ABC News / YouTube President Donald Trump delivers remarks at...
ABC News / YouTube

Donald Trump is the only president in history who has characterized the Fourth Estate as an “enemy of the people,” and certainly it was a first when Steve Bannon suggested that the press, “just shut up and listen.” Be that as it may, Jack Schafer, writing in Politico Magazine  is not intimidated:

But as we approach the first anniversary of Trump’s inauguration, we discover that the president’s gibbering about the alleged menace posed by the press has been followed by no action. He threatened to sue the New York Times in October 2016 over its story about two women who said he touched them inappropriately, but he backed down after the paper told his attorney it welcomed “the opportunity to have a court set him straight.” He’s pressed no member of Congress to “open up” the libel laws (plus, good luck with that—libel law is a state issue, defined by state courts and legislatures). Journalist Timothy O’Brien, whom Trump did sue for libel and lost over his 2005 book TrumpNation, says we needn’t worry about his lawsuits. “He’s a bully who is easily cowed. He’s not particularly bright. And he’s never surrounded himself with top legal advice,” O’Brien tells me. […]

He could direct Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prosecute reporters in leak cases. But again, there’s been no action aside from lip music. If Trump were feeling especially lucky, he would order the foot-soldiers of the intelligence community to monitor and surveil the press. But he’s too timid for that. First, it’s not likely that the members of the Deep State would carry out such a potentially illegal order: Washington’s entrenched bureaucracy has its own ideas about the press, and while it might not like reporters, it likes Trump even less and appreciates reporters as a hedge against Trump’s overreaching. […]

Journalists who work the White House beat and have felt the brunt of Trump’s insults may not share my sanguine view. He has slighted and inconvenienced reporters by ducking the press pool and barring the U.S. news media—but not the Russian—from covering his meeting with Russian dignitaries. He has mocked reporters and slagged the press as being part of a globalist conspiracy. His press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, berates them daily like schoolchildren as she burns through the minutes like a bored hourly worker.

And yet the White House press briefings continue. Trump has made no move to jail a single reporter or change the First Amendment. Even CNN’s Jim Acosta, Trump’s least favorite reporter, has yet to be banned from the White House, proving the emptiness of the president’s intimidations. When it comes to the press, the president is a paper tiger dressed in a cowardly lion’s costume.

Scafer ends his lengthy and interesting piece by saying that Trump, just like a junkie, needs the press at least as much as it needs him. He loves to command the news cycle with his latest insane tweets. As long as Donald Trump has an insatiable ego, the media has a job — and we have a First Amendment.

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