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Who wants to believe the “enemy of the people”?
There has never been a harder time to be a White House Correspondent. The collective deterioration of journalism is a new normal, but then, it’s more than that, it’s the critique of the government that the Trump administration cannot live with. In the press corps, I like the most to talk to the videographers and audio guys, they stand in the background, the silent observers who see everything, who are making mental recordings of one regime surpassing the other. They are able to sit down with you and talk all the president’s men from Bush to this day, and you can hear the most amazing stories. If only one of them would agree to write a book.
This week in the press corps started with a big frustration for me. I arrived at the White House gate on an early Monday morning, upbeat and full of enthusiasm to watch all the good energy go up in flames after a Secret Service female agent ordered me to go back home to get a passport. Since, for some inexplicable reason, the three other forms of IDs I had on me (all issued by the U.S. government), in addition to my press pass issued by the White House did not work for her. If I was on day one in the White House, I’d probably take it all in, but after three years, I had to call it out.
It is already very difficult to write the first draft of history under the label of the “enemy of the people”, to put up with more constraints in a place where our personal identities after so many years of covering the White House are fairly easy to verify. We are not some anonymous group of journalists, we are pretty much visible in public arena, some to the higher or lesser extent, but to borrow a term from sports, we all play on a national team.
My biggest concern here is that Donald Trump has given everyone permission to be dismissive of the press, to treat us in a way the Fourth Estate should not be treated, and to come back to my starting point of this cold open, it is not journalism, it is the critique he cannot live with.
Donald Trump has traits of a dictator and after he managed to get out of the Mueller investigation, he turned on the heat and is becoming more and more dismissive of the basic measures of democracy such as free press and the rule of law. I cannot really believe that I am writing these words in reference to America, as from where I came from, America seemed to be the only place where free press and the rule of law mattered. Donald Trump is attacking the blood vessels of democracy and it’s really hard to watch what he is doing to this country, a bastion of hope millions of people escaped to in search of unbound freedoms.
There’s no consistency
I came back to the White House the next morning with a passport, but unlike on Monday, no one asked me for it in addition to the US forms of identity I presented for the past three years. The bottom line is, there’s no consistency, so better have 4 out of 4 on you as you never know what can leave you outside the gate.
I think that the agent who ordered me to go back home, knew very well who I was, and she just wanted to make it a little bit harder for me. In the large scheme of things, this is just one drop in the Trump Ocean,and for sure not the biggest of a deal, but still, is disheartening to see how many hoops a White House Correspondent has to jump through in order just to get into a government building to document the first draft of history even during the times when they suffocated press briefings.
We already have a president who has a very distorted view of the role of the media. If the law enforcement agencies start following this trend he sets for his base, and mirror Trump’s sentiment, America will turn into a police state. I believe that is the type of loyalty Trump expects. “His military, his generals” and cheap points he throws at the guardians of American security and freedom. I am not saying that Trump does not really mean it when he says that he loves those who serve within the institution of national security. What I am saying is that he has a misconception that he owns those instruments of power, as all dictators do.
The role of the press, as well as the role of the institutions of national security, is to serve national and public interests that exceed of any politician. Country above the party also means country above any personal interest of the president. Face value, all these aspects seem unrelated, but they are deeply interwoven as by eroding the Fourth Estate, transparency decreases and within, it is becoming much easier to abuse the power as the watchdog is neutralized, demoralized and demonized. Who wants to believe the “enemy of the people”? That’s the baseline, the beginning of the end.
Democrats are waiting and making tactical decisions, with impeachment as a last resort. Problem with this tactic is, Trump is not tactical, he is nuclear. He entered forcefully and if there’s not something, like impeachment, to throw him off balance, or at least keep him occupied, he will ride through 2020 on a winning ticket.
I am not sure how Democrats think to hold him accountable, and whether they will do something to counter this flagrant abuse of power. The Republicans won’t do anything to stop him, a calculation for them is to stay in power at any cost. The only alternative to impeachment is for the DNC to all unite behind one single candidate and build a momentum that will vote Trump out of the Oval Office.
I really tried hard to find something positive to write about Trump, but the harm he is doing to democracy, and not only American democracy but to the ideal as a whole, is alarming and calls for journalists to make a moral choice as to what they will choose to write about. I do not see how can anyone stay silent while democracy is dying before our eyes. I for sure, can’t, the consequences for humanity in doing so are too grave.