John McCain spoke with NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet The Press about the importance of a free press in response to a tweet by the president that called out the press as “the enemy of the American people.” While he was careful not to call Donald Trump a dictator, McCain bluntly said that history shows that one of the first things that dictators do when taking power is to marginalize or suppress the free press.
It’s easy for Trump to scapegoat the media, as other presidents and elected officials have done throughout U.S. history, because their questions and investigations simply make it more difficult to get things done. We can see how the adversarial relationship with the press is fueling frustration for Donald Trump by taking Michael Flynn, the recently departed National Security Adviser, as an example. At the end of the day here are the facts:
- Donald Trump appointed Michael Flynn to the role of National Security Adviser.
- Michael Flynn spoke with the Russian Ambassador about sanctions before the inauguration.
- Flynn lied about the nature of this conversation to both the FBI and Vice President Mike Pence.
- The press found out about Flynn’s dishonesty and reported on it.
- Either President Trump asked for Michael Flynn to resign or he resigned of his own volition – both versions of the final decision have been put forth by the administration.
- President Trump claimed that Flynn had been treated “very, very unfairly” by the press.
Clearly President Trump’s week would have been easier had the press never reported on Flynn’s mistake – but that’s what the press does. McCain in his conversation with Chuck Todd indicated that “an adversarial relationship” with the press is a good thing for democracy, as frustrating as it is.
Media outlets that adhere to strict journalistic standards are important to American democracy and are key to holding President Trump accountable for the decisions he makes.