Why Journalism And Anonymous Sources Matter, Supreme Court’s Draft On Roe V. Wade Makes Point

We are told by some partisans that news sources are to be distrusted, reporters are not integral to democracy, and that there are even ‘alternative facts’.

Late Monday evening, all those lines fell faster than Russians on the Ukraine battlefield.

It was reported by Politico the Supreme Court has voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, according to an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito.

The ramifications of this story are enormous. Not only for health care rights for women, but also for privacy being understood, for decades, as an unenumerated right. Privacy has been a foundation for several large court decisions from the right to use contraception, to engage in private consensual sexual activity, and to marry someone of the same sex.

Make no mistake about how the legal weight of this abortion ruling could move the court going forward.

While all these issues and many more will be debated at length starting with Tuesday morning coffee in homes around the nation, I wish to give credit to the journalism profession, and specifically two reporters.

Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward.

We all should be proud of how they did their job with this story.

It needs to be noted that these journalists not only reported the story but also gave the full rounded coverage by writing that “it’s unclear if there have been subsequent changes to the draft” since February. They were not aiming for going beyond the fact the draft is a product from February.

They also fully grasped the gravity of the story surely being one of the newsroom’s biggest scoops and surely the biggest headline of their lives. They wrote that “No draft decision in the modern history of the court has been disclosed publicly while a case was still pending.”

The news about the court draft was able to be reported by the reporters due to the role of an anonymous source. It is these sources who are vital to a fuller understanding of what our government does and journalists are doing their job by then reporting on the information once it is firmly understood to have validity.

I understand that most people are not sitting around their living rooms contemplating anonymous sources. I can imagine how conservative media will be apoplectic today and feverishly disdainful of this news story, and how it was obtained.

To those who do not understand the role of anonymous sources, I have one name to add to this post.

Mark Felt.

It is absolutely true to say that had Felt not been an anonymous source there very well would not have been a Watergate story as we have come to know. It was “Deep Throat’ who alerted Bob Woodward in those parking garage conversations that presidential abuse was running rampant in the Nixon White House.

The pursuit of news, facts…the truth… is what reporters do. And anonymous sources are very much a way to allow the public to know what their government is doing.

And so it goes.

Nation Needs A Panda Moment

From mass shootings to debates about mask mandates there has been little to truly smile about in the headlines. But then I read something that did that very thing for me. The smile simply needs to be shared.

President Richard Nixon will always be remembered for the opening to China, an enormous international relations success that truly changed the world. One of the offshoots of that policy move was when First Lady Pat Nixon made what she surely thought was a light-hearted conversation.

She was sitting beside Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai at a banquet in Beijing. As dinner began, she noticed at her place a small tin of Chinese cigarettes bearing the logo of two giant pandas.

“Aren’t they cute?” she said as she picked up the tin. “I love them.”

Zhou replied: “I’ll give you some.”

“Cigarettes?” she asked.

“No,” Zhou said. “Pandas.”

Thus began, on Feb. 21, 1972, what would become the 50-year love affair between Washington and the giant panda.

Giant pandas Mei Xiang, left and her cub Xiao Qi Ji eat a fruitsicle cake in celebration of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The “cake” was made from frozen fruit juice, sweet potatoes, carrots and sugar cane and it lasted about 15 minutes once giant panda mama Mei Xiang and her cub Xiao Qi Ji got hold of it.

The National Zoo’s most famous tenants had an enthusiastic breakfast Saturday in front of adoring crowds as the zoo celebrated 50 years of its iconic panda exchange agreement with the Chinese government.

Xiao Qi Ji’s father Tian Tian largely sat out the morning festivities, munching bamboo in a neighboring enclosure with the sounds of his chomping clearly audible during a statement by Chinese ambassador Qin Gang. The ambassador praised the bears as “a symbol of the friendship” between the nations.

Pandas are almost entirely solitary by nature, and in the wild Tian Tian would probably never even meet his child. He received a similar cake for lunch.

With the absolutely dreadful news coming from Ukraine due to Russian aggression and savagery there must be moments of uplift and tranquility. The amazing and beautiful panda bears have supplied not only diplomatic purposes but also smiles at the times we need them most.

Like now.

And so it goes.

‘Don’t Say Gay’ Law: Laura Ingraham Sounds Like Frank Shakespeare From 1968 Nixon Campaign

It continually amuses me, on the one hand, how Republicans champion free enterprise, applauds the entrepreneurial spirit, and advocate for fewer regulations on capitalism, but then on the other hand bore down like bullies when a company exerts its opinions.

The latest example of this odd duality can be seen and heard on FOX News regarding Disney and the culture war designed by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to propel his name among the base of the Republican Party.

The issue, is, of course, the Parental Rights in Education law, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law. Taking effect July 1, the law prohibits all classroom discussion of sexual orientation in grades K-3 and enables parents to sue teachers over the issue.

Talk about a slap to the gay and transgender population in Flordia in the 21st century.

In response, Robert Iger, the former CEO of Disney, spoke out on the issue and made it most clear that this is simply about “right and wrong.” Earlier he had not minced words when writing that this law would “put vulnerable, young LGBTQ people in jeopardy.”

Fox News, it will not surprise anyone, has claimed Disney is ‘grooming’ and ‘sexualizing children’ in order to push a ‘progressive LGBT agenda.’

Recall many years ago the joke that one received a toaster oven for each new gay recruit! I believe that humor started on the Ellen television show. As such, I can see the semi loads of those kitchen gadgets arriving in the theme park as I write.

The fuming from conservatives, however, reached the lowest depths on that network when there came a warning from Laura Ingraham, the easily irritated scold.

“When Republicans get back into power, Apple and Disney have to understand one thing: Everything will be on the table, your copyright/trademark protection, your special status in certain states, and even your corporate structure itself.”

Well, that sure is a grand definition of the Republican Party heading into the mid-terms. A band of vendetta-crazed legislators who really are not interested in the freedom for businesses to conduct their own affairs, or lower regulations upon them.

‘Do my bidding or else’!

This leads me to the dark example from the 1968 presidential election when Frank Shakespeare, a prime mover and shaper of the image of Richard Nixon, who after 18 years at CBS, had most troubling thoughts, too. From The $elling Of The President by Joe McGinniss, page 60.

McGinniss at the time was a 26-year-old former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter who functioned as part of the Nixon campaign team. What he witnessed in that campaign and the strategy for winning national support was illuminating at the time his book was published.

How Nixon was so able to attract people into his orbit with open desires for abusing power is a topic for another post.

For now, the continuing attempt by the right to make gay people dangerous or somehow apart from morality is stunning, given the number of gay people in conservative families. In 2021 it would be laughable, if it were not so appalling, to know that Desantis and Fox think that children are somehow ‘groomed’ into sexual identity. That is patently absurd.

I know it takes time for everyone in society to operate from the same page. From women wearing pants, no restrictions on where to sit on a bus, or what gender one can marry, one thing is abundantly clear.

Arcing towards greater tolerance is the correct path to be taking.

Disney is correct on that score.

And so it goes.

Donald Trump Phone Log Gap Requires A Modern “Rose Mary Stretch”

When it comes to the seditious and treasonous activity encouraged and undertaken by Donald Trump following the 2020 election it needs to be stated, much akin to the actions of the cover-up by President Richard Nixon and his White House following the famed Watergate break-in, that there is no place to hide from the light of day.

The news today showing internal White House records from the horrific day of the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters has a stupifying gap in Trump’s phone logs of seven hours and 37 minutes!

Poor Rose Mary Woods, the thicker than thieves friend and secretary to Nixon fell on the political and legal sword, taking the blame for the missing 18-minutes of a most vital, and quite obviously highly-incriminating, Oval Office tape recording. She even performed a most illogical and embarrassing ‘re-creation’ of how the erasure occurred.

Nixon historians have long understood that Woods had intimate knowledge about the Watergate scandal. But now Trump, in light of the criminal activity that continues to unfold surrounding the insurrection of January 6, 2021, needs a modern version of the “Rose Mary Stretch.”

The crux of the latest stab at the heart of democracy is the lack of an official White House notation of any phone calls placed to or by Trump for 457 minutes, from 11:17 A.M. to 6:54 P.M. on the day his autocratic plans were put into practice. It goes without saying the audacity of destroying or hiding records plays counter to the facts which are demonstrated by broad-based reporting about phone conversations Trump had with allies during the attack

In March 2016 Bob Woodward gave a presentation about Watergate. He made a statement that reflected well on the national nightmare that was all the assorted crimes and criminal spokes of the wheel that we call Watergate.

“It has been said that Watergate was a ‘lust for political power.’  True, but it was much more—a broader, organized, well-funded, mean-spirited, criminal, secret assault on democracy.

I know that same statement can lean forward in history and also sum up Donald Trump and his brazen attack on democracy.

Who can now be found to explain–akin to Rose Mary Woods-why over 7 hours of phone logs simply disappeared?

And so it goes.

Something Lighter: Comedy With Piano At White House As A President Plays

The headlines, images, and news articles are tougher to read each day due to Russian aggression in Ukraine. Therefore, I place this post on Caffeinated Politics that is truly funny, historic, and just uplifting…at a time we all need that feeling so very much. The video was recorded on this day in history at the White House.

This made me smile, laugh. Trust you have that same reaction. I know readers need the same uplift today, too.

Dear Amazon…Another Watergate Book Delivery, Please

Just when you thought there was not another Watergate book to read comes, well, one more that is gaining great reviews. As with this New York Times review written by the much-respected Douglas Brinkley.

As a Nixon history buff, this topic still resonates and fascinates me.

“While Nixon’s predecessor, Lyndon Johnson, thrived amid disorder, Nixon maintained a clean desk and kept his circle of advisers small. “Just one dinky little phone to keep in touch with his people,” a flabbergasted Johnson scoffed after dining with Nixon. “That’s all — just three buttons and they all go to Germans!” — those being the chief of staff, Haldeman; the domestic policy chief, John Ehrlichman; and the national security adviser, Henry Kissinger. Reporters variously referred to this team as the German Shepherds, the Berlin Wall, the Fourth Reich and “the King’s Krauts.”

With granular detail, Graff writes about the white-collar criminals, hatchet men and rogues who populated the outer circles of Nixon’s covert operations. The deputy campaign manager, Jeb Magruder, arguably comes off the worst, “an empty vessel of a man, all too ready to fulfill others’ ambitions, taskings and visions.” Though competent enough to help devise Nixon’s winning 1972 re-election slogan, “Now More Than Ever,” he displayed a carelessness that saw him nonchalantly introducing Liddy to Washington reporters as CREEP’s “man in charge of dirty tricks.” This caused Liddy to beg the White House counsel, John Dean, to fire the preppy loudmouth. “Magruder’s an asshole, John,” Liddy pleaded, “and he’s going to blow my cover.” Magruder stayed on, then flipped to federal prosecutors in exchange for reduced charges.

The heroes of “Watergate” are predictable: Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post. Charting their trajectory from the arraignment of the Watergate burglars on June 17, 1972, until Vanity Fair revealed the identity of Deep Throat in 2005, Graff celebrates their tenacity while also documenting dramatic embellishments in their best-selling memoir “All the President’s Men.”

Watergate studies can be a rabbit hole of hard-to-decipher tapes and half-baked theories. As a former Politico Magazine editor, Graff chafes at hunches and internet misinformation. Therefore, it’s notable that he suggests the C.I.A. might have set up the voice-activated system that sank Nixon’s ship. The mysterious figure of Alexander Butterfield looms large in this regard. According to Graff, Rose Mary Woods, Nixon’s secretary, believed that Butterfield, who installed the White House taping system, was a C.I.A. operative. “I have to agree,” Haldeman is quoted as saying. “She may have a point.”

Happy Birthday Richard Nixon: What A Journey It Has Been

At the age of ten, I sat in the backseat of our family car as we drove to a  nighttime hair appointment for my mom in Plainfield, Wisconsin. My father had the car radio on, its soft glow radiating from the front dashboard. It was election night 1972. Perhaps I was somehow primed for that night due to my rural upbringing, having grandparents for neighbors, the family choice of not having a television in our home, and already loving books. Whatever had preceded that night surely made me more receptive to what I heard and sensed from the radio.

I still recall the authoritative voices of the news announcers, and the crowd noise from election night gatherings as Richard  Nixon’s name was repeated over and over. And I recall my father telling me it was election night, and that Nixon would be elected president.

Countless times over the decades of my life I have thought back to that night, and how Richard Nixon would come to mean a great deal to how my interests were formed.

As I grew into my teen years my fascination with politics, news, broadcasting, and journalism only grew.  As I think back over those years growing up in Hancock I recall the news accounts of  Watergate, the speeches by Nixon, and the final goodbye from the White  House as he talked to White House staff and aides.  

I recall the China trip, and how I would take out a large atlas book kept in the dining groom to follow the journey at the end of the school day. With the Stevens Point Journal spread out on the linoleum floor I located the maps and locations where Nixon had talks and visited sights.

By the time we had a  television in our home in the summer of 1976, I was a captive to the national party conventions. I found them most interesting and followed with enthusiasm the election of Jimmy Carter. In my high school years, I found myself debating issues with classmates while relishing taking history courses along with electives such as comparative political systems to further broaden my thinking and interests.  My most important teacher, and a real aid to my future, Mrs. Glad, continually stoked my interests and urged me to read more and think outside the traditional parameters.  Too few students have someone so remarkable to teach them when it matters.

Following high school, I entered broadcasting school and worked at a radio station in Door County before heeding my internal calling to enter into the political world.  I worked in the Wisconsin State Legislature as an Administrative Assistant and Committee Clerk and became involved in various campaigns and causes.

I mention all this on the 109th birthday of Richard Nixon because in large part my interests, but especially foreign policy and international relations, that were reported on a daily basis in my formative years by our daily newspaper, involved him. He lit a fire of interest within me to follow the news, read the paper (which I did each day while lying on our family couch following school classes), and better understand the rough and tumble of politics.

Much has been written and said over the decades about RN, and I too have difficulty with certain aspects of his campaigns and presidency. But I can honestly say I truly appreciate the better qualities that he possessed and helped instill in me. Read broadly and ponder how it all fits together is a great lesson to have taught a kid in rural Waushara County.

That is a pretty grand thing to be able to say about anyone.

When I was a teenager while growing up in Hancock it was Richard Nixon who showed me the excitement and importance of politics–what a journey it has been and remains every day.

And so it goes.

Trump Supporters Forget About Nixon Needing To Be Protected From Himself, Too

Without a doubt, Donald Trump was the most unstable, mentally unhinged, and dangerous individual to ever sit in the Oval Office.

There was, however, one other president who also faced a most unsettling ending to his time in office which also provoked dread and uncertainty in the defense establishment of this nation.

Many readers know my fascination and deep interest regarding the life and times of Richard Nixon. During the final days of Nixon’s presidency, the defense establishment was concerned about his stability. They could not make a solid prediction that he would not do something reckless.

Donald Trump was even more prone to outrageous behavior, and that can be demonstrated based on his temperament and actions since Inauguration Day 2017. What led up to the November elections, and certainly what followed with the most bizarre and outrageous behavior we have seen from any person in the White House. It was pure lunacy on parade.

Martha Mitchell looks calm and well-balanced in comparison.

This past week we learned that Bob Woodward and Robert Costa reported in a new book that Gen. Mark Milley reached out to China in the waning days of the Trump administration, attempting to reduce tensions by assuring China that no American attack was imminent, and asking that China not do anything without consulting the U.S. military leadership.

We know that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Milley that she worried about Trump’s access to the nuclear codes and that he was “crazy.”

To which Milley replied, “I agree with you on everything.”

For the past few days the Fox News crowd has created their own rhetorical storm, but it lacks substance and foundation. Trump was so troubling that our republic was potentially in danger. A majority of the nation understood that on Election Day. Milley knew it too, and aided the nation when it was required.

For that he is an American I am proud of for caring for the nation above all else. There are not many one can say the same about.

Trump supporters would do well to read some history on this larger issue. They need to understand that mature individuals will always come to the defense of the greater good of the nation, and they did in 1974.

Moreover, Defense Secretary James Schlesinger recalled years later that in the final days of the Nixon presidency he had issued an unprecedented set of orders: If the president gave any nuclear launch order, military commanders should check with either him or Secretary of State Henry Kissinger before executing them. Schlesinger feared that the president, who seemed depressed and was drinking heavily, might order Armageddon. Nixon himself had stoked official fears during a meeting with congressmen during which he reportedly said, “I can go in my office and pick up a telephone, and in 25 minutes, millions of people will be dead.” Senator Alan Cranston had phoned Schlesinger, warning about “the need for keeping a berserk president from plunging us into a holocaust.”