Kate — Champion of the Leviathan State

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The Washington Post tells us breathlessly that Katherine Graham’s funeral today (Monday, July 23, 2001) is going to feature an all-star cast, with "luminaries like Arthur M. Schlessinger, Jr., and Henry Kissinger giving the eulogies. Former Sen. John Danforth, an Episcopal minister, is delivering the homily. Schlessinger, the history professor and writer who has earned the title of "distorian," calls himself an "unreconstructed New Dealer. Kissinger was the architect for US imperialism under the guise of Machiavellian statecraft. Thus, even in her death, Graham is doing what she did during her life: promoting the growth of the Leviathan state at the expense of individual liberty.

It is considered inappropriate to speak ill of the dead, and especially one whose untimely passing has brought out the "big guns" of our society, from political to business to academic public figures. Furthermore, I never met Kate Graham and know absolutely nothing about her — except from what I read in the papers. However, I do think that it is quite appropriate to point out that the real legacy of Graham and her newspaper is the constant erosion of freedom that we have seen since her ascendancy to the "throne" of the Post.

By now, all of us who even marginally follow the mainstream news know that Graham was basically a Washington socialite who was suddenly placed in an unfamiliar role of chairman of the Washington Post Company after her husband committed suicide in 1963. We hear how she was absolutely unprepared for such a job, but that she courageously overcame her fears and ultimately turned her newspaper from a mediocre local rag into one of the most prominent in this country.

Her legacies, the eulogists tell us, are the decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971 and the Post’s pursuit of the Watergate scandal in the face of "stonewalling" from the Nixon Administration. To that, I say, "Big deal!" The Pentagon Papers were dumped on her lap and told us very little that we had not known. In fact, had those "papers" been absolutely honest, they would have told us how Graham’s newspaper was one of the cheerleaders of US involvement in the disastrous Vietnam War at a critical time. Politically, it was a no-brainer. The Washington social and political establishment — all thoroughly Democrat — hated Richard Nixon and although Vietnam was a Democratic operation through and through, publishing of the "papers" was seen as a victory against Nixon and the hated Republicans. In other words, it was not any sort of victory for freedom of the press, but rather just a win for Graham’s political allies.

The same goes for Watergate. As everyone knows, Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein pursued the trail left behind of Nixon operatives who had bungled an attempt to break into Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex and bug the telephone of the DNC chairman Larry O’Brien.

Again, while Graham’s support of the investigation is admirable, it was hardly courageous. The Nixon Administration, corrupt as it was, could pose no real threat to the Post and since Nixon was a pariah to the Washington establishment, she was roundly supported at all of the ubiquitous Washington dinner parties by her like-minded friends. In other words, pursuing the Watergate scandal cost Graham absolutely nothing.

It is interesting to note that the Post gave Nixonian treatment to President Jimmy Carter and his administration. Some folks may express surprise, since Carter was a Democrat, but since he was not part of the Washington establishment and, in fact, ran his campaign against Washington, it was a no-brainer again. Carter was not "one of us," so the Post gave reporters the green light to trash him.

Contrast the coverage given to Carter with that given to President Bill Clinton. Since the Washington Democrats loved Clinton’s wife, Hillary, and thought Bill was "sexy," he basically got a free ride. Granted, the Post did give coverage to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Graham would rather have ignored it except for the fact that Michael Issikof, a reporter for the Post-owned Newsweek, relentlessly pursued the story, much to the chagrin of Graham and her Washington socialite allies.

It is noteworthy that the Post did not pursue the weightier matters of government misdeeds. The paper’s coverage of the Waco massacre was standard fare, which was nothing more than a rewrite of government handouts. When others noted that John Danforth’s re-enactment of the government’s assault on the Branch Davidian site was seriously flawed because of the weapons and ammunition used to the re-enactment suppressed gunbarrel flashes, the Post said absolutely nothing.

Misdeeds from the Clinton Administration from outright lawbreaking in raising campaign funds to the USA’s unprovoked attacks on Serbian civilians, the Post gave us silence. (This time, the Post did not need the fig leaf of the Gulf of Tonkin incident — which itself was contrived by Lyndon Johnson — to justify US attacks on another nation.)

The list goes on. On the editorial page, the Post has been a relentless voice for squashing individual rights in the name of state power. It was one of the first newspapers to call for the total ban on handgun sales to private individuals, and it has been a constant voice calling for more regulation, higher taxes, and the erosion of what is left of the federalist system as outlined in the US Constitution.

Granted, the Post has become a wonderfully chatty newspaper since Graham took over. Readers can see the latest idiocies from Sally Quinn, who has fawned breathlessly over the "sexiness" of nearly every communist dictator who has lived. We can read the latest screed for promoting abortion rights in the Post’s "Lifestyle" section, and readers can be entertained by Herblock’s latest political cartoons that have been beating the drum for the Leviathan State for a half-century. What we won’t read in the Post is anything that smacks of promoting individual liberties. (Like other leftists, Graham and her cohorts have held that rights really are privileges granted by the state, which is why the "rights" definition has been applied to things like welfare payments, government financing of abortions, and gun control.)

Graham’s death will do nothing to change the Post or any other statist organ of modern journalism. No, by promoting growth of the state and by helping to suppress individual liberties, Graham helped set modern totalitarianism into motion. Her newspaper at every turn sought to re-define the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and any other document that outlined a responsible and limited state.

What, then, in Kate Graham’s real legacy? Look to Waco, where government employees from former Attorney General Janet Reno to the grunts emptying their clips into a room full of women, children, and elderly people suffered no consequences whatsoever from their evil deeds. They did not have to fear being exposed by the press since Graham and her allies had already decided that Orwell’s Big Brother had it right all along: Slavery is Freedom, War is Peace, and Ignorance is Strength.

Yes, we can open the Post and read Sally Quinn’s claim that Carter’s National Security Advisor had left open his fly or that Hillary Clinton wants to be another Pamela Harriman. What we won’t read is how the expansion of the state has swallowed liberty. We can read of the "stars" who were regulars at Graham’s famous Georgetown dinner parties, as Graham remained the ultimate socialite until the end. However, those who most seek to deprive individuals of their God-given rights were Graham’s dinner party guests. I guess she must have felt right at home with that bunch.

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], is assistant professor of economics at North Greenville College in Tigerville, South Carolina. He is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

© 2001 LewRockwell.com

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