« Minnesota, Medicine, and Medtronic | Main | Good Journalism Can Be Pretty Too »

Gonzales' Defiance Won't Do

One of the biggest stories of the past month was the unexpected firing of eight U.S. attorneys by the Justice Department. The controversery centers around whether the firings were done for partisan reasons and how involved Attornery General Alberto Gonzales was in the decision. The on-going story has been great fodder for 24-hour news broadcasts, whcih have attacked the story like hyenas and fed it to the public in pieces of soundbites and beaurocractic rhetoric. The story also has unraveled on the front pages of some of the country's most influential newspapers. Most recently, the Star Tribune reported Tuesday that a key aide to Gonzales will opt for the Fifth Amendment instead of testifying in a congressional hearing about the firings. By invoking the Fifth Amendment, a tool to avoid self-incrimination, the aide has signaled a concern that wrong-doing did occur.
The Star Tribune article quickly moved from the aide's news-making decision to Gonzales' recent TV appearance in which he sought to deflect criticisms and deny any improper conduct. The article reports that Gonzales repeatedly asserted in the interview that no wrong-doings ocurred, yet it is never clarified what exactly the decision-making process behind the firings was. It is unclear in the article whether the NBC journalist conducting the interview even asked Gonzales the hard-hitting questions that would clear up exactly why the firings occurred, but one thing is clear: If those questions were asked, Gonzales certainly didn't aswer them. Simply put, his feet were never put to the fire ... which means in this instance journalism failed in its role as the public's political watchdog.
In my opinion, an equally important story to the one that ran across the country Tuesday would be one focusing on the fact that Gonzales is skirting the tough questions. What does he have to hide? Why isn't he being an open book if he or his department did nothing wrong? Please, Mr. Gonzales, tell us what those attorneys did to loose their jobs. Unfortanately, such a story has yet to be published in mainstream media. Even the usually top-notch New York Times failed to point out Gonzales' defiant behavior. Instead, Gonzales has basically told the press and the public, "Don't worry, I have nothing to hide, but I'm not going to tell you anything. Just take my word for it." While the mainstream press has obliged to Gonzales' wishes, we the should public hold our media to a higher standard.