A purloined guest encomium from Roderick Beaman
Ben Bradlee, long time editor of The Washington Post has died & the accolades pour in. Instead, I think of many questions that were never even asked, let alone answered.
He was a longtime friend of John F. Kennedy and toured with both him and Richard Nixon during their 1960 presidential campaign that Kennedy won by the narrowest of popular vote margins. If one voter in either every precinct or every other precinct (I forget which) in the country had switched from Kennedy to Nixon, Nixon would have won.
My unanswered questions are:
1. Why was the public left unaware of Kennedy’s numerous infidelities, especially in Las Vegas where they were so flagrant that he was known as Little Chickie? This was so potentially damaging that Kennedy sent Nixon a thank you note after the election for not bringing out the dirt.
2. Why was the public not made aware that Kennedy had twice been administered the last rites, Extreme Unction, of The Catholic Church? I was born and raised in heavily Catholic New York City, am Catholic, and lived there at the time. It was not even discussed.
3. Why did the media not seize on Robert Kennedy’s patently disingenuous denial of JKK.’s Addison’s Disease with the statement that his brother never had the disease classically described as Addison’s Disease? JFK never had the disease classically described as Addison’s Disease because it was ‘classically described’ as due to tuberculosis which he never had. It was just beginning to become accepted that it was due to things other than TB.
Bradlee had to have known of JFK’s extramarital trysts and if he did not want to investigate & publicize it himself, he owed it to the public to pass the assignment to someone else. The media are supposed to be the blood enemies of the government and politicians to keep us informed.
Just twelve years later, Bradlee would become a hero for his persistence in the Watergate story. If Nixon’s enemies had been like the media was with JFK, he’d never have resigned. As one reporter said, on one anniversary of the assassination, face it, the Kennedys seduced us.
But it was much more than a seduction. It was a reflection of the general deference, with a few exceptions to show some semblance of ‘balance’ that the media give to liberals.
In the late, 60s & early 70s, when conservative groups began trying to chart liberal bias in the media and academe with surveys and other studies, they both began to shout McCarthyism and censorship.
It should also be known that the Nixon Administration’s opposition to the publication of The Pentagon Papers actually protected Kennedy & Johnson more than it did Nixon. So yes, Bradlee and the media deserved praise for it and the Watergate investigation but there is an entire other question that they have never cooperated in answering; in a society where we depend on investigators to ferret out the truth, who investigates the investigators?
Until it is answered, to me Bradlee is just another Democratic media hack along with, Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Dan Rather, etc.
Roderick T. Beaman