Watergate & Benghazi: A Tale of Two Presidencies and the Press
“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” ~ George Washington
The date was June 17, 1972, when a team of burglars was arrested at 2:30 a.m. at the headquarters of the Democrat Party in the Watergate office building in Washington. One of the biggest scandals of America’s history, Watergate is a name that even those of us who were too young to know about it then, know it well now.
The burglars were arrested that long ago June morning, and subsequent arrests and indictments followed. In all, trials and guilty pleas of aides and associates of the President were reported about for months on end by virtually every news outlet in the nation. The rest, as they say, is history. The scandal made Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein two of the most famous names in America, and even 40 years later, their names are synonymous when it comes to investigative journalism.
In the 40 years since Watergate, much has been learned about the Nixon White House. While he often went on rants against the press and antiwar groups, it was his hatred for democrats and liberals which led to his use of wiretaps, surveillance and burglaries, to find anything he could use against democrats running against him. A few days after the break-in, he arranged for hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush money for the burglars, and even came up with a plan to direct the CIA to impede the FBI’s investigation. Seven conspirators were indicted on charges related to the Watergate affair and at the urging of Nixon’s aides, five pleaded guilty and avoided trial and served shorter prison sentences. The press was fierce in their determination to blow the whole story wide open, and see this scandal to the end…
Fast forward to September 11, 2012, where between 9:40 pm local time and 5:25 am, 4 Americans were murdered in Benghazi, Libya. Ambassador Chris Stevens, former Navy SEALs, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, and Foreign Service information management officer, Sean Smith were all killed in an attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi.
Obama made a speech in the Rose Garden at the White House the next morning, to tell the American people, that those who perpetrated the attack would be brought to justice. Then he hopped on Air Force One and proceeded to travel to Las Vegas for a campaign rally.
In fact, Obama was pretty busy in the next few weeks. He made several trips out west, for campaigning and golf games. Obama appeared on the TV show The View. He appeared on The David Letterman Show. He appeared on The Jon Stewart Show where he said the murders of 4 Americans were “not optimal.” He appeared on 60 Minutes where he called 4 dead Americans, “bumps in the road.” And then, less than 2 weeks after 4 Americans were murdered by Islamic terrorists, Obama spoke at the United Nations and declared, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam but to be credible those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated or churches destroyed or the Holocaust that is denied…”
During the next few weeks, Obama, and his administration blamed the attack on a movie no one had heard of, which depicted Islam’s prophet Mohammad in an ill manner. Obama and Secretary of State Clinton even made an apology for a commercial which was broadcast in Pakistan at a cost of over $70,000. The movie meme was echoed throughout the media and internet media sites, all the while the Obama Administration knew that there had been no protests in Benghazi before the attack.
In the weeks following the attack, it came to be known that there were numerous military assets within two hours of Benghazi. It is also known that drones were flying over the compound during the attack, filming it in real time while members of the Obama administration watched. Marines, Special Forces, Naval ships, F-16s, and Spectre Gunships were all close enough to send aid, but they were told to stand down. As of yet, we still don’t know who gave those orders.
Unlike previous events under Obama where he has been quick to take credit, evidence now has been hard to come by on Benghazi because of a tight-lipped administration. It has been reported in the months since that Ambassador Stevens and others in Libya had deep concerns from as far back as June 2012, about terrorist activity, al Qaeda groups and training in the areas close to the city and had repeatedly requested additional security which were all denied. It has been reported from numerous sources that Stevens was in Benghazi to oversee the weapons cache which was left after the downfall of Gaddafi, and that the weapons were being “walked” to Turkey, and into Syria to help arm the rebels fighting against the Abbas regime.
There is so much more to be said, but this brings me to the last point about the press and media. Less than one month after the Benghazi attack, and in the last weeks of the election cycle, Obama’s news coverage in the mainstream media was largely positive. 4 dead Americans seemed to matter as little to media outlets as they meant to the Obama administration.
Do we have the same investigative reporting spirit these days as we had back during the Watergate Scandal? The answer is clearly no, at least not when it comes to Obama. But what are the reasons for the ways media now ‘reports’ news?
One reason is that many of the mainstream TV news outlets are liberal and registered Democrats, run by corporations which lean heavily towards the left. In a story about campaign donations, Huffington Post, found that yes; donations to Democrats were higher than donations to Republican candidates. They based their article on findings by OpenSecrets.Org and reported “contributions made by large media conglomerates (which are comprised of the company’s’ PACs and employees who list the media companies as their respective employers) overwhelmingly went to Democratic entities, including President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.”
NBC online also did a survey of donors among journalists, news anchors and other media people and reading their article, one has to look closely to find many Republican donors.
There are also interesting relationships between the press and Obama. Some folks who watched the Presidential debates may not be aware, but Martha Raddatz, Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent for ABC News, who was one of the debate moderators was married to Julius Genachowski who along with Obama, worked on the Harvard Law Review and was later appointed by Obama as chair of the Federal Communications Commission. Obama was even invited to their wedding.
George Stephanopoulos, who is also at ABC News, was part of a small group, which included Obama, at Harvard University that met for a period between 1997 and 2000 to promote involvement with U.S. community institutions. Stephanopoulos who was White House Communications Director, then Senior Advisor for Policy and Strategy under Bill Clinton, has since been granted quite a few exclusive interviews with Obama. Another ABC connection, Matthew Jaffe, a reporter for ABC News and Univision who covered the GOP primary, married a member of Obama’s press team. Jaffe married Katie Hogan, the president’s deputy press secretary, and were based in Chicago, home of Obama’s re-election campaign headquarters.
Obama’s Ambassador to the UN during the Benghazi attacks, Susan Rice, who was also a cabinet member of his national security team is the wife of Ian Cameron, who at the time of Rice’s appointment, was executive producer of ABC’s ”This Week with George Stephanopoulos“.
Lastly, Jeffery Immelt, who took over General Electric in 2001, was appointed to head Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Interestingly GE was the owner of NBC Universal, which is NBC News, along with MSNBC.
It’s also interesting how many media outlets are owned by the same major corporations. For instance, Comcast Corporation now primarily owns NBC, which is the majority owner of NBC Universal with a 51% interest. GE holds a 49% interest. They own many other media outlets as well.
CBS National Amusements has controlling interests in CBS and Viacom. The Walt Disney Company owns ABC and other entertainment and media corporations. Time/Warner owns CNN and other print and internet media.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “The press is the best instrument for enlightening the mind of man, and improving him as a rational, moral and social being”
But then again, Vladimir Lenin quipped, “The press should be not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, but also a collective organizer of the masses”
Is there unbiased reporting and accuracy in the press? You decide. Many in the media today no longer just report on news, they give commentary on it, injecting it with opinions and personal ideologies. Many have ties with Obama or members of his administration. Is it any wonder why there has been virtually no reporting of the truth of what happened in Benghazi, compared to the media storm that surrounded the Watergate Scandal? Yes, both events show corruption and a complete disregard to the laws and our Constitution, but in Watergate, where men lost their jobs, some sent to prison and a president who resigned in disgrace–no one died.