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.