The Post movie tries to make the Pentagon papers about Nixon and not the liberal Kennedy and Johnson administrations

George Neumeyer:
From Hollywood comes a steady stream of movies casting powerful liberals as embattled and marginalized conservatives as menacing. Hollywood’s latest tribute to a hopelessly entitled press, The Post, is in that vein. Meryl Streep plays an astonishingly brave and nervy Katharine Graham, willing to risk her fortune and even her freedom to publish the Pentagon Papers in the Washington Post. It is a feel-good film for the kind of press liberals who consider Trump’s mere tweets a singular and monstrous threat to their freedom.

The film borrows from the Nixon tapes to make it seem like his impotent ravings imperiled her paper. But most of those rantings don’t even pertain to the Pentagon Papers, and in the one tape that does Nixon sounds remarkably blasé. If director Steven Spielberg had included the whole conversation with Al Haig in the movie, viewers would have heard the two agreeing that the disclosure of the Pentagon Papers primarily threatened to tarnish the legacy of the Kennedy administration.

Nixon, after all, ended the war that Post editor Ben Bradlee’s close chum JFK started. Yet to most casual viewers, Nixon will appear as the president who had the most to hide. The subtext of the film, of course, is that Trump stands as the new Nixon. According to press reports, Meryl Streep and Spielberg squeezed into their visit to Washington, D.C. (for the premiere) a dinner with the Obamas, and Tom Hanks has stoutly rejected a hypothetical question from a reporter about a screening at the White House. Trump, we’re supposed to take from this posturing, is a unique threat to the press.

But what has he done to it again? Nothing, save criticize it. Has he wiretapped any reporters? No, the dinner mate of Streep and Spielberg did that. Obama’s uber-progressive attorney general Eric Holder had Fox News reporter James Rosen investigated for talking to a State Department official. Rosen was labeled a “criminal co-conspirator” under the Espionage Act, a law that liberals, as we’ve seen from the Mueller investigation and the Flynn entrapment, like to use against conservatives but otherwise treat as antiquated and absurd.

In The Post, the Nixon administration’s invoking of that law is presented as self-serving and tyrannical. But these days the admirers of Daniel Ellsberg and his media conduits rejoice at its partisan applications. In power, liberals love wiretappings, entrapments, and quarantining undesirable press (Obama wanted Fox News excluded from press briefings); out of power, all of that suddenly becomes evidence of a government run amok.
There is more.

Having read the Pentagon Papers and they do tarnish the image of both Kennedy and Johnson.  They managed to screw up a winnable war by micromanaging it and pretending that it was an indigenous revelation rather than a clandestine invasion from North Vietnam.  What the Post and Elseberg were trying to do was discredit the way Nixon was fighting the war, but the Pentagon Papers had nothing to do with Nixon's war effort.


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