By Ron VandenBoom
I believe it was during the early days of the Vietnam war that I first realized my father had an undeniable faith in government truthfulness.
Not that my father agreed with everything government did he didnt, but whether he agreed or disagreed he never doubted that what he was told was the truth.
For my father it was President Nixon that provided the straw that broke the camels back.
Revelations of a presidential enemies list, a secret plumbers unit operating out of the White House, and Nixons own involvement in the Watergate cover-up, ended forever my dads trust and naivete.
The combination of the Nixon/Watergate scandal and the advent of a televised Vietnam war also had another effect on America. It galvanized the news media into a crop of hard-hitting investigative journalists who were no longer satisfied just reporting what the government told them. The easiest way to make a name for yourself and get your face on TV was to uncover another government cover-up.
I remember President Jerry Ford, during one of his early press conferences, telling the American people he felt one of his greatest responsibilities was to restore Americas faith in the government. No small task after the years of Nixon and Watergate.
The message was echoed by President Jimmy Carter during his four years in office.
Did they accomplish their goal? Was our faith in government restored? Obviously not in fact, its been quite the opposite.
Continued revelations concerning President Reagans Iran Contra scandal and Clintons lies before a grand jury are just a couple of the stories that have kept the fires of mistrust burning.
Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, we recently learned, was also speaking out of both sides of his mouth when he touted family values while at the same time engaging in an affair with one of his staff.
Now we learn that the government has also lied to us about the use of flammable tear gas canisters during the 51 day standoff at the Mount Caramel Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993. A standoff that ultimately cost the lives of more than 80 followers of cult leader David Koresh.
Adding to the insult is the admission that members of the Armys secret Delta Force were also on site advising federal agents. This after initial reports claimed the Delta Force actively participated in the final raid on the compound.
President Clinton has denied Delta Force played an active role in the standoff while White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart said the president did not sign, and was not asked to sign, a waiver that would have legally allowed the use of military personnel against civilians.
So who is to be believed this time and whose fault is it when the government looks bad the media or the politicians who break the law or lie to the American people?
Its sad to say, but many seem to believe its the fault of the media and the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Survey results collected by the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University indicate that nearly one-third of Americans feel the First Amendment goes too far.
Fully 53 percent of those surveyed believe the press has to much power and only 63 percent of the people believe that newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval.
Only 48 percent of respondents indicated they support the reporting of government secrets.
The survey results are shocking if not disturbing.
While honest questions can be raised about journalistic techniques, the competitiveness of the news media, and the impact of 24-hour a day news channels that rush to fill space and then beat issues to death for ratings, it is still better than government control of the media.
Its not the politics of personal destruction that bother me, but the personal destruction of politics by those we employ to govern.