There’s a reason the words “full display” in the headline are italicized: They’re used sarcastically because in reality there’s an information blackout in the Defense Department.
Consider this: There have been only two on-camera press briefings at the Pentagon in the last year – both conducted by entertainers. No, this isn’t fake news, as President Donald Trump would undoubtedly suggest.
On Thursday, Gene Simmons, frontman for the iconic rock band KISS, stood at the lectern to talk about his meetings with Defense personnel and outreach officials, according to CNN.
Simmons’ visit is part of a Pentagon initiative to engage the broader public with regard to military activities, CNN reported. The world famous rocker also visited the White House later in the day.
The only other time over the past year reporters covering the Pentagon gathered in the briefing room was in October. That’s when movie star Gerard Butler showed up to promote a new movie.
President Trump has made no secret of his disdain for the mainstream press, but treating experienced, serious journalists covering the Pentagon with such a dismissive attitude is unacceptable.
SHROUD OF SECRECY
Why does it matter that officials at the Defense Department, led by Acting Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan, have wrapped themselves in a shroud of secrecy?
For the troubling reason that the winds of war are gaining strength over the Middle East with the United States and Iran rattling their sabers.
What is disconcerting is that neither the White House nor the Pentagon has explained to the American people why this country is involved in a military buildup in the vicinity of Iran.
The silence from the Defense Department is cause for deep concern.
The Vindicator’s retired Editorial Page Editor Dennis Mangan alerted us to the CNN story, and after a careful reading we concluded that congressional hearings on the Pentagon’s lack of transparency must be held sooner rather than later.
President Trump obviously believes that accusing the mainstream press with generating fake news has obviously struck a chord with his supporters.
But when the occupant of the White House puts lives of America’s fighting men and women in harm’s way on a whim, all thoughtful, fair-minded citizens must demand full disclosure.
But it isn’t just the Pentagon that has refused to embrace the underpinning of democratic government: freedom of the press.
According to CNN, the last time reporters were briefed on camera in the Defense Department was on May 31, 2018.
DROUGHT AT WHITE HOUSE
The White House press briefing, meanwhile, is in the midst of an unprecedented drought. Almost 70 days have passed since White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders met in a formal setting with reporters.
“The White House hasn’t held a press briefing in so long that the lectern in the briefing room is quite literally gathering dust,” CNN White House reporter Maegan Vazquez tweeted Wednesday, posting a photo of the particles that had collected on the lectern.
Ever since Trump was elected, aides made it clear that changes were coming to the daily press briefing, initially experimenting with a ban on cameras, CNN reported.
But two years into Trump’s presidency, the modifications to the format have given way to what in some places in D.C. looks like the tradition’s virtual extinction.
But while the White House has taken a cavalier attitude toward the press and sees nothing wrong in refusing to provide details about the crisis in the Middle East, President Trump upped the ante Sunday.
Here’s what he tweeted: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again.”
How has Iran threatened the U.S.? The White House didn’t say.
The administration has deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and its strike group to the region. It also has sent three destroyers, the USS Bainbridge, the USS Mason and the USS Nitze, as well as the guided-missile cruiser the USS Leyte Gulf and a Spanish frigate, the ESPS Mendez Nunez.
Separately, B-52s from the 20th Bomb Squadron of Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana are in Qatar and elsewhere in “southwest Asia” – possibly the United Arab Emirates .
The Pentagon also returned a Patriot missile battery to the wider Mideast, as well as sent the USS Arlington, an amphibious warship carrying U.S. Marines. The USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship carrying Marines and warplanes, left the Persian Gulf recently for the Arabian Sea.
Here’s the bottom line: The president of the United States, who seems to have no qualms about putting the lives of America’s fighting men and women in danger, must stop playing games with the press.