If I had any question that Bob Woodward had turned in his Watergate sneakers for pinstripes and the moniker “Sold Out Bob,” I don’t have them anymore after reading his pathetic, excuse-laden screed in the Wash Post which included the fact that he submitted questions for VP Cheney for pre-screening by “Scooter” Libby. And here I was thinking that pre-screened questions were exclusive to celebrity profiles.
Back in April, 2004, The Army Public Affairs Officer in Kabul expelled me from being embedded with any Army units in Afghanistan after I refused to hand over a list of “questions, talking points and areas of interest” before I interviewed any soldiers at the base in Kandahar. I also refused to have an “escort” accompany me everywhere I went — in my case, an Air Force Major — a rule that was in force for all “embedded” reporters at that time.
I was put on the next flight back to Kabul, and the next day at the gate of a military compound, my military press credentials were siezed, and I was not permitted to attend the press briefing, where I intended to ask who was setting the press rules in Afghanistan.
To put things in context, while I was in Iraq in Nov-Dec, 2003, I had no military escort of any kind while I was a “roving embed” with the 101st Abn Div. I hopped flights and convoys and showed up in units at will, unannounced, and was never required to submit any sorts of “questions, talking points, and areas of interest” in advance of interviews.
Question: Does anyone have any idea what a “talking point” is, in the context of doing your job reporting a story? Anybody ever come up with any “talking points” of your own, before you went somewhere to interview somebody who was loaded down with them?
One more question: Why would any reporter agree to submit questions to be pre-screened in advance of interviewing someone like the Vice President of the United States…especially this Vice President of the United States?
For those of you unfamiliar with him be advised that Lucian is a great journalist and a pivotal figure in American history. The great grandson of Thomas Jefferson he was instrumental in getting the “legal” family to recognize the descendants of Sally Hemmings — and thus make a very large step towards reconciling black and white America.
Lucian went to West Point (ask him about Alexander Haig. Go ahead — I double-dog dare you!) and lived to write about it in a novel called Dress Gray (turned into an Alec Baldwin-starred TV movie scripted by Gore Vidal )
Lucian wrote extensively for The Village Voice (back when that weekly newspaper had a soul). In 69 when what started out as a minor disturbance at the Stonewall Inn, a Mafia-run gay speakeasy just a few doors down the street from the Voice offices turned into a full-scale “riot,” Lucian covered it for the paper.
When I wrote my anti-unnamed sourcing piece Lucian had sveral tart observations to make about Booby Woodward — a cheap whore masquerading as a serious newspaperman.
Lucian is the serious newspaperman. So serious that (as noted above) the only thing the U.S. Army could do was throw him out of Kabul.
Real journalism is, as always, a threat to the power structure. It will do everything in its power to render it mute.
But Lucian will not be silenced.
His great grandfather wouldn’t allow it.