James Goodale: Journalists should wake to Obama’s free speech record

The two men in charge. (Daniel Schwen/Wikimedia Commons)

The two men in charge. (Daniel Schwen/Wikimedia Commons)

James Goodale, the chief counsel to The New York Times when the paper published the Pentagon Papers, says that the Obama administration has been more restrictive of the First Amendment than any other president in history, even Richard Nixon. In his new book, Fighting for the Press, Goodale implores journalists to put pressure on Obama, who he believes gets a free pass a Republican president wouldn’t get from the press.

In a conversation with the Columbia Journalism Review, Goodale points to the administration’s use of the 1917 Espionage Act to sedate American journalism. “The biggest challenge to the press today is the threatened prosecution of WikiLeaks, and it’s absolutely frightening,” he said. During Obama’s two terms, the Espionage Act has been used to prosecute more alleged leakers than all former presidential offices combined.

Goodale said journalists don’t seem to consider this much of a problem. “They don’t believe it,” he told CJR. “I actually have talked to two investigative reporters who are household names, and I said, ‘Do you realize what’s happening to you if this goes forward?’ And I talk, I get no response, and the subject shifts to other parts of the book. No one seems to care.”

The Word Is Greed

If there is one word that spells economic disaster, that would be – GREED. As early as the beginning of the 20th century, an English author named H. G. Wells wrote, “America is still, by virtue of its great Puritan tradition and in the older sense of the word, an intensely moral land. Most lusts here are strongly curbed, by public opinion, by training and tradition. But the lust of acquisition has not been curbed but glorified.” It cannot be further from the truth that the casual explanation is that Americans worship wealth based on greed.

Let me take you back to the economic scene in the 1910s. A business reporter for the New York Times and later the editor of Business Week named Elliot V. Bell recounted, “J. P. Morgan was far from being the richest man of his time. His estate was valued at about one-tenth of Andrew Carnegie’s, one-twelfth of John D. Rockefeller’s. Yet Morgan’s control of the U. S. economy is unlikely to be matched. When Congress investigated the Morgan Bank in 1912, it discovered that the assets controlled by ‘the octopus,’ as the bank was called by critics, totaled $25 billion – more than five times the budget of the federal government.”

It is of no coincidence that the same kind of greed only possessed perhaps by different personalities, has wrought havoc in the autumn of 1929 and the succeeding years of the country’s economic meltdown. Recall that the great crash of that year is notable of economic events that ushered the most momentous economic occurrence in the history of the United States known as the Great Depression. Since then, America has no shortage of economic turmoil cast upon by the people whose propensity for profit is simply insatiable.

Fast forward, today’s economic pundits equate the same word to our country’s economic woes. No less than Mr. Obama chastised Wall Street executives for taking fat bonuses at a time when financial system has run out of breath. “That is the height of irresponsibility. It is shameful”, Obama said.

But how much in dollars does the Obama administration is in disgust? A whopping $18.4billion bonus payouts, according to the New York comptroller. Such huge amount may sound totally outrageous, if not outright insane, to the ordinary taxpayers, who in the hindsight, would pick up the tab.
Let me rub some salt to your wound, if I may, to confirm the deranged justification of these American CEOs for their fat payouts to sustain their wild spending. Call it vanity but I still insist to be greed. I am referring to the renovation done to the office of the former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain. Last year, the vane CEO spent $1.2 million to fix up his office, including $35,115 on a commode, and $1,405 for trash bin!

Recall as well how the auto executives learned that lavish spending was totally unacceptable under today’s economic set up when they flew in private jets to Washington while seeking bailout. This prompted Citigroup to cancel a plan to buy $50 million executive jet because Obama does not believe it was “the best use of money” by companies receiving taxpayer assistance. Indeed, during the time of austerity, an act of fancy borne out of greed such as this is totally reprehensible and insensible. It must stop, in toto.