Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Dip in 50-Year-Old Dung

The major newspaper in a city where government is struggling to save the American economy today treats us to a long takeout on rumors about the sexual preferences of Jack Valenti, a minor political figure half a century ago.

The Washington Post headline reveals "Valenti's Sexuality Was Topic For FBI: Under Pressure, LBJ Let Hoover's Agents Investigate Top Aide" and is based on "Previously confidential FBI files."

Why so much in such fulsome detail? The Post sayeth not, offering no relevance or connection to current events while reporting on dirt amassed by J. Edgar Hoover's minions about Lyndon Johnson's aide who went on to become the chief flack for the movie industry as president of the Motion Picture Association of America.

Hoover, who obsessively documented the sexual doings of political figures, no doubt had dossiers on thousands of them, using the excuse of "national security" to compile material that would blackmail presidents of both parties into keeping him in office.

Today's "news" is a sour reminder of those bad old days and brings back memories of the good-natured but politically unimportant Valenti, who died two years ago.

I knew him in passing as affable man of self-deprecating charm. At a social gathering, while selecting the movie star to play oneself in a biopic, the vertically challenged, far-from-handsome Valenti sighed, "I guess they'd have to get Mickey Rooney to play me."

Media critics may want the Washington Post to explain the news value of rooting around in old FBI files to report rumors about a man like that on a subject nobody considers scandalous in a time when government has serious work to do.

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