When Flaks Fall Silent

head shot of Bob Schieffer
Here's this week's commentary by CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer, as seen on CBS News' Face The Nation.

I never cease to be amazed at how good the government is at getting out the news it wants to get out.

When the administration sent those bombers into Iraq last week, the Pentagon rolled out briefers with facts, statistics, charts, graphs, and overhead projectors to make sure we knew it all went well and White House officials provided context.

No criticism here on any of that. That's what they're supposed to do. But my, oh my, is there a difference when the news goes bad, as it did when that American sub hit the Japanese boat. Suddenly, the vast taxpayer-supported public relations apparatus went silent.

We now know that even the Navy people in Washington couldn't find out what was going on from the Navy people in Hawaii.

As for what those civilians on board were doing? We didn't find out about that until a pesky old reporter named George Wilson asked what sounded like a goofy question at best: "Were any of those civilians at the controls when the accident happened?"

When the Pentagon's man responded, "I'm sure we'll find out during the investigation," astonished reporters began checking sources and confirmed that was exactly what had happened.

Last night, the Navy announced it is convening a formal, public board of inquiry to get to the bottom of all this. That's the right thing and maybe it would have happened anyway, but I chalk this one up to a pesky old reporter. Government is good at getting us the good news, but it usually needs a push to give us the whole story.

© MMI Viacom Internet Services Inc. All Rights Reserved