April 04, 2017

The State Department Press Corps Is an Asset, Not a Liability

A bad idea, left unchallenged, can become a “good” idea in the minds of the powerful. It can then be acted upon, often to terrible results. The Bay of Pigs fiasco, for instance, was the result of groupthink, where critical questions are “assumed away” in service of group cohesion. As Arthur Schlesinger—who was part of the group that made the decision to launch the ill-fated invasion—put it, “Our meetings were taking place in a curious atmosphere of assumed consensus, [and] not one spoke against it.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson should heed the lesson of one of America’s worst foreign policy disasters. Tillerson’s State Department is icing out the press, and that will hurt him terribly. The press and its persistent questions, after all, are one of the best checks on groupthink and, therefore, any number of bad decisions. Journalists may be a pain, but policymakers should be grateful for them in the end.

Tillerson’s State Department has been hostile to the press since he came to office. This dynamic became obvious when he brought just one journalist with him on his recent trip to Asia, Erin McPike of Independent Journal Review. IJR is conservative and unlikely to provide dogged, skeptical coverage. It’s described by an adviser to the outlet as “if you crossed RedState with Buzzfeed.”

Read the full article at The National Interest.