It comes as President Trump whips the public into a frenzy on the issue, the one-year anniversary of his making a campaign promise to go after the press if elected.
I read his words from the Feb. 26, 2016, Politico:
"One of the things I'm going to do if I win, and I hope we do and we're certainly leading. I'm going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We're going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they're totally protected"
One year later, to the date, Trump is in the midst of an all-out attack on the press. Now, long have we verbalized feelings that the media is biased. Long have we said it is too liberal. So, as Trump comes calling, we are a ready to hear, to listen, to follow.
He knows our tongue-wagging, and he exploits it. He wins us over by echoing our own words.
I am not as sure as the many of you. I like the press, for the most part. I certainly do not find the fault in it that Trump finds.
But, I find danger in Trump's attack. Danger lurks if the press is to be silenced. If the press can be made to answer to the president, if it can be controlled by him, truth will be suppressed. You will suggest he isn't trying to silence it, only to make it honest. I wonder. I see danger in a president who goes after the press for supposedly falsely reporting how many people attended his inauguration when, in fact, the press reported correctly but the story didn't match the trumped up falsehood the administration demanded.
If you demand your version of the truth, and your version is false, you are hardly championing free speech, which is a cornerstone of our free republic. If the laws Trump would enact cut into free speech, they count not as virtues, but as dangers. If we are to be limited to telling only the official version of the truth, as government dictates, what will become of our free nation? Government should govern many things and control some, but it should not govern the media. When it seeks to make laws regulating truth, and what will be judged to be truth, we should be very wary. When only the official version of truth can be expressed, the right of free speech is quickly lost.
Yes, I doubt Trump would take it so far. But I wonder. Vigilance is always in order. When Trump is, indeed, calling for official news -- when he is demanding the inauguration attendance be reported to his specifications -- we should wonder if the right of a free press is being assaulted.
He has suggested the press is not his enemy, but the enemy of the public. I wonder if he twists it the opposite of what it is: An assault such as this is not just an assault on the press, but an assault on us, on our freedom.