Fittingly, the announcement came just a week before the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Pentagon Papers, the treasure trove of leaked documents that revealed the long history of government lies about the Vietnam War.
Even decades later, the story of the Pentagon Papers remains the stuff of high drama — a military analyst on the run from the FBI, the Nixon administration fighting to censor the New York Times, the public revelation of a vast government conspiracy to hide the stalled progress and massive scale of an increasingly unpopular war.
Coming on the heels of the Republicans’ refusal to support an investigation into the insurrection, the anniversary is a reminder of the value of a clear-eyed assessment of wrongdoing in and around government. But it is also a lesson in how the government can work to rebuild trust, a goal that must be a top priority for the Biden administration as it helps the country recover from the past several years of a corrupt and falsehood-filled presidency that culminated in an insurrection.
Americans did not lose faith in government solely because of the bad acts revealed in the 1970s. The right has carried out a decades-long campaign to undermine and discredit the US government. But while there is not much Biden can do about those partisan attacks, he can address the problems revealed by the Pentagon Papers, of government officials not only lying to the country but hiding behind a veil of national security and top-secret classifications to conceal the truth. If he could begin dismantling that system, he could begin the process of rebuilding trust in government, a necessary foundation for a healthy democracy.