Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Secret hearings? Where's the press?

From all the crowing journalists do about busting the occasional secret meetings of their school boards, city zoning organizations or county commissions, you’d think they’d be going full-on Watergate-Iran/Contra-Colonel Sanders’- secret-recipe-hair-on-fire about the closed-door impeachment hearings being held by Democrats in the U.S. Congress.
But oddly, not a peep. 
There’s been a v-e-r-y rare  silence from Jim Acosta; Wolf Blitzer must be tied up watching re-runs of the first night of the bombing of Baghdad in the first Gulf War; George Stephanopoulos is apparently busy buying himself another vowel.
No, us righteous wranglers of the Fourth Estate, otherwise so bent on going to extremes to protect the people’s right to know, are standing mute these past weeks about the historic abuse of power by Democrats who control the U.S. Congress. Even among a national press corps so demonstrably biased as the American mainstream media has been since the election of President Donald Trump, one would think the conduct of secret hearings to impeach a sitting U.S. president would raise just a thimble full of anxiety from journalists typically so aghast at governmental secrecy.
After all, these Star Chamber-style hearings of subpoenaed witnesses, conducted by Democrats in the House Intelligence Committee specifically so they can be done in secret (the HIC typically hears information on issues of national security), provide perfect fodder for accusations of abuse of power. Before Donald Trump became president, that used to be one of conventional journalism’s favorite and most justified targets.
         In the grand old days of impeachment hearings aimed at Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, a vote in the House declared the body’s intent to formally launch an impeachment effort and those proceedings were held publicly in the House Judiciary Committee. House speaker Nancy Pelosi announced in an unprecedented move that there will be no House vote, providing cover to Democrat congressmen concerned about their prospects for re-election in 2020, so they can remain off the radar of constituents. The move toward secrecy and away from public scrutiny also further silences House Republicans who would be allowed to debate the issues in public. Because Pelosi and Democrats control the House, Republicans aren’t even allowed to subpoena witnesses in the secret hearings.
         Imagine for a minute if the investigation into the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., had been conducted by a secret panel. What if members of congress closed the door on testimony by Big Tobacco executives back in the 1990s, or on Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings? Would the American press corps have mustered up an editorial opinion if those proceedings had been covered up and kept from public view?
         No matter your opinion of Donald Trump, when a handful of congressmen have the power to attempt to threaten a legally elected president with impeachment and keep the record, testimony and witnesses secret from the American public – that ought to scare the hell out of you….unless you’re Joseph Stalin.
         But then again all the floodlights from the past three years have been shining this direction since Trump’s election win in November 2016. Democrats swore to impeach him before he even took office and have made numerous attempts with the help of a complicit mainstream media – Stormy Daniels, The Russians, Comey-gate, Mueller-gate, The Wall, Travel Ban just to name a few. Each week brings a new attack, and the mainstream press has never tired of its role as ally and collaborator, regardless of the number of failed attempts made.
         Perhaps there’s an opinion to be rendered about a party bent on nothing short of a coup of a sitting, legally-elected American president? It’s another perspective the American press is entitled to ignore, and there’s no secret about that.
-Dane Hicks is publisher of The Anderson County Review in Garnett, Kan.