Of all the people and all the rhetoric that has been used to attack the president, it took one of his own party to elevate the trashing to a whole new level right from the chamber of the U.S. Senate.
Why Arizona Republican Jeff Flake would premeditatedly violate the basic standards of common decency to compare Donald Trump to Joseph Stalin, the murderous dictator of the Soviet Union, is as puzzling as it is absurd.
Flake, apparently under the influence of re-election panic, had previously declared he would not seek another term in the Senate. He has not, however, ruled out running for president in 2020. Maybe that has something to do with his folly.
Trump’s phrase, “enemy of the people,” that he has used to describe how he perceives some in the media, was seized upon by Flake to make the unmistakable connection to the Russian tyrant.
Flake’s complaint was that Trump was being too critical of the constitutionally protected free press, saying the president’s characterization of the media was “as unprecedented as it is unwarranted.”
History and current events would conclude that Flake is wrong on both counts.
By my daily observations, the national media doesn’t need Flake’s help in dealing with the president’s criticisms of them.
Nor is there any risk whatsoever of any newspaper, television outlet, social media or any other means of exercising the rights of free speech being lost or even diminished by whatever Trump says or does.
If anything, his method of tackling media reporters and commentators when he believes them to be delivering “fake news” serves only to reinforce their resolve to say and print whatever they want.
So reprehensible and egregious was the battering delivered by Flake, that GOP chairwoman Ronna McDaniel called him out.
“Senator Flake, turn on the news. It’s wall-to-wall biased coverage against the president. He has every right to push back. Comparing the leader of the free world to murderous dictators is absurd. You’ve gone too far.”
Undaunted by Flake’s assault or that of anyone else, the president proceeded to announce the winners of his 2017 Fake News Awards.
Although Flake decried the use of “fake news” as a bad thing to say about the national media, it’s hard to dismiss it when Trump’s awards were supported by the “winners” own acknowledgment that they got it wrong.
The prestigious Poynter Institute’s new report examining trust in the media confirmed that almost half of Americans believe the news media fabricates stories about Trump.
As for the “enemy of the people” declaration, they found that a substantial minority of 31 percent of the American public agree with the claim the president first made almost a year ago.
If you apply the Google dictionary definition of “enemy” instead of the Stalinist connection with the term, it comes up as “a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.”
Seems a perfect fit to what some in the national media have been doing.
Speaking of Google, a simple search there will produce a long history of presidents dealing combatively with the media. It’s part of our nation’s DNA.
According to the Washington Post, Thomas Jefferson invented hating the media. The principal author of the Declaration of Independence often excoriated the press and concluded, “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.”
More than 200 years later, Donald Trump is sharing Jefferson’s findings. As have many others between the third and 45th to occupy that office
Whatever the motivations that found Sen. Flake standing in the nearly empty Senate chamber recklessly declaring Trump’s words and actions as history making, he was the one who wound up looking shameful and repulsive.
Richard Greene is a former Arlington mayor and served as an appointee of President George W. Bush as regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency.