You should probably just get used to four more years of this without any sort of break. The media will continue to claim that Donald Trump is essentially a demon from tenth plane of hell preparing to unleash his secret, unholy armies upon the land, despite the fact that basically half of the country seems to disagree with them. One of the more recent examples of this pattern showed up in a Washington Post column by editorial board member Jonathan Capehart this weekend. In it, Jonathan begins by extolling the virtues of the Constitution and his great admiration for it, but goes on to warn that the power of the words in this document resides in, the reverence of them by the men and women sworn to protect it. We are then further assured that the foundation of the nation is in peril because, “Trump has only shown contempt for it.”
Capehart – speaking as a journalist, though he regularly reminds us that he’s an opinion writer, not a reporter – focuses largely on the First Amendment. Most specifically he’s referring to the freedom of the press. That’s clearly under fire now because Donald Trump is set on destroying this beloved and protected liberty.
The president-elect has shown contempt for freedom of the press. Trump told The Post editorial board last March that he would “open up” libel laws to make it easier for him to sue media outlets when a reporter “writes incorrectly.” He regularly revved up his campaign rallies by riling up his supporters against the media covering him. And he continues to revel in singling out individual reporters and journalism institutions for public floggings by pixels. Trump’s dragging his feet on instituting a “protective” press pool and eschewing news conferences in favor of major announcements by tweet is more than an annoyance for journalists. The president-elect is building a wall that will obscure or outright deny the public’s right to know what he is doing in their name or in his own self-interest.
Wow. That’s a lot to plow through, but we’ll have to soldier on as best we may. All of these instances which Jonathan cites are supposedly attacks on or attempts to destroy the freedom of the press found in the First Amendment. But before we delve all the way into this line of argument it’s probably worth going back and reading the amendment in question. Don’t worry… it’s relatively short.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Keep that in mind. Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom.. of the press.
Has Donald Trump somehow forced Congress to make a new law I hadn’t heard about? A good trick since he’s not even in office. Have you heard of any discussion of such a law? The closest we come is a few comments about “opening up the libel laws” while on the campaign trail. If he can actually convince somebody in Congress to even consider it, get back to me. Oh, and for the record, simply being in the press doesn’t exempt you from committing actual libel, but that’s a subject for another day.
All of the other complaints we’re seeing – not just from Capehart, but from the bulk of the newspapers and cable news outlets – boil down to little more than a fit of pique. What Trump is doing in many instances is simply refusing to follow the traditional role of previous office holders who were convinced that part of their job was to be a punching bag for anyone with printing press or a camera. Given the unending blitz of attacks on Trump over the course of the entire election, not just from “editorials and opinions” but from newsrooms who mounted a ceaseless campaign to prevent his election, well… it’s kind of hard to blame him. And he’s taking his sweet time setting up the vaunted, “protective press pool.” So what? You’ll note that this is once again a tradition, not a law. Nor is it mentioned in the Constitution.
What Trump is thus far doing in many cases is making it so the press may have to get up off their butts and work a bit harder to get their jobs done. If he’s not bending over backwards to accommodate a group of people who have far less interest in actually informing the public than in finding any tidbit.. any crumb or rumor which they can then speculate on, hyperventilate and blow up into “proof” that the end of the republic is nigh, don’t act all that shocked. (For the latest example just look at the endless coverage of his agreeing to take a congratulatory phone call from the President of Taiwan. You’d think he’d just nuked Beijing.)
The Obama presidency is all but over. The Trump presidency is soon to arrive. It might be useful to just get used to that idea rather than wringing your hands over the lost promise of Hillary Clinton and get on with your jobs. It’s a new ballgame now.
The First Amendment is in no danger. Trump doesn’t have the power to change it. But perhaps if some of you spent a bit less than 99% of your waking time trying to figure out ways to either discredit the election or undermine his presidency before it even begins you might find a refreshing change in the treatment you receive. Hrm… just reporting the actual facts for people. What an interesting concept.