My dormant newspaper juices were already simmering toward a rolling boil over the lousy national reportage – well, the lack thereof – on a story that I thought needed some attention when an even more egregious case of journalistic neglect turned up the flame. Anyone wondering what the destruction of the fourth estate means to public discourse can find the evidence here.
On the night of March 2, I was perusing the on-line edition of El Punt Avui, a newspaper from Barcelona. I had started reading The Point Today in order to keep up with local musicians. I quickly became a sympathizer with the Catalan independence movement. And it has a collection of astute columnists, too.
Since Barcelona is six hours ahead of us, the new editions are posted around eight or nine o’clock our time the night before. It was the Friday paper with a Thursday story – and it was still Thursday in the USA.
The headline reported two armed gunmen had been arrested Thursday morning near the U.S. Capitol. At a time when an ex-president is still calling for the violent overthrow of our government, the story caught my eye. I checked it out.
U.S. Capitol Police officers, investigating a stolen car about two blocks from the Capitol, found two guys from Maryland, one of whom had a M4 “ghost gun” (order the parts and put it together) capable of firing from 700-950 rounds per minute. The other one had a Glock handgun with a fully automatic switch.
El Punt Avui even included a USCP social media posting announcing the arrests.
I immediately checked my standard news sites to get additional info. These are the places I check all day and night to find ammo for my columns. Neutral news sites such as ABC News, CBS News, CNN, NPR and The Associated Press. I moved to news sites that report on issues of interest to liberals: Huffington Post and Common Dreams. I even expanded my search to purely political sites.
Nada, nothing zilch.
And the silence on this subject continued through the weekend and into the next week. In fact, two-and-a-half weeks later, a Google search produced only one result of what might have been the thwarting of a full-scale assault on our republic. WUSA, a D.C. TV station, reported on the story the next day.
Among a litany of charges, the men were charged with resisting arrest (one of them ran), unlawful possession of a machine gun and possession of a large capacity ammunition feeding device.
Granted, I was only a small-town newsman, but averting a machine gun assault on the Capitol – and those inside it – strikes me as more important than who might get invited to the coronation of a redundant foreign monarch, the latest, in-depth details involving the trial of a hick lawyer in South Carolina and, for the morning shows, continuing advertorial pushes to get us to spend money on things we don’t need.
And, while I do enjoy some celebrity gossip, those tidbits still fall far short of a potential assault on the government.
So, I was still seething two weeks later when I ran across a story carried by Daily Kos – one of those aforementioned political sites – that confirmed what most rational people have assumed for the past 42 years: Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign sabotaged the efforts of President Jimmy Carter to free the 52 Americans held hostage after Iranians overran our Tehran embassy.
For its Sunday, March 19th edition, The New York Times published an interview with former Texas political golden boy Ben Barnes detailing how he and former Texas Gov. John Connally, a one-time Democrat turned Republican, sent backdoor messages to Iran that it would get a better deal if Reagan won the 1980 election.
Since Sunday editions hit the streets on Saturdays, Daily Kos reported the story March 18th. Yet, as I write this four days later, the national news organizations have yet to report how Republican Saint Ronald Reagan used 52 continually abused American citizens as pawns for political purposes.
A few other outlets picked it up, including the Times’ rival New York Post a few days later. But, the national media is still ignoring the fact that Jimmy Carter’s “ineffectiveness” had the help of Reagan operatives illegally negotiating with foreign powers to smear him. (Carter was also hamstrung by Democratic senators protecting their special interests, but that is another story.)
Barnes was the rising star of Texas politics in the late sixties and early seventies: youngest Speaker of the House ever, two-term Lt. Governor. And the supposed shoe-in winner of the 1974 race for governor.
But, his call for a tax on groceries earned him Sissy Farenthold’s dubbing as “Bread Tax Ben,” and his political career went down in flames. Farenthold lost in the runoff to eventual governor Dolph Briscoe, her “bowl of pablum from Uvalde.”
Now 84, Barnes told The Times:
“History needs to know that this happened. I think it’s so significant and I guess knowing that the end is near for President Carter put it on my mind more and more and more. I just feel like we’ve got to get it down some way.”
The Times also reported that government flight logs show Barnes accompanying Connally on a July,1980, trip from Houston to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
At each stop, the message was the same: tell the Iranians to keep holding the hostages. Reagan will reward you.
Mark Sumner of Daily Kos points out the obvious:
” Completely ignored in this strategy was that every day of captivity put the lives and health of the hostages in Iran at risk. In addition, the military planned and attempted to execute a rescue operation in which eight U.S. service members died and another four were injured. Prolonging the crisis created a risk every day to the lives of those in Iran, and to members of the U.S. military. It also created ongoing harm to U.S. standing abroad and to national security in general.”
At the time, most of us suspected the Elder Bush was the saboteur. I guess we now know why that evidence was never found.
Sumner makes another obvious observation:
“Ronald Reagan would go on to eight years of deceiving the public, destroying the nation’s infrastructure, and promoting a racist, misogynist, anti-gay agenda that would metastasize into the modern Republican Party. And he got there just the way most people always suspected he did.”
And yet a story explaining the birth of American fascism toward its mainstream status today somehow cannot gain traction with the national media.
(Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)