In the era of “fake news,” relations between a (any) president and the media are at an all-time low. Of course, it’s not the first time that presidents have wanted to speak directly to the people. Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) held his famous “Fireside Chats,” in which he explained his policies on the radio. Then, of course “The Great Communicator,” Ronald Reagan, used television to bypass the news media. But there hasn’t been this kind of hostility since Richard Nixon–or ever.

But it wasn’t always that way. Thomas Jefferson famously said in 1787, “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” And FDR agreed, “Freedom of conscience, of education, or speech, of assembly are among the very fundamentals of democracy and all of them would be nullified should freedom of the press ever be successfully challenged.” Even Andrew Jackson praised Freedom of the Press, saying, “without which all will unite in saying that the blood and treasure expended by our forefathers in the establishment of our happy system of government will have been vain and fruitless.”

Trump’s people have called the press (the media) “the opposition party.” Well, duh. It is precisely for keeping an eye on government that the press exists. It’s called “the Fourth Estate,” as another in our system of checks and balances. If the media became simply the voice of government, such as in Nazi Germany, or Soviet Russia, our freedoms would not be worth the paper they’re written on.

That’s what Senator John McCain warned against last week, according to Breitbart.

Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” while discussing President Donald Trump’s attacks on the press, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that was “how dictators get started.”

McCain said, “I hate the press. I hate you especially. But the fact is we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital. If you want to preserve – I’m very serious now – if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”

He added, “They get started by suppressing free press. In other words, a consolidation of power when you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”

The conservative Washington Examiner added an even more direct quote.

Sen. John McCain said that suppressing freedom of the press is “how dictators get started” in response to a tweet from President Trump that called the media “the enemy of the American people.”. . .

[NBC Meet the Press moderator Chuck] Todd asked McCain if he thought Trump was acting like a dictator with his tweet.

“They get started by suppressing the free press,” McCain responded. “I’m not saying President Trump is trying to be a dictator, I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”

Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News discussed the issue with Constitutional experts.

The US president has continued his verbal assaults on ‘fake news’ journalists, saying in a tweet they are ‘the enemy of the American people’.

And he told a cheering crowd at a rally in Florida that he wanted ‘to speak to you without the filter of the fake news’.

Mr Trump added: ‘They’ve become a big part of the problem. They are part of the corrupt system.’

But Senator McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate, said a free press was ‘vital’ and ‘we must have it’. . .

Foreign Affairs commentator Dr Keith Suter told Sky News that this is the first time a US President has publicly gone on an attack against the media.

‘When you become president every word is scrutinised.

‘Trump has forgotten that he’s got to behave in a presidential manner,’ Dr Suter said.

The conservative Hot Air says the worries are premature.

We can have a debate over how much criticism should be fairly applied to cable news and the major newspapers if you like, but “suppressing the Free Press” is simply fake news. If we actually lived under a system where the Fourth Estate could truly be suppressed that would indeed represent a constitutional crisis.

Another conservative publication, the Blaze, made note of what it says are Trump’s “tendencies.”

Critics of Trump have long pointed to signs of what they consider his authoritarian tendencies, from defending Russian President Vladimir Putin to praising the actions taken by the Chinese government in Tiananmen Square. Criticizing the media as biased and unfair has been a feature of the Trump’s rhetoric since he began running for the presidency in 2015, causing many in the media to fear what reprisals might come from criticizing him.

The “enemies” tweet on Trump’s personal Twitter account was almost immediately deleted, but it was published minutes later again after he added more news outlets to the list of “enemies of the American people.”

Speaking of Russia, their news service, Russia Today (“RT”) also weighed in.

“If you want to preserve democracy as we known it, you have to have a free, and at times adversarial free press,” he [McCain] added. “And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”

The Washington Examiner brought in another voice, and one you wouldn’t expect to come to Trump’s aid.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Sunday warned against taking seriously comments his Senate colleague John McCain of Arizona made on Saturday, in which the Arizona lawmaker compared President Trump’s actions toward the press to “how dictators get started.”

“The thing is, I don’t agree with his analysis and applying that to the president,” Paul told Jon Karl, guest host of ABC’s “This Week.” “Everything that [McCain] says about the president is colored by his own personal dispute he’s got running with President Trump and it should be taken with a grain of salt.”

Meanwhile, Business Insider notes that McCain does not have a “running dispute” with Trump, and has stuck with Trump on just about every issue, so his words should be heeded.

Though McCain has taken up the mantle of Trump critic, The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel notes that McCain has voted with his party to confirm every Trump cabinet nominee except for Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. And, Weigel adds, Trump thrives off of mainstream Republican opposition.

Meanwhile, Fox-Carolina brought in Watergate reporter, Carl Bernstein.

Trump tweeted Friday that CNN and other major media outlets were “the enemy of the American people.”

CNN contributor Carl Bernstein, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the Watergate scandal, which led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, called Trump’s words “treacherous.”

“The most dangerous ‘enemy of the people’ is presidential lying — always,” he tweeted. “Attacks on press by @realDonaldTrump more treacherous than Nixon’s.”

As with everything else in our ever-more-divided country, this issue has caused furor on both the right and left. Liberals are warning of immediate doom, and conservatives say there’s nothing at all to worry about, and, as usual, they’re both very wrong. The media have not been shut down, as in Putin’s Russia. Yet, when a lifelong conservative and former Republican presidential candidate warns that we may be taking the first step toward dictatorship, we would be wise to listen. And to be vigilant.

40 COMMENTS

  1. Trump is a fascist, and fascists hate being challenged. That’s why they always wage war on the media. Nobody with any knowledge of history could possibly be surprised that Trump is following the same script as every other fascist politician.

    As for McCain and Graham, they need to show some action instead of constant lip service. As long as they keep supporting Trump and voting with him, their oral dissent is worth nothing.

    Trump is a product of Republican rhetoric. Republicans need to take responsibility for this trainwreck. The people voted for a different candidate, as we all know.

    • The train wreck was the past 8 years. The Republicans were not responsible for that. If there is another train wreck after the Trump Administration, I personally, would have no problem saying they were responsible. However, if things keep going as they seem to be going at present, I doubt a train wreck is in our future. But, regardless of how good Trump would do the Liberals will never accept or admit that he helped our country.

          • That’s not how the economy works.

            But even if it were, surely trickle down economics should solve the problem?

        • You better restudy your unemployment figures. I prefer full time jobs to part time jobs. I worked for a company that when I was hired had over 900 full time jobs. When I left they were down to just over 400 and most were part time jobs. This does not seem like improvement to me. And, most of the lose in jobs was during the Obama Administration. I agree the DOW numbers did increase, but, I’m not sure a lot of it was due to Obama or his policies.

          • I was talking about nationwide, not just this one company you worked for.

            As you undoubtedly know, there are more sophisticated ways of measuring unemployment. By every single account, Obama cut unemployment in half. It’s not up for debate among informed people. You’re wasting your time.

            • Go anywhere, not just the company I worked for and you will find that many are switching to part time workers due to not having to supply benefits like they have to with full time workers. You can hire 2 part time workers for every full time worker (still maintaining a 40 hour week) and cut expenses due to the savings on benefits.

            • You are really not interested in any information that is opposite of your point of view.

      • How can you possibly compare the Orange Jerk’s useless action so far with President Obama who saved our economy, the automakers, etc., while working to reduce boots on the ground across the world, locating and killing the greatest threat to our country (Bin Laden), and dealing with these issues to name a few: credit regulations climate change preparation, integrating women in the military, sexual attacks on women on campus and in the military, increasing the minimum wage, gun control, decreasing unemployment.

      • Before I provide this evidence, let’s verify that your question is sincere by having you define fascism in a few short sentences.

        • This is pretty good:

          The only official definition of Fascism comes from Benito Mussolini, the founder of fascism, in which he outlines three principles of a fascist philosophy.
          1.”Everything in the state”. The Government is supreme and the country is all-encompasing, and all within it must conform to the ruling body, often a dictator.
          2.”Nothing outside the state”. The country must grow and the implied goal of any fascist nation is to rule the world, and have every human submit to the government.
          3.”Nothing against the state”. Any type of questioning the government is not to be tolerated. If you do not see things our way, you are wrong. If you do not agree with the government, you cannot be allowed to live and taint the minds of the rest of the good citizens.

          • Unless you are the same person as hgb, your comment is useless. Your ability to copy-paste a definition doesn’t tell me anything about hgb’s understanding of political ideology.

            As a side note, I’d be careful about trusting Mussolini’s characterization of fascism, for the same reason why I wouldn’t trust Donald Trump’s characterization of his tax returns. I’d be more interested to look at the evidence, in this case how fascism has played out in the real world, rather than how it’s described by its champion.

            However, I note that I am at this moment trying to explain basic source evaluation to someone who just recently fell victim to a simple no true Scotsman fallacy, so I might be wasting my time yet again.

            • First, this is not a private phone line. Anyone is welcome to comment on anything.

              Second, I’d say the father of fascism has a right to describe it. And, how can you find a more “basic source”?

            • Would you trust the father of Nazism to describe it?

              I never said this was a private phone line. I said your comment was useless (not illegal), because it was.

              Anything else you’re confused about?

            • Yes, I would. Just as we read very carefully what our Founding Fathers had to say about democracy.

              Did you even read what Mussolini said?

              If you had, you would have recognized that point number one is government-by-Executive Order, number two is “America First!” and number three is, “The media are the enemy of the people.”

            • Americas “founding fathers” are, first of all, not the originators of democracy, and secondly not a reliable source for an accurate description of the concept of democracy. Such a description would draw from several sources. This goes back to the issue of poor source evaluation, which this entire website seems to suffer immensely from.

              If you ask Paul Ryan to define conservatism, his answer will differ wildly from how conservatism implemented in reality. Similarly, asking Fidel Castro about communism would be equally useless. These are things I would expect a college freshman to understand.

  2. McCain is proof that R doesn’t stand for Conservative. Amazing that he keeps getting re-elected. “I was a prisoner” is not an acceptable answer to tough questions.

    • Nowhere will you find where McCain personally used his prisoner of war experiences in an attempt to garner votes. John McCain was tortured, mentality and physically, over a 3 year period while a prisoner of war. McCain suffered all this so America, and the unappreciative such as you, could continue to speak and live freely.
      We should take McCain’s warnings about Donald Trump very seriously. The majority of American voters see Trump as hot-tempered, dishonest, and serving personal purposes. He is supported in these vices by the vice president and the majority of Republicans in Congress.
      When Fox News publishes bad Trump reviews, hopes are renewed. Chris Wallace corrected Trump’s Chief of Staff, Prince Priebus, saying “But you don’t get to tell us what to do, Reince. You don’t get to tell us what to do any more than Barack Obama did. Barack Obama whined about Fox News all the time, but I got to say, he never said that we were an enemy of the people.”

      • Neocon isn’t conservative despite the name similarity. Read your history, they are refugees from the Dem party,

        BTW, his name was mentioned on the CPAC stage yesterday and they audience reacted with boos, no cheers.

        I believe them, not you.

          • I’m at CPAC (SRO) so can’t do exact research but they’re are plenty of articles that show that nocons were kicked out of the Dem party. They want endless war bringing democracy everywhere. Those are not conservative values so it is not narrowing the tribe, just eliminating the cancer.

            • I’m always amazed at how extremists, on the right and left, are so adamant about condemning anyone who is not “pure” enough. While it is true that the founding of the NeoCon movement rested largely on liberals who were not “pure enough” to stick with the pure liberal Democratic party, they put Reagan, Bush, and Bush in charge of the not-pure-enough Republican Party.

              By alienating yourself from the NeoCons, you’re pushing away people like George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, Fred Barnes, Gary Bauer, Newt Gingrich, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, Rupert Murdoch, Karl Rove, Paul Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams, Ken Adelman, and others.

            • I’m not an extremist at all. I’m a Robert Taft conservative, which is most likely the norm for conservatives.

              Today, the ACU through alt-right Richard Spencer out of CPAC as he was parading his fascism around. You think that fascists also should be labeled conservatives? I don’t. If someone was for larger govt, higher taxes, etc., but called themselves a conservative, that’s okay with out? That is the equivalent of someone with a penis going into the girls room because they decided to label themselves female.

              What is probably confusing you is that you most likely really mean to use the term “Republican” which includes conservatives, neo-cons, RINOs, alt-right, etc. I hope that we can agree on that.

            • I think you’re speaking two-dimensionally. An extremist is someone who is fanatical. It doesn’t have to be limited to a single continuum. In fact, it would be possible to be a “centrist extremist,” if a person thought we should never, ever deviate from ideals held by everyone.

              You’re saying a NeoCon can’t be a “conservative.” Yet, you divide “conservative” into an undefined number of parochial branches, limiting yourself to the Robert Taft tribe. Is it your intention to condemn NeoCons like Karl Rove, Rupert Murdoch, Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and Charles Krauthammer?

            • You mean I was speaking one-dimensionally. While you are correct, that is what many people think of when they hear that word. No matter, that isn’t the main topic.

              Not condemn, categorize.

              People have said to me: I could never be a conservative because you people want endless wars. My answer is: that is a minor branch of the Republican Party. Most conservatives want a strong defense as a deterrent and to use when it is in the national interest. That makes them feel better. Not all conservatives were born conservative. Some come from the Dem party or LP or Independents and want to make sure they’ll be in comfortable surroundings before they commit. I sure don’t want outsiders to think we are all like Karl Rove.

              BTW, I don’t usually classify myself more narrowly than just conservative, When speaking to other conservatives that do know that we aren’t all cut from the same cloth, I might say “Robert Taft” or more commonly “pro-liberty conservative”.

            • But the point is that you should be welcoming people into your tent, not condemning people who don’t sit at your particular table inside that tent. If someone wants to say he’s (or she’s) conservative, you should welcome them, to be stronger. You’re apparently not condemning NeoCon Rove. Why condemn McCain?

            • You wouldn’t welcome Hillary, Nancy, etc. in our tent and neither would I. We just draw the line at different places.

              McCain is a special case. As I mentioned, he evades answering tough questions he should be answering. He once said something like: I have no idea what bailouts are but I am for them*. And now, he seems to be doing all he can to sabotage Trump.

              (* Worse than being for bailouts, he is taking a position on something he admits knowing nothing about).

            • Let’s not forget it’s quite possible to be a centrist extremist. You, Goethe, often strike me as one.

              Edit: When scrolling down the page, I see that you have accurately identified the possibility of centrist extremism. Bravo!

  3. I don’t recall McCain saying anything about dictatorships when Obama was in office and he seemed to be trying very hard to become a third term president. Another thing regarding the press. A free press is good, the only problem currently with the press is that they seem to make news reports without checking the facts behind the stories. This kind of reporting is worthless and does more harm than good and frankly, no good can come from reporting false information in any story. My personal opinion is that McCain has a problem with Donald Trump and is no better than the liberals that attack Trump at any turn. As far as I am concerned he can crawl under a rock and stay there. I need to hear no more from him.

  4. The article said that the press and the president have always had an adversarial relationship. Were it only adversarial in the case of President Trump then it would be normal. But the current state is far from normal.

    The fourth estate has lost its mind. They can’t believe that their darling Hillary was kicked to the curb. The big papers like the NY TIMES and Washington Post have completely become unhinged. They attack President Trump relentlessly and John McCain thinks Trump is becoming a dictator?

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