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Cheney and McCartney Create Media Firestorms

April 13, 2009

Few would think that ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and former Vice President Richard B. Cheney would have much in common – but a look at history tells us they may.

During the summer of 1967 McCartney created a firestorm of controversy when he admitted to the British press that he had experimented with LSD. This led to a follow-up interview with a British television reporter who pressed him on the subject. The result was a dispute over the responsibilities of journalists.

These days the former vice president is also being interviewed by national print and broadcast journalists and he too is creating controversy with his answers.

In the 60s McCartney said he had taken LSD "about four times" and in an interview with a British television reporter he was asked, "Don’t you believe that this is a matter which you should have kept private?"

The Beatle explained, "I was asked a question by a newspaper, and the decision was whether to tell a lie or tell the truth. I decided to tell the truth.... I really didn’t want to say anything, you know, if I had it my way I wouldn’t have told anyone. But the man from the newspaper is the man from the mass medium. I’ll keep it a personal thing if he does, too, you know.... if he keeps it quiet. But he wanted to spread it so it’s his responsibility, you know, for spreading it not mine."

The reporter then asked, "But you’re a public figure and you said it in the first place and you must have known it would make the newspaper."

McCartney said, "Yeah, but to say it is only to tell the truth. I’m telling the truth, you know. I don’t know what everyone’s so angry about."

The TV reporter pressed on, "Do you think that you have now encouraged your fans to take drugs?"

McCartney would have no part of it, stating that (he) didn’t think it would "make any difference" but said, "that’s not the point anyway. I was asked whether I had or had not (taken LSD). From then on, the whole bit about how far it’s gonna go and how many people it’s going to encourage is up to the newspapers, and up to you on television. I mean you’re spreading this now, at this moment. You’re asking me the - you want me to be honest - I’ll be honest."

"But as a public figure, surely you’ve got the responsibility to ...," the TV reporter started to ask, but McCartney interupted,, "No, it’s you who’ve got the responsibility. You’ve got the responsibility not to spread this."

It’s ironic that the media is now criticizing the former vice president for answers he is giving about President Barrack Obama’s dismantling of the Bush terrorism policies. Many journalists say Cheney should keep his comments and criticisms of the Obama Administration private - yet they are the ones asking the questions and hyping the answers.

CNN wanted to know if Cheney thought President Obama’s policies might make the United States "less safe" - whereby Cheney responded with a simple, "I do."

He went on, "I think those programs were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that let us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11."

The CNN reporter pressed again, "That’s a pretty serious thing to say about the President of the United States .... I want to give you a chance... take as much time as you want - to prove it."

The former vice president restated his position, saying in part that he has seen intelligence reports that itemized the specific attacks that were stopped by virtue of what the United States learned through programs such as enhanced interrogation program and the terrorist surveillance – all of which remain classified. Cheney could not provide details because the information is classified, but said, "there were a great many of them."

Still a media firestorm erupted as a result of the Cheney response - however like McCartney - he was simply being honest in trying to answer the reporter’s question.

The former Beatle had it right 42 years ago when he said of his incident, "I’ll keep it a personal thing if he (the reporter) does too - you know.. if he keeps it quiet. But he wanted to spread it so it’s his responsibility, you know, for spreading it - not mine."

McCartney added, "If you’ll shut up about it, I will."

Cheney might feel the same way.