Our Dear Leader Donald Trump escalated his attacks on the news media Friday afternoon when he tweeted that outlets such as the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN are not his enemy but “the enemy of the American People.” Trump calls the media ‘the enemy of the American People’:
It took the president two tries to properly post his message . . . The first tweet, which was quickly deleted, contained a number of extra spaces and listed the Times, CNN and NBC, ending with this conclusion: “SICK!” The second tweet added ABC and CBS to the list, while removing “SICK!” Both tweets labeled those organizations as being “the FAKE NEWS media.”
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Thursday night, the Republican Party and Trump’s campaign websites posted a 25-question “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey.” The survey formalized Trump’s attacks and his insinuation that media outlets are working against the American people. It’s unclear what, if anything, the data will be used for, and participants are required to give their name, email address and Zip code.
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The social-media ads driving people to the survey were paid for by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising committee that splits its proceeds between Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee.
Just to be clear, it is not just the always insecure Twitter-troll-in-chief who is declaring that the “fourth estate” is the enemy of the American people, it is the Republican Party establishment. All Republicans are tarred with Trump’s assault on the media unless they publicly renounce it.
Arizona’s angry old man, Senator John McCain has had enough, and has publicly said so. Without ever mentioning President Donald Trump by name, McCain used a speech in Germany on Friday as an international platform to blast his fellow Republican’s policies and worldview. McCain slams Trump — without using his name — in speech warning of ‘flirting with authoritarianism’:
Republican Sen. John McCain delivered a withering critique of President Donald Trump in a speech Friday that highlighted fractures within the GOP as the new administration struggles to overcome a chaotic start.
Speaking in Germany at the Munich Security Conference, McCain didn’t mention the president’s name, according to the prepared text, while he lamented a shift in the United States and Europe away from the “universal values” that forged the Western alliance seven decades ago. McCain is the chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
The senator lamented the “hardening resentment we see toward immigrants, and refugees, and minority groups, especially Muslims.” During the presidential campaign, Trump promised to stop Muslims from entering the U.S. and shortly after taking office issued an executive order banning travellers from seven predominantly Muslim nations.
McCain also said the alliance’s founders would be “alarmed by the growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies.” While bashing the news media for being dishonest, Trump has ignored facts and sought to blame others for his miscues. Trump tweeted Friday that the news media are “the enemy of the American people.”
The senator said he’s aware there is “profound concern across Europe and the world that America is laying down the mantle of global leadership.” But he said that’s not the message they would hear from him or other American leaders “who cared enough to travel here to Munich this weekend.”
McCain continued his critique of Trump in an interview with NBC’s “Meet Chuck Todd.” ‘That’s how dictators get started’: McCain criticizes Trump for calling media ‘the enemy’:
Sen. John McCain spoke out Saturday in defense of the free press after President Trump lashed out against the news media several times over the past week, at one point declaring it “the enemy of the American People!”
Such talk, McCain (R-Ariz.) said on NBC News in an interview set to air Sunday, was “how dictators get started.”
“In other words, a consolidation of power,” McCain told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd from Munich. “When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”
The 80-year-old Republican senator was responding to several tweets by Trump over the past week, in which he repeatedly attacked the media as “fake news.” In one widely shared tweet Friday, Trump said the press was “not my enemy” but that of the American people.
In the backlash to the tweet, #NotTheEnemy began trending, with people sharing stories about journalists who had dedicated their lives to — and, in some instances, paid the ultimate price for — reporting the news.
In the “Meet the Press” interview, McCain told Todd that a free press was central to a functional democracy, even if news organizations’ stories challenged those being held accountable.
“I hate the press. I hate you, especially,” he said to Todd, who laughed. “But the fact is, we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital.”
“If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and, many times, adversarial press,” McCain added. “And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”
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This week, McCain appears on the cover of the Feb. 20 issue of New York magazine, where he candidly discusses operating in the Trump administration in a nearly 5,000-word profile by Gabriel Sherman, the magazine’s national affairs editor.
In one particularly strongly worded exchange, McCain does not hold back on how he views the severity of alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election.
“The severity of this issue, the gravity of it, is so consequential because if you succeed in corrupting an election, then you’ve destroyed the foundation of democracy,” McCain told Sherman. “So I view it with the utmost seriousness. I view it more seriously than a physical attack. I view it more seriously than Orlando or San Bernardino. As tragic as that was, the far-reaching consequences of an election hack are certainly far in excess of a single terrorist attack.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, he said later, would not stop “until the cost of going forward is too high.” (As for why his Republican colleagues were not more vocal about demanding investigations of Trump’s Russian connections, McCain told Sherman pithily: “I frankly don’t know. It’s not a chapter of ‘Profiles in Courage.'”)
In the wide-ranging profile, which covers everything from Supreme Court justice nominee Neil Gorsuch to Trump’s poll numbers, McCain also defends the news media in relation to leaks that have come from the Trump administration.
“In democracies, information should be provided to the American people,” McCain told Sherman. “How else are the American people going to be informed?”
The dramatic headline on the cover of the magazine — “McCain vs. Trump: Just how far will the senator go?” — is in many ways an oversimplification of their relationship, a facile understanding McCain himself pushes against throughout Sherman’s piece. At one point, McCain dismisses the idea that he could be swayed by Democrats seeking to protest Trump’s agenda.
“These are the same Democrats that shredded me in 2008,” McCain told Sherman. “I get along with the Democrats, but please, I’m not their hero. They’re trying to use us. We will work with them, but have no doubt, their agenda is not our agenda.”
And McCain’s criticisms of Trump could hurt Democrats in other ways, The Post’s Dave Weigel notes in his analysis of the latest crop of McCain-centered headlines:
Pushed by their party’s base, Senate Democrats have been moved from generally supporting Trump nominees to mostly opposing them. . . . But right now, progressives view the Democratic Party warily. They can ill afford a story line in which Republicans such as McCain (or Evan McMullin, or Joe Scarborough) are the real leaders of the opposition.
Still, McCain told Sherman he was not concerned about Trump’s administration becoming an “authoritarian regime.”
“I just don’t think it’s possible in our society,” he said in the profile. “There’s too many checks and balances. The danger is not Trump perverting our Constitution or taking too much power; the danger is the polarization of America.”
John McCain’s political base is the Beltway media, they created him and keep his “maverick” myth alive. McCain has little or no influence within the GOP, other than his puppet boy Sen. Lindsey Graham. McCain will never be seen as “the real leaders of the opposition” to Trump, as Dave Weigel suggests. Only Beltway media villagers who genuflect before McCain would think so.
McCain has always done what he does best, surrender in the face of opposition. He caved when president George W. Bush issued a signing statement effectively bypassing McCain’s “torture amendment.” McCain stood sheepishly alongside Bush looking down at his shoes as Bush spoke to the press about his signing statement. This is the most enduring image of John McCain (I wish I had saved a copy of the photo).
When Trump pursues his authoritarian agenda, McCain will huff and puff to his Beltway media base, but he will do nothing to stop Trump — he has no influence within the GOP to do so. McCain is venting about the Russians, but has he used his position as chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee to conduct an investigation? Of course not.
McCain’s words ring hollow.
UPDATE: So far this year, McCain is voting with Trump’s position 94% of the time. As a factual matter, the senator is a Maverick in Name Only. McCain’s maverickyness ends when actual voting in the Senate begins. (h/t Steve Benen).