Donald Trump exercised his right as a civilian citizen to exclude whom he pleases from his private events–namely yanking the media credentials for The Washington Post.
This is not the first time Trump has had reporters removed from his events. Back in August, he had Jorge Ramos of Univision escorted from a Dubuque, Iowa press conference in a most humiliating manner, only to readmit him (adding more humiliation) later. Again, it’s Trump’s right to do this–he pays for the venue, the sound system, and the very chairs the reporters sit in.
The last president who consistently trashed the press and subverted the First Amendment in this manner was Richard Nixon. Sure, President Obama had a rather public showdown with Fox News early in his tenure, but was quickly shut down as the press closed ranks around their coveted White House correspondents. If you want to go to war with the media, don’t mess with the White House press corps.
Nixon had a lot of enemies, a well-maintained list probably as manicured and lovingly cared for as Trump’s, with names added and erased depending on the needs of the day. But the press, and especially the Washington Post, remained near the top.
“The press is your enemy,” Nixon explained five days later in a meeting with Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to another tape. “Enemies. Understand that? . . . Now, never act that way . . . give them a drink, you know, treat them nice, you just love it, you’re trying to be helpful. But don’t help the bastards. Ever. Because they’re trying to stick the knife right in our groin.”
Trump has spent more time and energy attacking the press than any other candidate, possibly ever. With regularity, he mocks them at his rallies. He pens them up in media corrals and doesn’t allow them to roam the venue. I can understand why Teddy Schleifer and Jeremy Diamond, who both cover Trump for CNN, need to swap duties and take time off. It’s exhausting covering Trump; it’s really mental and emotional abuse, 24/7.
And the golden-coiffed, orange-tinted Putin-admirer has banned more than just WaPo.
We count at least 7 outlets Trump has barred from events—Nat Review, Daily Beast, HuffPo, Buzzfeed, WaPo, Politico, DMR, who else?
— Alexandra Jaffe (@ajjaffe) June 13, 2016
But because Trump has treated the press this poorly as a candidate for president, we should expect the actual President Trump to be–presidential? Respectful of the First Amendment? I think that’s what we call “wishful thinking.” For the past 40 years, Trump has attacked anyone who has written something he doesn’t like. The retribution ranges from simple harassment, to mockery, to lawsuits.
As Nixon found out, no president is above the law, but presidents wield unparalleled power to corrupt. In 1972, when Nixon’s corruption started to unravel, he found out exactly what the limits of that power were. Democratic Senator Sam Ervin summed it up, asking “What was Watergate?”
Ervin’s answer to his own question hints at the magnitude of Watergate: “To destroy, insofar as the presidential election of 1972 was concerned, the integrity of the process by which the President of the United States is nominated and elected.” Yet Watergate was far more than that. At its most virulent, Watergate was a brazen and daring assault, led by Nixon himself, against the heart of American democracy: the Constitution, our system of free elections, the rule of law.
Donald Trump has given us more than vague hints of his intentions were he to win the presidency. We can expect him to continue exactly where Nixon left off.