Bring back the briefings

13 former White House press secretaries and foreign service/military officials call for the return of regular White House and other press briefings

All of us have experienced the challenges of a regular press briefing whether at the White House, the State Department or the Pentagon. We all had days where the last place we wanted to be was behind one of those podiums. But day after day, we persisted.

We believed that regular briefings were good for the American people, important for the administrations we served, and critical for the governing of our great country.

It’s not that great. It’s really not. It’s behind all other developed democracies on a whole list of items, like maternal mortality for instance. It has high inequality and rampant violence, and oh by the way it elected Donald Trump president. It’s not that great. I think we should stop automatically calling it that.

We’d like to share what we mean by that. In any great democracy, an informed public strengthens the nation. The public has a right to know what its government is doing, and the government has a duty to explain what it is doing.

For the president and the administration this is a matter of both self-interest and national interest. The presidents we served believed a better-informed public would be more supportive of the president’s policy and political objectives.

In times of military conflict and international crisis, these briefings take on even more importance. Americans want to know the latest developments and seek the truth. On social media, wild rumors can fly, and our adversaries can manipulate disinformation to their advantage. This is now well documented.

Credible men and women, standing in front of those iconic backgrounds at the White House, State Department and Pentagon, are essential to the work the United States must do in the world.

We respectfully urge the resumption of regular press briefings across our government, especially in the places where Americans want the truth, our allies in the world want information, and where all of us, hopefully, want to see American values reflected.

I’d rather see decent values than specifically American ones, but at any rate just despotically refusing to answer any questions is not good.

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