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Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Post: More Timely Than Ever

Just saw The Post again on HBO, and figured it was long since time to post a brief review.  Since the movie first came out at end of 2017, the need for a brave press to stand up to an autocratic, paranoid President has become even more acute.  The story of how Katherine Graham, Ben Bradlee, and Ben Bagdikian defied legal counsel, an at first badly misguided Federal Judge in New York (Murray Gurfein, who issued a restraining order on The New York Times for one day, then refused to grant the government's demand for a permanent injunction), and lots of strong advice from the Post's inner circle, could not be more timely today.

And the acting, especially for those three heroes of the press and democracy, couldn't have been more vivid.  Meryl Streep portrays Graham with just the right mixture of concern about the consequences and devotion to a free press.   Tom Hanks' Bradlee led the punch for publication, smiling but tough as steel, and also felt compelled to warn Graham that they both could be held in contempt of court and sent to prison.  Bob Odenkirk's Bagdikian made a commitment to Daniel Ellsberg to publish, and was just right as one-hundred-and-ten-percent advocate of publication.

In some ways, the America we live in today is in even more dire straits regarding freedom of the press than it was with Nixon in office.   Trump and his minions daily denounce the press as fake new news.  CNN reporter Jim Acousta had his White House press credentials invoked (they were shortly after reinstated).   The one advantage we have in 2019 over 1971 is that we have so many sources of news, on cable and the Internet, as well as printed papers and network television, that it's harder to suppress the truth.

But The Post provides a jolting reminder of how close Nixon came to muzzling the Washington Post and The New York Times.   With Trump still in the White House, how much further have we really come since then?

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