This election cycle has defied gravity, with Trump going after Democrats red meat states and voters, and Clinton attempting to offer a Reaganesque olive branch to Republican “Party of Lincoln” voters. It’s insane. But both candidates agree on one thing: They hate freedom of speech and especially of the press.
Hillary Clinton has not had a press conference since Dec. 4, 2015.
Speaking at a luncheon hosted by The Wall Street Journal, campaign manager Robby Mook burst out laughing when asked if Clinton would hold court with members of the media before Election Day.
“We’ll see,” he said.
Clinton has kept her campaign so far out of the reach of real people and the press that she used a moving rope line in New Hampshire a year ago. Every moment on the Clinton campaign trail is scripted and planned. Every talk show appearance, one-on-one sit down and media opportunity is brooded over and vetted by a committee of Clinton vultures.
That’s weird considering how much the press is in Clinton’s corner. But maybe that’s the point. She’d rather feed stories directly to their plates (which are assiduously reported) than have actual press conferences. If the DNC email hacks show anything, it’s that the press and Clinton are frequently more than just buddies–many times they play for the same team.
But that bodes ill for the First Amendment. If candidate Clinton expects the press to kowtow and accept whatever is presented to them instead of providing a fair environment for all reporters and outlets to ask questions, then how would a President Clinton handle them? Hillary lacks Bill’s knack for telling a baldfaced lie and having people ask for it a la mode. (“I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” Was that a period, or a comma, Mr. President?)
Over the last year, Trump has repeatedly called out individual reporters on Twitter and in interviews for everything from what he viewed as insufficient crowd camera shots to biased reporting. And attacking the press is a regular part of the presumptive Republican nominee’s stump speech, during which he typically rips reporters as “scum,” “slime,” “dishonest” and “disgusting” — often prompting jeers from the crowd.
Trump’s media blacklist is bigger than his tiny hands. It’s gotten so that even his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence, questioned the wisdom of having it when most reporters can just come in with the public and hear Trump’s remarks.
The Trump campaign has blacklisted certain outlets, including POLITICO, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post and others, from attending his events because of what he considers unfair coverage. On Friday, CNN’s Chris Cuomo said he is blacklisted from the Trump campaign “because of how we conduct our interviews.”
Pence is no slouch at Soviet press tactics himself. Back in 2015 he tried to launch an Indiana state-run news service (like the DPRK News or Pravda), but quit when the actual press cried foul.
The Indianapolis Star broke the news of plans to begin a state-run news outlet late Monday. Planning documents obtained by The Star spoke of having press secretaries write “stories” and having the “news service” compete with other, independent media outlets on stories.
The plan quickly became the object of ridicule across the nation, drawing comparisons to state-run media in countries such as North Korea and China. Some outlets dubbed the Pence news service “Pravda on the Plains.”
Whether Clinton or Trump win the battle for the White House, it’s clear that by 2020, Americans will be dealing with more than just left-leaning NPR or PBS News Hour. There might be a Federal News Service peddling the White House’s propaganda directly from “official sources.” Or possibly Trump might in fact succeed where President Obama failed: Actually yanking the press credentials of a White House press office outlet (hint: it won’t be Fox News).
What we can be sure of is that the First Amendment will not be in good hands no matter who wins. Perhaps we bloggers should take note of this before we declare our undying love for them.