By locking out critical journalists, Donald Trump wants to show how powerful he is. The president is acting at a kindergarten level — that has to be alarming.
A new day, a new stunner from Trump. The president has declared critical media to be enemies; now the White House is following up with action, excluding journalists from CNN, The New York Times and other renowned media from a press gathering.
As an entrepreneur and entertainer, Trump liked to fire people — now he is “firing” journalists from the White House. With this, the president wants to demonstrate his power; in reality, he demonstrates impotence. The titularly most powerful politician in the world acts without confidence at the level of a kindergartener.
The logic followed by the president and his people is a bit reminiscent of little boys playing soccer. Little Donald is no longer letting those who criticize his fouls participate in kicking the ball about. It is simple, naïve thinking, because just as the excluded kickers vociferously decry rule violations from the sidelines of the playing field, the criticism from the banned press will not fall silent.
Locking out journalists is not surprising. Short-term thinking dominates with Trump. Tough decisions and tough attacks demonstrate follow-through — and as quickly as possible. That’s how Trump acted as a businessman, and that’s how he wants to govern as president.
Trump promised simple solutions for complex problems: Stopping illegal immigration by means of a wall, single-handedly solving economic misery and even ending the Middle East conflict. In the election campaign, he claimed, among other things, to have a “secret plan” for defeating the Islamic State terrorist militia within 30 days. Trump is intoxicated by the belief that he can do everything; he again and again plants this in the minds of his supporters.
The reality looks different. Trump’s presidency has proceeded catastrophically thus far. His security adviser had to go after a few days; his travel ban for citizens of seven Muslim countries was overturned. In addition to that come numerous rule violations, embarrassments and untruths, like the incident Trump contended occurred in Sweden but that didn’t happen. The White House asked the FBI to discount press reports of Russian involvement with the Trump team. Yet the Secret Service balked; and instead, the attempt to influence the news became public. And now comes the exclusion of journalists, a first in the history of the United States.
One can make fun of Trump because he occasionally acts so childishly. But one must rise up in arms because in this case, he is violating the spirit of the free press that is prominently realized by the First Amendment. But one must not believe that he will back off or even give up.
Trump is dangerously helpless. The press ban shows this, as well as his diatribes against journalists at press conferences and in his Twitter tirades, where he declares faultfinding media to be the “enemy of the people.” For a long time, Trump was in a symbiotically close relationship with the media. Now they are the opposition for him, against which he wants to fight as hard as possible.
Trump’s real problem does not lie in the editorial offices, but rather completely with himself. He cannot “deliver,” yet that is what he promises his fans again and again. A few days ago, his chief strategist, Steven Bannon, said the president is “maniacally” focused on making good on his ludicrous campaign promises.
For Trump’s narrative to be coherent again, others must be at fault, those who write about his failures, embarrassments and glitches, i.e., journalists. It is ludicrous; it is a brazen projection. Trump, the master of fake news, accuses the media of spreading fake news about his government.
Free Media Are the Lie Detectors of a Free Society
Trump’s tendency toward quick reflexive action with counterproductive long-term effects once again shows itself here. The raging attacks against journalists are now hurting him more than they are helping him. Apart from his blindly loyal followers (not to be underestimated), he will hardly win any new supporters, but instead embolden the media. The Trumpian quarrel has now already given its major opponent, The New York Times (which, by the way, does not see itself as an opponent), a fulminant number of new subscribers.
The press will not shut down because the president badmouths them like Richard Nixon did at the end stage of his presidency, so nothing else will remain for Trump, Bannon and Co. except to de-escalate, or to increase the dosage and proceed against journalists increasingly more drastically.
Free media are the lie detectors of a free society like the United States. No one to date has been able to stop them from doing their work, nor will Trump do so either. This will remain so as long as the United States of America is a democratic nation of laws.