Now over a month into President Trump’s term, it is abundantly clear that this administration will be all but normal. The overt attacks on the press by Trump via his Twitter account and through exclusion to White House press briefings are dangerous affronts to the vital role that the media plays in democracy.
The characterization of the press as the “enemy of the people” goes against the basic principle that the press exists to serve as a check against corruption and wrongdoing in the government. President after president have disagreed with media coverage that did not favor particular actions or policies, but a respect for the institution of the press in the United States remained intact. The exclusion of renowned media outlets from press briefings was a shockingly tangible incarnation of the disregard for the press exhibited by Trump’s comments.
While the concern regarding disturbing parallels between Trump’s disdain for the press and the tendencies of authoritarian governments is serious, the idea that he simply does not understand the ramifications of his words seems even more frightening. He clearly either does not realize that the need for a free and unrestricted press is a vital element to democracy or does not care that lashing out at the idea of the press goes against the founding principles of the nation.
Americans must come to terms with the fact that Trump is fundamentally a man who craves favorable attention and cannot stand the idea of public humiliation. He either refuses to listen to the arguments presented to him or lacks the attention span to fully comprehend the questions he is asked, as evidenced by the press conference he held last week. One reporter went out of his way to point out that he did not believe Trump to be an anti-Semite when asking a question about what the administration planned to do in response to the sharp uptick in anti-Semitic threats. Trump responded by saying, “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you have ever seen in your entire life,” and insisted the reporter shouldn’t “ask an insulting question like that.”
The idea that Trump can be so confused by a straightforward and non-threatening question by a reporter simply because he is constantly in fear of attacks on his character is beyond frightening. When situations regarding American security arise, we should want someone who is a well informed and calm decision maker who will not act impulsively but instead after careful thought and study.
The actions of Trump in his first month in office show that he is clearly uninformed, unwilling to be properly briefed, and impulsive to an extreme. Unprecedented attacks on the media are just one in a series of events that are far from normal operating procedure for the American government. The media must continually remind us, whether reporting from within the White House press briefing room or not, that the worst thing we can do is to normalize the dangerous actions of the Trump administration.