The Enemy of the American People

By Susan Estrich

February 21, 2017 4 min read

The president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, on Friday declared that the news media is the "enemy of the American people."

Could someone please remind him of that pesky document that he has been having such trouble with — the Constitution? In addition to protecting the free exercise of religion (one of the many problems with his blunderbuss immigration ban), the First Amendment protects freedom of speech and, in particular — sorry, Mr. President — a free press.

And what this free press is supposed to do is precisely what they are doing: ask tough questions; dig into the administration's claims, along with its many lies. While President Donald Trump looks for polls to support him, the country is more divided and the world is more dangerous than ever. A press conference last week that might have addressed the many real issues affecting all of us devolved into an unprecedented attack on the media. Literally, the bulk of the press conference was devoted to the U.S. president's attacking the American press.

Sadly, we do have enemies in the world, but The New York Times is not one of them. They will still be publishing long after Trump leaves town in defeat. If the president doesn't like their coverage, he has the biggest microphone on the planet to address the charges on the merits. Instead, he talks and tweets like a schoolyard bully, belittling and demeaning reporters for doing their jobs, while he does such a poor job of his. Maybe press coverage is what matters most to Trump (from watching him, you would certainly think it is), but frankly, listening to a nasty bully is at best boring and more often downright offensive. This is the president? Turn that off. Enough of the whine-and-tweet routine.

He spent more time at his press conference attacking an Orthodox Jewish reporter who questioned him about anti-Semitism than attacking ISIS. Imagine if Hillary Clinton had done that. Would he not be screaming, "Lock her up"? President Trump, as the campaign painfully proved, thinks nothing of riling up haters if it will push his poll numbers up even the tiniest amount. Never mind that this only exacerbates the already-bitter partisan divide.

The press isn't responsible for the downfall of Trump's national-security team: Did the press tell Michael Flynn, Trump's national security adviser, to lie about discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador in December? No, the press just told us about it, as they are supposed to.

Was it the press who concocted a story that a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C., was part of a pedophilia ring with connections to the Clinton campaign? No, they just told us that Flynn's son, Michael Flynn Jr. (then a member of the Trump national security transition team), helped to spread the vicious and baseless story that led to an armed confrontation at a pizza parlor. If the press hadn't reported on that story, Flynn Jr. would probably be in charge of the Middle East.

Can you imagine what a losing Donald Trump would be saying right now if the Clinton campaign had been having secret conversations with the Russians? Can you imagine what Trump would be saying if the press had spread stories about Trump and pedophilia for the sheer cruelty of it, after the election was over? Republicans would be screaming bloody murder.

At first, I tried to ignore the noise, shut off the babble, listen to music in the car and bless my courageous grandparents for being the ones to come here.

But this administration is just too scary for that. And this president is just too mean. Never have we so badly needed a free and independent press. Never has the First Amendment been more important.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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