All president’s lie. But these lies were not amplified through media echo-chambers in the way they are today. Here is Eric Alterman’s recent piece at The Nation:
Trump knows, as all tyrants do, that without the accountability provided by an independent media, a powerful politician can get away with almost anything. America’s founders bequeathed the press its special status and protections under the First Amendment for exactly this reason. Trump’s insistent accusation that the media are the “Enemy of the American People” and constant protestations of “fake news” are intended to undermine confidence in the press and thereby undermine its ability to hold his administration answerable to the public.
But it did not matter how frequently or how egregiously Trump and his administration lied to journalists or how viciously they insulted their character, their professionalism, or even their ethnicity—reporters for mainstream outlets kept returning for more abuse and precious little truth. “We’re not cheerleaders for the president nor are we the opposition,” argues New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker. He further insists, “What we shouldn’t do is let the noise overcome our journalistic values.” But all too often, what was offered as a defense of old-fashioned commitments to provide “both sides” of any given controversy devolved, in practice, to running interference for Trump’s dishonesty. Many journalists were so insistent that they were not in a fight with the president that they were failing to inform the public of just how serious a threat he posed to the country’s freedoms.
Even were Trump to respect the constitutional constraints on his office, he would still enjoy an awesome degree of potentially destructive power. Beginning with the birth of the atom bomb and the ever-expanding ideology of the “national security state,” the prerogatives of the presidency have grown beyond anything the founders could have possibly imagined. With America’s nuclear arsenal at his disposal, Trump could, of course, end all human life and destroy the planet. Less dramatically, he could invoke any one of the emergency powers contained in the 123 statutory provisions that give presidents near-dictatorial powers. Trump might, for instance, seize control of “any facility or station for wire communication,” should he decide to proclaim “that there exists a state or threat of war involving the United States,” and order it to broadcast only his voice and his orders. With Trump’s power and dishonesty, the institutions charged with protecting American democracy and civic life should err on the side of vigilance rather than complacency.
Reflecting on the corruption of his erstwhile friends and colleagues in the Trump administration, former FBI director James Comey explained, “It starts with your sitting silent while he lies, both in public and private, making you complicit by your silence.” The silence is natural. “After all, what are you supposed to say? He’s the president of the United States.” The end result is that “you are lost. He has eaten your soul.” Comey’s metaphor is a good one, but the circle he drew is overly narrow. Trump’s lies are not only devouring America’s soul; they are threatening the future viability of our democratic republican form of government. Trump is the Frankenstein monster of a political system that has not merely tolerated lies from our leaders but has come to demand them. The weaknesses of the American political system that gave rise to Trump will not disappear with his presidency. They must be confronted, head-on, while we still have a soul—and a republic—worth saving.
Read the entire piece here.