Have you had enough of Trump, yet?
WASHINGTON — Some irate Donald Trump supporters have had enough. Enough, that is, of my columns harping on the damage their man has done and is doing to American democracy by attacking the press and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible obstruction of justice by him that could lead to impeachment.
One reader writes: “Isn’t this the same column story you write every month?” (Editor’s note: It’s not every month. It’s more like every other day. But who’s counting?)
He goes on: “What did you write before Trump was president? Your column is so boring. Trump did this or that. It will be passed by the common educated person every time. Start writing about something else or retire. No one wants to hear it anymore.”
Another suggests: “(If) you want a president that threatened democracy, take a look at old LBJ. His ‘Great Society’ destroyed the black family and created an underclass that has discovered it can vote itself largesse (from) the public treasury. Dig him up and put him on trail (sic). He’s done more damage to this country than Adolph (sic) Hitler.”
And so it goes. Almost every day, my email in-box brings more of the same, along with an occasional note urging that I keep on keeping on, noting a new Trump lie, misstatement or representation as it comes along. It’s called reporting of what’s been said.
As anyone can see, Trump has found this practice so annoying that he brands the lot of us journalists “the enemy of the people.” He has indulged this passion so frequently at his rallies that his faithful followers have picked up the act, jeering and slurring at the press, and occasionally threatening violence as well.
Conflict was inevitable between a president so contemptuous of the truth and a profession tasked with reporting it. Trump’s first press secretary, Sean Spicer, so discredited himself as a toadyish conveyor belt of his boss’ lies that he became a laughingstock. (He got a book out of it, but it served only to increase the guffaws.)
Spicer’s first successor, the unintentionally comic Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci, lasted only a few days before Sarah Huckabee Sanders took over and developed demeaning of the White House press corps into an art form.
A few notable reporters, including CNN’s Jim Acosta, have confronted Sanders publicly about the “enemy of the people” slur, to no avail, but he has persisted in doing his job in the face of further jeering at Trump rallies.
Trump pretended to be amused by it all in a tweet last week, writing: “The Fake News Media is going CRAZY! They are totally unhinged and … after witnessing first hand the damage they do to so many innocent and decent people, I enjoy watching. In 7 years, when I am no longer in office, their ratings will dry up and they will be gone!”
But it is Trump himself who is showing signs of being unhinged. Indeed, his continued labeling of reporters as “the enemy of the people” — a direct affront to the Founding Fathers’ intent to protect them in specifying freedom of speech and the press in the First Amendment — reveals the threat he feels from a free press unfettered to do its job.
In New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger’s recent meeting with Trump, he told the president his remarks on the press “were not just divisive but increasingly dangerous and harmful to our country” and were “contributing to a rise in threats to journalists and will lead to violence.”
Columnist Brent Stephens in the Times wrote the other day: “We are approaching a day when blood on the newsroom floor will be blood on the president’s hands.” Indeed, such further threats recently were made against the staff of the Annapolis Capital Gazette, which in late June lost five staffers to a disgruntled gunman.
Nevertheless, dear readers, you still have the option to read or not read what you choose, and complain to your local newspaper editor if you care to. And I will continue to call ’em as I see ’em, as will my fellow ink-stained wretches in newsrooms across this still-democratic country.
Editor’s note: Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books. You can respond to this column at email@example.com.