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The press isn’t going to go anywhere, Mr. President

20180509 155426 2 1As a political columnist for the Montgomery County Sentinel, I am fortunate to have a ringside seat to a period in our nation's history like no other.
Still, as interesting and fascinating as I find covering this White House and Congress, it is also frustrating beyond words as the members of the press are subjected to a continuous barrage by both the current president and the members of his press office of misinformation, spin, avoidance, side-stepping, condescension, insults, threats, and downright lies.
I can't say it hasn't crossed my mind to wonder what it would be like if everyone in the White House press room decided enough is enough and simply got up and walked out together, in unison, as one body, in protest. Now, quite honestly, that will never happen, nor should it for some very important reasons.

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A view of a National Shield Law for the press

20171114 104122Some weeks back I decided to sit in on the House Judiciary Committee hearing with Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions. Having attended previous Congressional hearings with the Attorney General as the key witness, I didn't expect much in terms of new or enlightening testimony regarding the Russian meddling in our election probe and I was certainly not disappointed or, rather, pleasantly surprised by his testimony or lack thereof.
His responses to questions dealing with Russia and the inconsistencies in his previous testimony before Congress consisted of either “I do not recall,” or “I am not at liberty to discuss.” Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York put it best when he asked AG Sessions if he realized that in previous testimony he used the “I don't recall” response more than 30 times and today he used it more than 20 times to which AG Sessions responded that he “didn't recall.”
What compounded the frustration was that the hearing felt like two separate hearings conducted at the same time with only one witness; half of the inquisitors dealt with Russia while the other half conducted a hearing on Hillary Clinton. I'll let you figure out which side of the aisle focused on Russia and which side focused on Hillary.
As a somewhat regular attendee at the White House daily press briefings I am quite familiar with Sarah Huckabee Sanders' keen ability to never actually answer a question and, rather, always respond with a set of talking points regardless of the nature of the question being asked. It is an uncanny ability when you add to it the fact that it is always done with a straight face. Truly impressive if also truly frustrating. I have at times yelled out “answer the question” but without any success.
However, this Judiciary Committee hearing turned out not to be a complete waste of my time and not just because it turned out to be rather entertaining. It is because, as we found our way through the so many committee members and their questions which, the longer the proceeding went the more repetitive the questions became, we finally arrived at questions from our own Congressman Jamie Raskin.

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About enduring press freedom

Brian Karem at White House press briefingI walked slowly to my bunk and looked up at the television set. Twenty pairs of eyes were on the NBC Nightly News watching a story about me.
One man turned around and said, “Man, you famous.”
Since I was in jail at the time – for refusing to give up a confidential source – and wearing jail-issued underwear as well, this meant very little to me.
Fame is fleeting. Jail underwear sticks with you for a long time.
I thought about that yesterday when my smart phone started incessantly vibrating for several hours on end.

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Facts, Opinions and Snowden

IMG 0243Economics teaches us the more of a commodity we have, then usually the less valuable that commodity is to us – or as the economics professor used to say, “The demand curve slopes down.”
With that being said, if you couple that thought with the well-known maxim regarding opinions and their proliferation, then one must come to the logical and factual conclusion that opinions are worthless.
Edward Snowden didn’t get in trouble for releasing “opinions.” He got in trouble for being a whistle-blower regarding hard data – real information – you know “facts.”
Those facts are the coin of the realm and increasingly hard to come by.

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Registering politicians

Mike Pitts, a Republican – go figure – has introduced the South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law which would define what a journalist is and keep a list of those who are seen as responsible and penalize those no on the list with fines or imprisonment.

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