is a researcher and writer on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and other mysteries of that era. His most recent book is Reclaiming Parkland.

46 comments for “‘The Post’ and the Pentagon Papers

  1. Jack Francis
    January 30, 2018 at 00:49

    Thanks for the article although the treatment is not a surprise. Since when has Hollywood ever made a factual movie about true events? Normally there is a dislaimer somewhere in the credits saying, ‘Based on true events’ or if they really go off the rails, ‘Inspired by true events’.

  2. Shibaprasad Deb
    January 29, 2018 at 23:20

    Be it whatever, the film is a timely reminder for fireballing the corporates from the media that they own. The press alone can highlight the wrongs of government.
    Two lines in the movie are just what we want. One, the press is speak for the governed and not for those who govern. And two, the press is after all the first draft of history.

  3. Julie McCormick
    January 29, 2018 at 20:13

    After seeing The Post yesterday, I looked online for some counter critique, knowing that the movie, which I liked a lot, was nowhere near the actual facts of the Pentagon Papers. I disagree with the author here on a few points. I thought Hanks was nearly unrecognizable as Bradlee and that he, not Streep, was more successful in burying his persona and revealing a character. I also did not see the ending as indicating that PP led to Watergate, but as a little joke after Graham says she hopes she will not have to go through anything like that again. As for the question of whether they should have made an entirely different, more factual and more effective work of art from an entirely different perspective, that kind of argument is better left for refutation from someone with more patience for this hackneyed point of view. It’s like insisting Picasso should have stuck to realism. What is missing in this very crisp, helpful and knowledgeable summary of the “real” story is what I believe was the overlying theme of this movie, the coming into her own of a woman accustomed to conventional misogyny and unprepared for the challenges of her later life. It is when she walks down the steps of the Supreme Court past a silent chorus of young, female onlookers that I completely lost it and began to cry uncontrollably. Never happened? Who cares, we’re talking myth here, history is available to anyone who desires it. I am a tough old nut, I do not cry easily. But it is particularly interesting to me that this self-appointed reviewer completely missed the fact that this movie was not about the Pentagon Papers, it was about Katherine Graham. Someone else will make the work he wants. And it will be very good, I’m sure.

  4. Laurie
    January 28, 2018 at 12:45

    First rate writing there, Mr. DiEugenio. My dad, a journalist as you are, always told me that there is never just one story in a story. Understanding complicated issues can also take time, as distance provides perspective. Mr. Ellsberg’s bravery and dedication to disseminating the truth cannot be overestimated.

    I am grateful to Mr. Spielberg & Ms.Hannah for reopening this important chapter of our history so that many of us who might not have been old enough to understand will educate ourselves. Another thing my dad taught me: There is no excuse for voluntary ignorance.

  5. Horuss
    January 27, 2018 at 04:26

    Excellent review and analysis! Over time, people have forgotten what it was really like back then and how reluctantly establishment organs like the NYT and WAPO were all gung ho for Viet Nam and for how long. I was just a kid and I remember. It’s shocking how many people who know better have chosen not to including many who were in the streets protesting the vile mass slaughter of the people in Indochina. Not a few of them have all been gung ho for the pointless and illegal mass murdering the US has been carrying out in the Muslim world for the past 17 years. Articles like this might help people to remember how evil the Vietnam War was and how evil our mythical “war on terror” is today.

  6. Matthew Hoh
    January 26, 2018 at 17:39

    Thank you for this excellent, and well documented, review James. Much appreciated.

  7. January 26, 2018 at 13:36

    I should make a couple of comments here.

    First, thanks for all the nice things most of the commenters have stated. I spent a lot of time researching the subject in advance.

    Second, the documentary made on Ellsberg, The Most Dangerous Man in America, is much better at rendering the facts of the Pentagon Papers case than this film is. And the James Spader TV feature film The Pentagon Papers is much more judicious in its use of dramatic license than the Hanks/Spielberg film is. So if you want to pursue the subject further, those are tow good places to begin.

    But the subject is so large, sprawling, and involves so many characters in so many places, the only way you can really do it justice is as a mini series.

  8. Brian
    January 26, 2018 at 08:59

    The Pentagon Papers (2003)
    R | 1h 39min | Drama, History, Thriller | TV Movie 9 March 2003
    The Pentagon Papers Poster
    Defense worker Daniel Ellsberg seeks to publish a series of classified government documents detailing the true nature of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.
    Director: Rod Holcomb
    Writer: Jason Horwitch
    Stars: James Spader, Claire Forlani, Paul Giamatti | See full cast & crew »

  9. January 26, 2018 at 08:53

    A thorough and meticulously researched article.
    Excellent, prescient read.
    Much appreciated.

  10. Trowbridge H. Ford
    January 25, 2018 at 13:10

    Anyone who takes a film directed by Steven Spielberg seriously is just barking up the wrong tree whether it be saving Private Ryan, U-2 looney pilot Captain Gary Powers, downsizing Soviet Colonel Rudolf Abel or upgrading The Washington Post.

    BTW, General ‘Deep Throat’ Al Haig was invited to help prepare the report but refused. afraid that release of The Pentagon Papers would show how the JFK assassination was directed away from Havana and Moscow at Saigon’s expense.

  11. January 24, 2018 at 11:29

    Thanks to James DiEugenio another example of our age of cultural unreality (the movie “The Post”) gets defanged for its fake newsiness. Excellent job!

  12. speck
    January 24, 2018 at 00:12

    Thank you for this detailed history of the Pentagon Papers. I heard Ellsberg and Gravel speak in 2007, at the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association, in celebration of the role of UUA’s publishing arm, Beacon Press in publishing the complete Papers. I’m glad I skipped Spielberg’s watered-down, inaccurate version. Now I need to find a copy of the Most Dangerous Man documentary.

    • January 24, 2018 at 00:28

      go to mostdangerousman.org for viewing options

  13. Charles goldberg
    January 23, 2018 at 23:32

    God bless Jim DiEugenio a light in the darkness.
    He is a reason to be grateful for the hope he
    Is giving to people for a better world

  14. January 23, 2018 at 20:25

    Very thorough and well-researched piece! But I was surprised to find nowhere in the article a mention of the Academy-Award-nominated film that indeed covered much of the ground that you faulted Spielberg et al for ignoring. Judith Ehrlich and I made “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers” in 2009, at the height of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. You will see all the Pentaon Papers players right there: Ellsberg, Russo, draft–resister Randy Kehler, Nixon aides John Dean and Egil Krogh (head of “the Plumbers”), Pentagon study head Mort Halperin, NY Times members Hedrick Smith, Max Frankel, and James Goodale, Senator Mike Gravel, Congressman Pete McCloskey, The WaPost’s Ben Bagdikian, even Ellsberg’s son Robert, who helped copy the papers with Dad and Tony when he was 13. Plus the key secret Nixon tapes. And more. If you’re in NYC Thursday evening (Jan. 25), come up to the International House at 500 Riverside Drive (near Columbia U.) where the film will be shown and I will sit for a Q&A with current NY Times investigative reporter Charles Bagli. You might also be interested in my recent article about “The Post” and the Papers here: https://www.documentary.org/online-feature/pentagon-papers-revisited. And more about viewing the film at: http://www.mostdangerousman.org.

  15. January 23, 2018 at 16:51

    Great piece. Thank you! Much needed.

    You probably know there’s an Oscar-nominated documentary about Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers which provides Ellsberg’s backstory and some scenes Spielberg likely borrowed for his film – “Most Dangerous Man in America” – http://www.mostdangerousman.org

  16. Maxime DC
    January 23, 2018 at 15:33

    An excellent piece of true journalism. Thank you for this article Mr DiEugenio.

  17. Abe
    January 23, 2018 at 14:56

    The deeper layer of deception underlying the 2016 Washington Post / ProporNot debacle was that PropOrNot functioned as a conspicuous straw man to elevate the status of fake “citizen investigative journalist” Eliot Higgins of the Bellingcat propaganda outlet.

    Bellingcat “investigation reports” are a signature mix of disparate so-called “open source” elements and spurious reasoning.

    Repudiation of PropOrNot was leveraged to project the appearance that Higgins and Bellingcat, and other and ProporNot “Related Projects” (Interpreter Mag, Atlantic Council’s DFRL, Kiev’s StopFake) are “professional” organizations of true “independent researchers” by comparison.

    This disinformation strategy is reinforced by the fact that Bellingcat is directly allied with the Washington Post and New York Times, the two principal mainstream media organs for “regime change” propaganda in the United States, via the Google-founded “First Draft” network.

    Google is an enthusiastic supporter of Higgins despite Bellingcat’s track record of debunked claims about Syria and Russia. Google formed the “First Draft” coalition in 2015 with Bellingcat as a founding member.

    In a triumph of Orwellian Newspeak, this Google’s new “post-Truth” propaganda coalition declares that member organizations will “work together to tackle common issues, including ways to streamline the verification process”.

    Apparently the key method of “verification” is to cite Higgins, his collaborators at Bellingcat, and the Atlantic Council.

    Designated reporters at the Washington Post, New York Times, BBC, UK Guardian, and other “First Draft” media “partners” write articles based on the “findings” of Higgins & Co.

    Regime change groups like the Atlantic Council, and compromised human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also cite Higgins “findings as having been “confirmed” by reporters at the Washington Post and other “First Draft” coalition media outlets.

  18. Abe
    January 23, 2018 at 14:42

    The deeper layer of deception underlying the 2016 Washington Post / ProporNot debacle was that PropOrNot functioned as a conspicuous straw man to elevate the status of fake “citizen investigative journalist” Eliot Higgins of the Bellingcat propaganda outlet.

    Bellingcat “investigation reports” are a signature mix of disparate so-called “open source” elements and spurious reasoning.

    Repudiation of PropOrNot was leveraged to project the appearance that Higgins and Bellingcat, and other and ProporNot “Related Projects” (Interpreter Mag, Atlantic Council’s DFRL, Kiev’s StopFake) are “professional” organizations of true “independent researchers” by comparison.

    This disinformation strategy is reinforced by the fact that Bellingcat is directly allied with the Washington Post and New York Times, the two principal mainstream media organs for “regime change” propaganda in the United States, via the Google-founded “First Draft” network.

    Google is an enthusiastic supporter of Higgins despite Bellingcat’s track record of debunked claims about Syria and Russia. Google formed the “First Draft” coalition in 2015 with Bellingcat as a founding member.

    In a triumph of Orwellian Newspeak, this Google’s new “post-Truth” propaganda coalition declares that member organizations will “work together to tackle common issues, including ways to streamline the verification process”.

    Apparently the key method of “verification” is to cite Higgins, his collaborators at Bellingcat, and the Atlantic Council.

    Designated reporters at the New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, UK Guardian, and other “First Draft” media “partners” write articles based on the “findings” of Higgins & Co.

    Regime change groups like the Atlantic Council, and compromised human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also cite Higgins “findings as having been “confirmed” by reporters at key “First Draft” coalition media outlets.

    This highly streamlined game of fake journalistic “verification” has intensified in the aftermath of the Khan Shakhun attacks in Syria. The misinformation process enabled the Trump administration to launch its Tomahawk missile attack against Syria without significant resistance from the American public.

    On command, Higgins and Bellingcat projectile vomit fabulous new “reports” on Ukraine and Syria for their “First Draft” propaganda coalition “partners” at the Washington Post to lavish praise upon.

  19. mary kelly
    January 23, 2018 at 13:40

    Excellent piece…but please don’t avoid going to see the movie because it’s an inaccurate view of history. I think it does show Bradlee as wanting to run the story out of rivalry with the New York Times rather than a pure commitment to truth

  20. Daniel Lazare
    January 23, 2018 at 12:26

    Brilliant article. Hollywood can’t tell the truth about anything.

  21. Skip Scott
    January 23, 2018 at 10:55

    I think the purpose of this movie is to attempt to give legitimacy to the Post, when in fact it has always been a shill for the MIC. Operation Mockingbird comes to mind. Hollywood has been a faithful servant as well. I remember “Top Gun” coming out, and the propaganda impact it had to “cure” us of our “Vietnam Syndrome.”

    I think the existence of Consortium News, and other like-minded internet sites like Information Clearing House, scares the bejesus out of the Deep State power brokers. Their serious reporting is a dire threat to the continuing success of the MSM propaganda narrative. Let’s hope that stories like this one reach an ever growing audience. Thank you James DiEugenio.

  22. Oscar
    January 23, 2018 at 02:36

    I heard Hanks on NPR today say that they wanted to get this film out quickly because of “all that is going on in the news today” or words to that effect. He was referring to the “Me too” campaign. The NYT interview with Hanks and Streep revealed the same motive. So I think the focus was on The Post because the focus was on Graham as a female newspaper owner. Such a movie will have a wide audience because it is a feel good story following a currently popular meme. Unfortunately, the Post today, which continues to publish hysterically about a Trump-Russia collusion for which there is scant evidence, while ignoring the Clinton-DNC-FBI collusion for which there is amble and increasingly troubling evidence, is a corporate news source of decreasing value.

  23. Joe Tedesky
    January 22, 2018 at 23:13

    I’d like to thank you James DiEugenio, for saving me some time, as I just recently said to my wife after having watched commercials for this film ‘the Post’, to how I wondered to how factual it was. Now, I know.

    I don’t mind a little screenplay rewrite, but how is it right to recreate history? Okay, I know it’s nothing new, but my complaint isn’t anything new either…so what gives?

    I find, if you are really that interested in a subject, that one movie, or one book, will not do it. Why, it may take a lifetime of movies, and books, and you still may have questions to the real truth…like JFK, MLK, RFK, Malcolm X, should I go on?

    I personally like to think that Spartacus lived, but there is so much more melancholy drama to his story to if he dies.

    Thanks again James DiEugenio, your work is always excellent. Joe

  24. turk 151
    January 22, 2018 at 22:49

    Speaking of WP, here is a historical example of the tradition of journalism excellence that is the venerated Washington Post:

    “David Lawrence, whose wisdom appeared in the Washington Post and other leading newspapers. “The truth is,” he wrote in spring 1955, “there isn’t the slightest proof of any kind that the ‘fallout’ as a result of tests in Nevada has ever affected any human being anywhere outside the testing ground itself.

    By then, children and others living in downwind areas were beginning to develop leukemia. As time passed, people in affected areas suffered extraordinarily high rates of cancer and thyroid ills. Functioning in tandem, the news media and the federal government continued to deny that nuclear testing was a health hazard.”

    Get well soon Mr. Parry

  25. Trudy Hess
    January 22, 2018 at 21:27

    I learned a lot from reading this article. Thank you. When I first read of the movie’s release I immediately decided I didn’t want to see it. My reason? I saw it as a marketing ploy by WAPO owner Jeff Bezos. Wouldn’t it be a great way to boost readership, by showing how heroic and truth-telling the WAPO was for wanting to publish the Pentagon Papers? I feel confident that much of the viewing public could easily be swayed in that direction. After reading this article, I am more convinced than ever that I will have to pass on this movie.

  26. January 22, 2018 at 21:02

    We mustn’t forget Wilson’s war and Tom playing the Congressional arms dealer arming the jihadists to rid Afghanistan of a secular government-a war to punish the Russians by destroying the lives of thousands of Afghans and creating a failed state which persists today. Tom does know how to pick his parts, a thinker’s actor and a very opportunistic, message carrying one. Mr. DiEurgenio does a remarkable job of dissecting the movie and interjecting facts. Having written that, I really am not qualified to pass judgement on his facts but they sound right. I was surprised that Graham supported Nixon who was running against Humphrey. Then again, Humphrey was the kind of guy who just might interject too much honesty and integrity into Office where they are out of place.

  27. mike k
    January 22, 2018 at 18:42

    Truth and real history mean nothing to the dream manipulators of Hollywood and DC. Their job is to get you to see everything their way. Life is just a big billboard to paint their pitches on for them. Phony scum.

    • mike k
      January 22, 2018 at 18:44

      There are exceptions, of course. But the main stream is as I have said – garbage dressed up as mind candy for adult children.

  28. mike k
    January 22, 2018 at 18:37

    Hollywood is the source of some of the worst garbage in the American mind. They have been a tool of the rich and powerful from the beginning. Their primary visions of the world are self serving fantasies that the powerful use to manipulate the public. TV has only continued the mass pollution of public consciousness. Those who nourish their minds on this plastic garbage become incapable of discerning the simplest truths and realities for themselves.

    • Annie
      January 22, 2018 at 19:52

      Mike, of course you know it’s not just Hollywood, or the media, but the entire system that demands conformity which starts in the home and continues throughout the school years. To think differently, or perceive things differently, or to be just plain different is to risk being something of an outcast. It’s a risk most people don’t want to take, unfortunately. Because the US is made up of so many diverse ethnic groups conformity was stressed more so then in most European nations, and it was an Anglo-American melting pot that was demanded. No doubt this is also playing a significant role on our immigration policies, and always has.

  29. Annie
    January 22, 2018 at 17:14

    I wonder whether Spielberg hyped the Post’s role, which created a female hero, Graham, to pander to the growing woman’s movement which I think in large part is due to Clinton’s loss, and installed, as many think, an anti-feminist president. If that is the case, no matter his credentials, or former successes that would be quite unfortunate.

  30. Steve Naidamast
    January 22, 2018 at 16:06

    James DiEugenio is highly regarded as a foremost researcher on the JFK assassination so anything he writes should be taken seriously. In many respects, he is in the same league as Sy Hersh and his colleagues but has never received the same recognition. I have a number of books in my personal library by this author.

    Any movie by Spielberg and Hanks with a historical theme should be avoided like the Black Plague. Nothing historical that Spielberg has ever produced has ever come close to mirroring reality and actual events. For example, the highly regarded, “Schindler’s List”, was as much a fraudulent history as anything else he has produced in such a manner. Prior to making this film, Spielberg visited with Oskar Schindler’s wife in South America and she informed Spielberg that the events he wanted to depict in his film never happened. This was corroborated by the son of the Schindler’s transport officer who was on the scene at the time with his father.

    I wonder if Tom Hanks has ever read any history himself since he seems to willingly take on such roles with Spielberg and others. In “Captain Phillips”, he played the part of a captain who was victimized by Somali pirates. On the one hand, the real Captain Phillips sailed into pirate waters knowingly and after being told to avoid such routes as they clearly represented threats to sea going vessels.

    The horrible Somali pirates in the film were in reality a self-styled Somali Coast Guard who were trying to protect their national shores and waters from industrial waste (including radioactive waste) being dumped by western nations into the surrounding environs destroying their fishing industries let alone the foods they relied on. They had every right to go after the vessel that Phillips was commanding as they had no idea what he was doing in their waters.

    No intelligent person should ever consider getting their history from Hollywood even for simple entertainment since it is so often plainly wrong. I highly doubt that the readers of this site do or they wouldn’t be here in the first place. Yet, surprisingly many Americans still walk away from such movies as if they have been shown real history.

    Like James DiEugenio and many historians say, why change the real history when it is as thrilling as any fictionalized account created by script writers? Obviously, there are insidious agendas behind all such nonsense…

    • Daniel
      January 23, 2018 at 01:46

      And we should also remember Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation “documentary.” This examines his “eye witness testimony” with a critical eye:


      Yes, James DiEugenio is great, and well informed, which made me a bit surprised that he didn’t mention CIA in this review. Douglas Valentine has written two excellent books on CIA, the most recent being “CIA As Organized Crime.”

      Valentine casts some questions on Daniel Elsberg’s motives since the Pentagon Papers scrupulously avoided any mention of CIA and their dirty dealings in Vietnam from day one. Valentine also observes that CIA’s Phoenix Program is being run on USAmericans right now.

    • Sr. Gibbonk
      January 23, 2018 at 03:37

      Spielberg’s debut film Duel was a gripping, suspenseful, piece of entertainment. He should have retired directly afterwards. As for Hanks, had he done so after Big, I would remember him fondly. But Spielberg and Hanks together are a cloying combination; diabetics would be well advised to avoid their movies.

      • Kratoklastes
        January 24, 2018 at 16:36

        Saccharine isn’t that bad for diabetics – although Speilberg’s schlock has the neurotoxic effects of aspartame rather than the bitter metallic aftertaste of saccharine.

        Speaking of neurotoxic effects of aspartame… how interesting is it that the guy who stopped an FDA ban of aspartame, was the CEO of G.D.Searle (the patent holder) – a guy who worked in the Nixon Administration as a war-hawk underling…

        Donald “Known Knowns” Rumsfeld.

        The FDA had decided to ban aspartame (because of its neurotoxicity), so Rumsfeld made a few calls and got the entire review team replaced.

        And later, G.D. Searle was folded into another company that puts the bottom line before adequate product safety testing… Monsanto.

  31. Virginia
    January 22, 2018 at 14:49

    Thanks, Mr. DiEugenio, for pointing out the non-historic take of Spielberg’s movie “The Post.” After reading a similar review which said this movie is meant to whitewash the WaPo, I had already decided not to see and not to support this propaganda movie. I might recommend instead a made-for-TV movie — “The Pentagon Papers” 2003 — which shows the struggle Daniel Ellsberg faced getting the Pentagon papers into his personal possession, copying them, going to several Congressmen about them, and finally getting the NYT to publish them. Ellsberg is one of the reasons many of us look to Whistleblowers as heroes, so necessary to a functioning society. However, nowadays just about everyone working in any capacity for the Federal Government is given some level of security clearance which acts to supersede any whistleblower rights they would otherwise have had. It took great courage then, and even more so now, to do what Ellsberg, Snowden, Manning and other brave souls have done. They deserve honor, while we hope and pray that anyone who sees something that the public needs to know and has the right to know will have the needed moral courage to speak up.

  32. John Neal Spangler
    January 22, 2018 at 14:40

    Fletcher Prouty, ex-liaison officer with the CIA, thought they should have been called the CIA papers. Ellsberg worked for the Agency and the whole thing was to cast blame on the pentagon for the Vietnam fiasco and divert attention from the CIA;s mistakes.

    • carol s
      January 22, 2018 at 18:26

      Don’t forget what this limited hangout also covered up… the CIA’s deep involvement with global drug running! In trying to cast the Pentagon as the real culprit, this disgusting aspect of the spook shops was bypassed for another half-century. You have to read Douglas Valentine’s work to get the real story. I suspend judgement of Ellsberg but to me, he seems like the original limited hangout.

  33. TonyVodvarka
    January 22, 2018 at 14:39

    The day after JFK was buried, Johnson met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the White House and told them, “Get me elected and you can have your damn war”. Some peace candidate! I voted for that murderous liar and have hated his memory since 1965 for the curse he laid upon a generation of American men, not to mention the savage destruction inflicted upon South-east Asia. A fine article from Mr. DiEugenio.

  34. Tom Welsh
    January 22, 2018 at 13:54

    Thanks for this penetrating and very detailed review. I wouldn’t have gone to see “The Post” anyway, on general principle – I long ago came to regard Hollywood as a kind of PR agency for the US government – but I was very glad of the confirmation.

    • Sam F
      January 22, 2018 at 18:48

      Yes, thanks to James DiEugenio for this excellent analysis of what the film is – zionist propaganda for the now-zionist WaPo – and what it might have been if focused upon the real story. I will look for Ellsberg’s book.

      • Horuss
        January 27, 2018 at 04:28

        Zionist propaganda? For God’s sake everything is a Zionist conspiracy to some people. It was a great review and to the point. Zionism has nothing whatever to do with any of this subject matter. You should be embarrassed by what you’ve written.

    • Catcher in the Wild
      January 23, 2018 at 16:05

      Tom, I agree that this is just another dimension of the media propaganda but I see that Eugenio,in both his previous review of “Felt” (didn’t anyone else notice the actor/”deep throat’s” resemblance to Mueller?) & now of “The Post”, has over-looked the most important question of all: “WHY NOW?”. My conviction is: to sell the regime change of Trump by means of “Russiagate”…just as “the plutocracy” succeeded in regime-changing Nixon by means of “Watergate”. As a columnist here in a local NH paper, I covered he ’72 primary in which CA Cong. Pete McCloskey (Korean war veteran) was challenging Nixon for the Republican nomination but the real challenger was the strongest Democratic candidate, Maine Senator Ed Muskie, who, the Nixon team saw as the most powerful threat…NOT the Liberal Democrats’ anointed candidate, SD Senator George McGovern, who, in the November general election crashed to defeat after winning only Massachusetts.

      It has been said that history first plays out as tragedy, the 2nd time as farce, so here we are swathed in propaganda/”fake news”, deep into the biggest farce of all. And the parallels are astonishing: in ’72, we had the stronger Democratic presidential candidate, Muskie next door in Maine with a wife named Jane, who was defamed & attacked by the publisher of the most powerful paper in the state, Wm. Loeb of the Manchester Union Leader…just as 2016, we had the stronger Democratic candidate, VT Senator Bernie Sanders, who was continually sabotaged by the DNC & the MSM while his wife, Jane, former president of a Burlington, VT college was also under on-going attack by the MSM. In addition, we had a rising demagogue as presidential candidate, Alabama Gov. George Wallace, taking advantage of the outrage by “ordinary Americans” against the “liberal” Democrats’ (the day’s condescending “coastal elites”) Social Engineering project called “Busing for Integration”…which consequently drove the southern Democrats into the Republican party.

      So on that fateful Sat. morning, Feb. 14 (just 3 weeks before the March 7 NH primary), Muskie’s staff had urged their exhausted candidate who’d been X-crossing the country as he campaigned…sometimes in little prop planes such as the one in which my editor & I interviewed him…to confront & denounce Loeb’s attacks as he stood in front of the Union Leader with the snow falling & melting as it ran down his face. And there, we watched The Washington Post’s lead journalist & columnist, David Broder, attack Muskie for “crying”: leading the feeding frenzy, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, CBS & countless others which succeeded in destroying Muskie’s campaign and electing Nixon. It was only in Feb. 1987 in The Washington Monthly, that David Broder confessed in “The Story That Still Nags at Me”, a slection from his latest book, “Behind the Front Page”…that “we were so eager to show Edmund Muskie’s unstable side that we were used by Richard Nixon”…a curious assessment by this self-proclaimed psychologist, compared to the sociopath we know Nixon to be. In fact this last scene in front of the Union Leader turned out to be one in a long list of “dirty tricks” trumped up Nixon’s staff which included a fake letter claiming that Muskie had defamed his French-Canadian supporters with the ugly ethnic slur, “Canucks”, a letter concocted by “Ken Clawson, a former Post reporter who had gone to work at the White House as deputy director of information”, published on the front page of the Union Leader. But, as Broder notes, this was just one of a long list of incidents going back to mid-1971…”making it clear that Muskie was the victim of systematic sabotage”.

      That was then but now a demagogue, a “loose nuke”, occupies our White House…no thanks to The NYTimes taking our democracy in its hands when their former Executive Editor-turned columnist, Bill Keller who supported the Iraq invasion) basically nominated the plutocracy’s chosen candidate in a nytimes 1/8/12 op-ed, “Just the Ticket”, to serve as Obama’s VP candidate then, of course, succeed him in 2016: the send-off of The Times leading the rest of our mindless media as they campaigned non-stop thereafter to make sure that Lady Hillary Macbeth would be installed as Our First Empress: Hillary, intent on regime-changing and/or assassinating everyone who stood in her way…as seen on YouTube ploclaiming: “We came, we saw, he died! as she laughed and clapped her hands. (So much for “humanitarian intervention” according to Hillary, Susan Rice & Samantha Power. followed by “Assad must go!” after which the American Regime Change Machine broke down in Syria…but not before the European countries had been deluged & destabilized by the desperate refugees. And now we witness a gigantic struggle between the “right” & “left” hands of the plutocracy over who is to maintain & run The American Empire…even at the risk of nuclear war.

      • Xerxes
        January 24, 2018 at 13:33

        Your comparison is compelling, yet, American history shows time and again, to the rest of world, that truth and facts, about itself, are its worst enemy. Indeed, it is no myth that America is the last vestigial outpost of European monarchical hubris and colonial greed. But, Europe has moved on, albeit thru war and depredation, while American history remains hanging ominously around its neck, like a hangman’s noose around the condemned.

        • Catcher in the Wild
          January 28, 2018 at 15:06

          1/28/18 Xerxes, I just found your reply. I wish it were true that “Europe has moved on” but it hasn’t. Rather, under the “NATO NUCLEAR UMBRELLA”, the EU-US version of WESTERN IMPERIALISM continues as usual by war, as well as, by uniquely 21st century means. If you’re Greek, as your name suggests, what do you think the beating-over-the-head of Greek Socialist leaders (who dared rebel against US-EU Hegemony) with “Austerity clubs” to force “reforms” (squeeze more blood out of their people) so as to pay off Greek debt (instigated by such as Goldman Sachs) was all about? PRESERVING DEMOCRACY?
          As I wrote in my 12/16/16 “Guerre Americana” comment to the nytimes (& was censored, as usual). I opened with this quote from their columnist, Roger Cohen 9/14/15: “THE MOST DANGEROUS POINT IN THE ARC OF A NATION’S POWER IS WHEN THE APOGEE OF ITS GREATNESS IS PASSED BUT IT IS NOT YET RESIGNED TO DECLINE.”…then after a brief summary of the history of American Imperialism from the overthrow of Hawaii’s queen in 1893 in behalf of the sugar & pineapple plantations…to the present…I wrote:

          “as we took over from the crumbling Western Empires and the Europeans hitched their little broken down imperialist wagons to the American Hegemonic Tank…as we (“The Coalition of the Willing”) fought to maintain its supply of oil in the Middle East: Iraq, Libya, now Syria (over a pipeline Assad vetoed, according to RFK, jr. in Politico) while steel-walling off our latest “Enemy”, Russia with NATO missiles, warships & “color revolutions” in Ukraine, etc…”

          And I just returned from spending 5 weeks in Italy with my eyes on the EU puppet press, my ears listening to its aristocratic elite (the only EU beneficiary), my feet in its grassroots & perceived that even under EMPEROR NERO… they’re still playing Follow The Leader…& even since HE stood on the DAVOS mountaintop shaking the Nuclear Umbrella, threatening the whole earth & its people with EXTINCTION if they (Russia, China, Iran, N. Korea or anyone else) dare challenge AMERICAN-WESTERN-EUROPEAN-HEGEMONY. No doubt the Davos-Masters-of-the-Universe, together with the rest of their kin across Europe, slept peacefully that night after realizing that all of Their efforts (Russiagate, Media-Mass-Manipulation & the rest) had succeeded…at least for now. Or perhaps why Melania decided not to go to DAVOS?

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