Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke at the Air Force Academy commencement ceremony on Wednesday, and unlike the vice president’s speech at West Point last weekend, Gates sought to inspire the cadets, rather than drag up long-since debunked claims about al Qeada and Iraq.
Gates’ speech is well worth reading for any number of reasons, but one thing that jumped out at me was his defense of the press, which flies in the face of some recent comments from the Department of Defense that made the press out to be a threat. (By the way, when the article I wrote about the DoD’s report was mentioned by a guest on “The O’Reilly Factor,” Bill O’Reilly actually agreed with me that it’s wrongheaded for the military to take such a defensive stance toward the press. Wonder of wonders.)
Anyway, this is part of what Gates had to say:
Today, as I did with your Naval Academy colleagues last Friday, I want to encourage you always to remember the importance of two pillars of our freedom under the Constitution - the Congress and the press. Both surely try our patience from time to time, but they are the surest guarantors of the liberty of the American people. …
As officers, you will have a responsibility to communicate to those below you that the American military must be non-political and recognize the obligation we owe the Congress to be honest and true in our reporting to them. Especially when it involves admitting mistakes and problems.
The same is true with the press, in my view a critically important guarantor of our freedom. When it identifies a problem, as at Walter Reed, the response of senior leaders should be to find out if the allegations are true - as they were at Walter Reed - and if so, say so, and then act to remedy the problem. If untrue, then be able to document that fact. The press is not the enemy, and to treat it as such is self-defeating.
As the Founding Fathers wisely understood, the Congress and a free press, as with a non-political military, assure a free country.
Good to hear.