Witcover: Trump persists in his campaign against the press

Not yet a month in office, President Trump was back on the campaign trail in Florida the other day in what could be called a victory lap celebrating the job he had already won.The event was a transparent ego booster shot to his constant need for reassurance...

Witcover: Trump persists in his campaign against the press

Not yet a month in office, President Trump was back on the campaign trail in Florida the other day in what could be called a victory lap celebrating the job he had already won.

The event was a transparent ego booster shot to his constant need for reassurance that his faithful flock was still with him. He held it amid spreading street protests and news-media allegations that his infant administration was in governing chaos.

At great length, he boasted of "our incredible progress in making America great again" and of the "truly great movement" he had assembled "without the filter of the fake news, the dishonest media which has published one false story after another with no sources, even though they pretend they have them. They make them up in many cases, they just don't want to report the truth and they've been calling us wrong now for two years."

Mr. Trump argued that "Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln and many of our greatest presidents fought with the media and called them out oftentimes on their lies. When the media lies to people, I will never, ever let them get away with it."

He continued: "They have their own agenda and their agenda is not your agenda. In fact, Thomas Jefferson said, 'Nothing can be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself,' he said, 'becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle,' We are not going to let the fake news tell us what to do, how to live, or what to believe We are free and independent people and we will make our own choices. ... We are here today to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

Mr. Trump again attacked the federal judges who imposed a stay on his immigration ban against refugees and visa holders from designated Muslim nations. He promised the executive order would be revised to pass judicial muster. He ended with a nationalist pitch that appeared to represent the influence of his chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, whose appointment to the National Security Council has rattled many liberals and moderates in both major political parties.

"The nation state remains the best model for human happiness, and the American nation remains the greatest symbol of liberty, of freedom and justice on the face of God's earth," Mr. Trump said. "And now we have spirit like we've never had before. It's now that we have our sacred duty and we have no choice (but) to defend our country, to protect its values and to serve its great, great citizens."

Yet a major portion of his Florida rally, staged to refuel his echo chamber of true believers, was devoted to assailing a core element in those proclaimed values "of liberty and justice on the face of God's earth" -- the exercise of free speech explicitly guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

Integral to Mr. Trump's message is his determination to poison the public discourse by injecting intentionally manufactured lies, for political ends or profit, while network and cable professional journalists remain committed to reporting the best obtainable version of the truth.

Mr. Trump's own carelessness with that truth or the pure inventions that he continues almost daily, reflects his contempt for the intelligence of the American consumers of news. A recent example was this tweet: "The FAKE NEWS media is trying to say that large scale immigration in Sweden is working out beautifully. NOT!"

Swedish officials and experts on Betpark crime and immigration quickly expressed bafflement about what Trump was saying. One of them told The Washington Post that crime was declining there, and another said refugees accounted for only one percent of all crimes in Sweden from late 2015 to early 2016. Yet two nights after Trump's remarks, riots did break out in a largely immigrant suburb of Stockholm.

In Mr. Trump's recent solo White House press conference, a reporter pointed out to him he was flatly wrong in claiming he had won more electoral votes than four previous presidents. He shrugged it off, saying: "I was given that information. I don't know."

Talk about dishing out fake news. This president needs his own fact-checkers as he goes about discrediting others who strive to learn and pass on that best obtainable version of what's going on.

Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power" (Smithsonian Books). His email is juleswitcover@comcast.net.

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