Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Importance of Coming Clean


Two news stories which, but for the choices of the Bush Administration, wouldn't be in the news....
  • Dick Cheney shoots his friend. Why is it still a story? Because Mr. Cheney didn't immediately issue a statement about what happened, ideally with some of the remorse he expressed several days later during his interview on Fox News.

  • New Abu Ghraib Pictures. Whether you think they're "more of the same" or even more shocking than the first batch, the Bush Administration's effort to squelch these pictures has led to them coming out in dribs and drabs (with a possible torrent soon to come from Salon).
In the former case, it's hard to tell what Mr. Cheney was thinking - this was obviously going to be a headline story which, if managed improperly, could drag on for days or weeks. Yet it is almost as if the Vice President's office set out to handle the media aspects improperly.

In the latter case, while it would have been a bitter pill to swallow, had all of the pictures been released when the initial set of photographs came to public attention, this would be an old story. Sure, it might have been more difficult for the Administration to spin its "just a few bad apples" line, or to convince as many people that the mistreatment of prisoners was minor. But we wouldn't have a new headline story, and new pictures being distributed in the Middle East when tensions are already very high. (And right on the heels of a similar British scandal.)

I know that the government, and the Bush Administration in particular, loves its secrets. But for once, perhaps they should weigh the cost of secrecy against the benefit of honesty.

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