“I know you are, but what am I?” are the famous words of man-child Pee-wee Herman when caught in a heated argument. Should there really be any surprise that this is the same reaction of the other famous man-child, Donald J. Trump, when he reacts to those who question his fitness for the presidency or the actions he takes as president?
During the presidential campaign of 2016 Hillary Clinton continually questioned Trump's “temperament” to hold office based on some very specific things he said or did or the manner in which he reacted to things said or done. His response was to accuse her of not having the “temperament” or “stam-in-a” to be president but without ever attempting to provide any specific explanation as to how he arrived at that conclusion.
Another example is Trump's recent claim that he “inherited a mess.” Really? Democrats made that same claim in the 2008 election campaign, but back in 2009 the new administration faced the historic financial crisis, the Great Recession of 2008. Under the Obama administration we saw 82 straight months of private sector job growth, the longest streak in our history, and the creation of some 11 million new jobs. We also saw the unemployment rate go from 10 percent to 4.7 percent. I would say President Obama inherited a mess, not Donald Trump, who chose to repeat the same phrase even though he provides no specifics to back up his rhetoric.
This brings us to his constant clamoring about “fake news” when it is he, as much if not more than anyone who creates fake news. A president who gets his “intelligence” information (or lack thereof) from Fox News, and not the intelligence agencies he continually disparages, is not someone who is in a position to cast aspersions on the reporting of the mainstream media.
Apparently in the world of Trump any question that seeks answers regarding a topic not favorable to Trump is fake news and any flattering statement is real news regardless of whether the statement is based in fact. The Russia connection inquiries are prime examples.
Trump claims he has nothing to hide. One would expect, then, that he would want to do anything in his power to help bring the current investigations to a close rather than tweeting that “many of the leaks coming out of the White House are fabricated lies made up by the #FakeNews media.” This reaction, of course, only makes it more difficult for the investigators to get to the truth and bring the issue to an end.
Trump recently claimed that any unidentified source should not be trusted. That is, of course, if the source reveals information not flattering to Trump. Trump himself has no problem citing unidentified sources when it suits his preferred narrative. Remember in 2012 when he cited an “extremely credible source” that Barack Obama's birth certificate was a fraud? Whatever did happen to that credible source referred to by Trump? Was he as nonexistent as the John Miller and John Barron pseudonyms used by Mr. Credible himself to contact New York newspapers to plant flattering information about himself?
The main problem with these detestable tactics is that there is a large segment of our society who actually believe the “fake” rhetoric of this administration and that is extremely dangerous to a democratic society. As Thomas Jefferson, a real president, once said: “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. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”
I have been attending White House press briefings and I must tell you that the problem with these daily briefings do not lay with the press, who are on top of all of the issues and pose relevant questions designed to seek relevant answers to share with the public. The problem lies with the lies of this administration. A good example is the controversy surrounding Trump's tweeting the word “covfefe.” Clearly “covfefe” was a typo, but it is also clear that the official policy of this administration is never to admit any wrongdoing or mistakes. This is evidenced by the explanation provided by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer who, in answer to questions on the use of this word explained that the word was understood by a specific segment of Trump's twitter followers. No it wasn't, Sean! It was a TYPO. All Spicer had to do to maintain some semblance of credibility is to say that it was a typo and that the White House would try to install spellcheck on Trump's phone. But, no, obviously Spicer's marching orders are not to ever admit to any mistakes by this administration no matter how innocuous.
The problem of fake news is definitely real. However, it is not the mainstream media that perpetrates the fake news. The mainstream media is the only protection the public has against the fake news perpetrated by the likes of the current administration by holding it accountable for whatever misinformation it puts out as real.
Further, the irresponsible attacks by this administration on the free press have resulted in subjecting journalists to physical harm. In just the past few weeks alone, a Congressional candidate from Montana assaulted a Guardian reporter who was trying to ask him a question on the eve of their special election, and a journalist was arrested in West Virginia while posing healthcare questions to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price.
The attacks on the free press undermine our democracy. Since we are not an authoritarian state and do not intend to become one, we expect the media to serve as a watchdog over this president and anyone else ever seeking to hold political power in this country. Accountability is at the essence of a true democracy and the free and independent press is the most important tool we have to ensure that fake news is exposed for what it is and the use of fake news does not prevent office holders from being held accountable for their actions.