The Supreme Court allowed the Times and Washington Post to proceed. Nixon launched his hunt for leakers. The movie ends with the discovery of the Watergate burglary that eventually cost Nixon the presidency.
It fell to President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger to try — heroically, in my view — to keep Congress from abandoning Vietnam. Early in 1975, though, Congress cut off supplies of ammo and materiel to our ally.
The Communist conquest quickly followed.
Let President Trump — and his critics — remember: When Congress cut off Vietnam, it wasn’t about saving our GIs. They’d long since been withdrawn.
No, the decision by Congress was to retreat in the face of Soviet Communism. It was about abandoning the hope of free Vietnam itself.
Vietnam’s democracy died in broad daylight.
And that’s just how the American left, who then had complete control of Congress, wanted it.
Also regarding The Post, Peggy Noonan writes “What is bad is the lie at the movie’s heart. President Nixon is portrayed as the villain of the story. And that is the opposite of the truth:”
Nixon did not start the Vietnam War, he ended it. His administration was not even mentioned in the Pentagon Papers, which were finished before he took office.
When that dark, sad man tried to halt publication of the document, he was protecting not his own reputation but in effect those of others. Those others were his political adversaries—Lyndon Johnson and Ben Bradlee’s friend JFK—who the papers revealed had misled the public. If Nixon had been merely self-interested, he would have faked umbrage and done nothing to stop their publication. Even cleverer, he could have decried the leaking of government secrets while declaring and bowing to the public’s right to know.
Instead, he did what he thought was the right thing—went to court to prevent the publication of secrets that might harm America’s diplomatic standing while it attempted to extricate itself from a war.
Being Nixon, of course, he had to crow, in a way that became public, that he was sticking it to those liberals in the press. His attempt to stop publication was wrong—the public did have a right to know. But he did what he thought was the responsible thing, and of course pays for it to this day.
Were the makers of “The Post” ignorant of all this? You might think so if it weren’t for the little coda they tag on to the end. Suddenly a movie about the Pentagon Papers is depicting the Watergate break-in, which would take place a year later. As if to say: OK, Nixon isn’t really the villain of our story, but he became a villain soon enough. It struck me not as a failed attempt at resolving a drama but an admission of a perpetrated injustice.
Why does all this matter? Because we are losing history. It is not the fault of Hollywood, as they used to call it, but Hollywood is a contributor to it.
And so is the Washington Post. As Ann Hornaday, whose bio describes her as “the Post’s chief film critic” wrote in 2010, defending Sean Penn’s Richard Armitage-less Valerie Plame film Fair Game, “In Washington, watching fact-based political movies has become a sport all its own, with viewers hyper-alert to mistakes, composite characters or real stories hijacked by political agendas. But what audiences often fail to take into account is that a too-literal allegiance to the facts can sometimes obscure a larger truth… ‘Follow the money*,’ then, assumes its own totemic truth. Ratified through repeated viewings in theaters, on Netflix and beyond, these films become a mutual exercise in creating a usable past. We watch them to be entertained, surely, and maybe educated. But we keep watching them in order to remember.”
George Orwell, call your office.
* Which Mark Felt, the real-life Deep Throat, never said to the real-life Bob Woodward.