An assault against democracy

Donald Trump declares that the press is not just his personal enemy – it is the enemy of the American people. And his chief of staff chimes in – take the President seriously when he says this.

Priebus is right. We must take these words seriously, because this statement and the underlying attitude it expresses are fundamentally antagonistic to one of the bulwarks of American democracy. Our Constitution guarantees our freedom of speech and freedom of the press. President Trump seems to respect neither.

The President seeks to intimidate and discredit the press. For the good of our country, let us hope urgently that our news men and women will continue to show the independence and courage they have shown in challenging times in our past.

Whether the President understands this crucial point or not, it remains true: the unfettered ability of the press to pursue the truth – the truth about climate change, the truth about racial discrimination, the truth about the contacts his administration has had with Russian intelligence officers – is crucial for our ability of all of us as citizens to navigate our way in this troubled world. And it is a crucial means for ensuring accountability by the powerful individuals and organizations that rule us. To express the contempt, hostility, and antagonism the President has shown for the press is a clear statement of hostility to democracy itself. To now escalate these attacks by asserting the press is the enemy of the American people is fundamentally corrosive and divisive.

What other leaders have expressed this kind of hostility to the press? Several come to mind – Mussolini, for example, and Erdoğan. It is a fascist impulse, unworthy of an American president.

Does the President acknowledge his most solemn obligation of all – to act in accordance with law and Constitution in the pursuit of the freedom and well-being of all Americans? We are a nation governed by law, not the caprice of a single individual. The President needs to make clear his commitment to his fundamental obligations and to our most precious values, rights, and liberties.

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