The Press and Presidents

The last four years Americans were treated to an embarrassing back and forth between President Donald J. Trump and the establishment media. I know people who loved every second of it, and actually people on both sides that thought just the other side was to blame. . . now don't get me wrong here, I think the establishment media is awful, manipulative and dishonest, at times they border on propaganda (see Kids in Cages narratives under Trump become Migrants in Overflow Detention Centers under Biden). I just also think that at times Trump was provocative just to be provocative, I think he loved to go around and around with them and goad them - especially CNN.


If you were like me you were hoping that the initial media onslaught of ludicrously biased stories and the cycles of Trump retaliation was going to ease up and they'd settle into some sort of functional, if not friendly relationship. Not even close. I even for a brief second asked myself if the COVID-19 outbreak would create a moment for Trump like it did for Bush, where the cable news heads remembered we are all Americans in it together for at least a short while. At that point I laughed at the thought, and I was right to.


Trump called the media "fake news" and "the enemy of the people" at times that rang true. At times the media blasted Trump for being a boor and tweeting his stream of consciousness without giving it proper Presidential consideration, which at times rang very true. They accused each other of lying, communicating things before they had all the facts, conspiracies and everything else. At several points Trump was called a fascist for pushing back on the media. Never mind that criticizing and contending with the press has been a normal part of being the President in America since George Washington. The marketplace of ideas has at times been contentious, and Trump was actually not especially bad with the press in light of the nation's history.


As a great aside I would like to remind everyone of a bit of American history I don't think I have heard discussed since high school; the story of Washington's fight with the General Advertiser, a Philadelphia paper owned by his political opponent Benjamin Franklin Bache was by far nastier and at several points erupted into violence between Washington loyalists (in one instance after John Adams gave a speech a large crowd of drunken Revolutionary Vets ransacked the paper's building) and Bache was assaulted on at least one other occasion. This wasn't even Washington's only feud with a paper. The Republicans and the Federalists constantly blasted one another in papers, in pamphlets and even larger books, it got personal, it got nasty and as stated above sometimes it even got physical. That didn't abate much over the years - and it would depend on what Presidential historian you read, some would argue things didn't really settle a little between the press and Presidents until FDR. I don't want to figure out when, but man Lincoln, Grant, Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt had some really interest conflicts with the press you should read up on sometime, just to name a few notables.


Why am I writing all of this? Contending for ideas is at times unpleasant, many of us struggle to bridle our passion enough to maintain our social graces while contending passionately for our beliefs. This is not new. This is not spectacular. The press should virtually always be in some sort of conflict with power, I expect it. The press exists to hold the powerful accountable, they are full time watchdogs over those who make decisions for all of us, and we pay for it and care about it because they do that so we can all work and not lose track of the public business while we are out making a living day by day. So the media serves a purpose. - and even though I found the conflict with Trump embarrassing and I think that both sides let go of their better senses and at times their integrity I think it is better to have a President who doesn't get along with the Press and vice-versa at times, it is good to question power and for everyone to stay on their toes.


Here is what is truly awful; when the President and the press, the cable news channels etc. are in absolute lockstep. When the President of the United States can make over 40 executive orders in less than two weeks in office and there's precious little concern about the balance between branches of the government. It's even worse still that with all the large, sweeping initiatives that President Sock Puppet has put forward that he has not done a single press conference in two months. That is amazing power with precious little accountability. Maybe Joe Biden is not the enemy of the press, but it certainly seems like he is the enemy of the informed public, and if the press had any real fortitude they would be more vociferous now than ever. Now I will be the one to write it, and in no way will I apologize, what Trump had between him and the press was far closer to normal in American democracy than the Stepford Wife treatment that CNN and MSNBC are giving Joe Biden. Matter of fact the current arrangement reminds me a lot of an authoritarian regime and the obsequious mouthpieces who play act service to the people while licking the boots of the people in power. We no longer have a President versus the Press, welcome to the era of the President's Press.



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