“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.”
Our founding fathers well understood the importance of information to the survival of a republic. Without information, they recognized that there could be no accountability— and a government without accountability can quickly become antithetical to democracy.
This week, we join hundreds of other newspapers around the country in pushing back against the attempts by President Donald Trump to falsely brand the nation’s news media as “the enemy of the people,” as a means of avoiding accountability for his actions.
Journalists are human, which means they are far from perfect. They have their biases and their blind spots. Too often, they seek the sensational over the substantive. But the professional news media to which most Americans still turn for information, remains transparent and accountable, which stands in stark contrast to a president so intent on casting aspersions.
President Trump loathes the professional media for exactly the reason that Thomas Jefferson held it in high regard— it shines a light on the workings of government and its leaders. And that’s a threat to a man in the White House who has lived his entire life free from accountability.
When Harry Truman was president, he famously said, “The buck stops here.” It was a simple recognition that the president must take responsibility when things go wrong.
That, of course, is something that Donald Trump would never do. All his life, he has used those around him, even his children, as human punching bags, who exist only as fall guys or facilitators in the rationalization or cover-up of Mr. Trump’s reckless behavior. They exist to either take the blame or pay off the porn stars.
As president, Mr. Trump rails against the professional news media not because it is actually the enemy of the people, but because it is the enemy of secrecy, and it is independent of Trump’s manipulations.
It is the news media that exposes Trump’s countless deceits and the crass corruption so rampant in his administration. It is the media that regularly reminds the American people that a president riddled with potential conflicts of interest still hasn’t released his tax returns, or that he has acted to direct millions of taxpayer dollars into his own pocket in just 18 months in office.
It is the news media that revealed that the Trump administration was keeping the children of refugees in cages, that the tax cuts he continues to tout have gone overwhelmingly to the wealthiest Americans, or that he is advancing policies designed to worsen air and water quality and worsen the changing climate.
It is the news media that exposes Trump’s foreign visits for the international relations disasters that they actually represent. Trump, of course, who appears to view his presidency as just one more reality TV show, declares every foreign visit as a “stunning success,” even as the evidence says otherwise. Relations with Europe are at an all-time low, Kim Jong-un continues work on his nuclear missiles, and Vladimir Putin still retains puppet-master-like control over the American President. Trump struts around the world stage, and tells the American people, “the world is starting to respect the United States of America again.” Yet Gallup and virtually every other opinion poll continues to demonstrate that world opinion of the U.S. has collapsed under his administration.
Mr. Trump loathes the media for the same reason he continuously rails on Twitter against Special Counsel Robert Mueller— he can’t control them and what they might reveal about what he’s done.
That kind of independence doesn’t make the media the enemy. It makes the media essential.