|July 9, 2010|
|Defense Chief Says DOD Not Retreating from Media|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|Pentagon chief Robert Gates says the Defense Dept. is not at war with the media. Since the U.S. military is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, that's a good thing. |
A media sideshow is not the way to go.
In fact, Gates told Stars & Stripes, hat he doesn't even view the press as an enemy. Of course, the secretary doesn't think palling around with reporters like the General Stanley McChrystal did with Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone is a sweet idea, either.
McChrystal violated the Pentagon's policy that requires commanders to get approval for media chats about anything dealing with national or international implications. He paid a very dear price. The dumped general's tough words about President Obama, ridicule of Vice President Biden, trashing of General Petraeus and slapping of the French was fun and games, but far from the expected spit and polish nature of the military.
According to S&S, Gates believes the military became "flat-out sloppy in the way we engage with the press."
The hope is the Pentagon doesn't go back to the Neanderthal press policy of President Bush's Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, who treated the media with open disdain. In the wake of 9/11, the Pentagon created the Office of Strategic Influence to spread false stories in the media of friendly and unfriendly countries. He showed no concern with the potential of "blowback" (U.S. outlets running the bogus DOD plants).
Eventual U.S. media outrage over OSI forced Rumsfeld to close the office only because "it has clearly been so damaged that it is pretty clear to me that it could not function effectively." A reluctant shutdown indeed.
The Pentagon's loosening up with the media in the aftermath of Rumsfeld was refreshing. McChrystal however took things to the limit, and now the DOD is in a retrenchment mode as Gates wants his commanders to stay on message and keep personal views out of conversations with reporters. Retrenchment is better than a full retreat from the media.
The press can live with that.
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