05/23/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011


If you wonder what you'll be missing when newspapers vanish, consider two stories that appeared in morning newspapers that have yet to make it to the online geniuses who will decide the content of alternative journalism in the near future.

Both examples deal with the infuriating decisions rendered by the bureaucrats in the service of the United States. One story appeared on the front page of the New York Times, defended by the White House Special Consul for Ethics, Norm Eisen and endorsed both by the Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, and President Obama's senior advisor, David Axelrod. The other story on page three of the Los Angeles Times fingered the bureaucrats in the Consulate section of the American Embassy in Saigon.

The NYT account described the Obama Administration's decision to uphold its anti-lobbying rules to the point of absurdity. It rejected the most qualified individual in its line of sight named Tom Malinowski. He was thought to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. The reason for by-passing the most qualified person they could have found was that he was a lobbyist for Human Rights Watch. Since President Obama has laid down strict rules that forbid the hiring of lobbyists, Malinowski was politely dropped from consideration. Never mind that he was a principal voice in attempting to halt the slaughter in Darfur, repression in Myanmar and condemned torture in the United States. He served on President Clinton's National Security Council and in the State Department. He was an ideal choice in contrast to the human rights record of the Bush Administration and the controversy over whether or not to punish the perpetrators of torture at Guantanamo Bay and other military prisons.

Malinowski advocated everything the president has stood for; moreover he did not lobby for the benefit of his pocketbook but for worthy causes that a majority of the American people favored. As Peter Baker wrote in the New York Times, Malinowski lobbied on behalf of genocide victims and not military contractors, pharmaceutical companies or investment firms. But that didn't seem to make any difference to Eisen, Emanuel or Axelrod. A lobbyist is a lobbyist, they contended.

Talk about hair-splitting, given the fact that waivers were granted for three other candidates the Administration wanted on board.

Another story of the absurd that required but did not receive an exercise of judgment appeared in the Los Angeles Times and dealt with an immigrant Vietnamese family in Westminister. Its 85-year-old patriarch, Luong Vu, is hospitalized in Orange County, suffering from prostate cancer. He so desperately wants to see his two sons who live outside of Saigon in Vietnam before he dies.

But again and again the American Consulate has ruled that the Vu sons have failed to provide evidence that they will return to Vietnam once they have visited their father. The bureaucratic decision did not take into account that the two brothers, Cuong and Vuong Vu, wanted to return to Saigon where their own families live and their businesses thrive. Originally, the Vu brothers did not want to emigrate to the United States as the remainder of their family did.

Luong Vu and many of his family members in Orange County had obtained U.S. citizenship years after fleeing from South Vietnam in 1982. They even returned to their original homes one time to visit their remaining children and grandchildren. But on at least three occasions when the two sons living near Saigon had chosen to remain in South Vietnam, their applications for non-resident visas to enter the United States to visit their parents and siblings, the attempts were rejected. The American Consulate argued that the Vu sons offered no proof of an intention to return to Vietnam, despite the fact that they had thriving businesses in the suburbs of Saigon and that each was married with three children.

The case of the Vu family is not unique since the end of the war in Vietnam. The sympathy shown by the U.S. government to the refugee generation of Vietnamese has diminished dramatically. Those Vietnamese who fled their homeland after the war ended and the dramatic flight of the boat people five years later in the early 1980s encountered increasing bureaucracy as they attempted to enter the United States. The Cold War ended and so did America's concern for the Vietnamese perceived as victims of communism.