By Guy Page
President Donald Trump gets a lot of flak for harping on the press. At every rally he loves to point at the reporters huddled behind their laptops and accuses them of spreading “fake news.” The huge crowd cheers Trump and hisses the press. He’s been known to call the mainstream press “the enemy of the people” — reminiscent to some of Stalin. Harsh words!
But talking trash about the press is usually as bad as it gets. And to his credit, he also talks a lot to the press. His long, impromptu Q&A sessions at the White House rope lines are now a regular thing. He tweets without ceasing. Reporters covering presidents crave information, honest reaction, and access. In that respect, he’s gold.
More important, Donald Trump does not abuse his vast presidential power by spying on the press, insisting they reveal their sources, and threaten them with imprisonment if they don’t. The same cannot be said about the administration of President Barack Obama. According to Mark Levin’s new book, “Unfreedom of the Press,” Obama administration law enforcement officials:
- Secretly subpoenaed and seized from telephone companies two months of records for 20 AP phone lines and switchboards used by more than 100 reporters in four of its news bureaus, a retired Washington Post executive editor wrote in an op-ed.
- Spied on Fox News reporter James Rosen in 2010. It collected his cellphone records and two days of personal emails and tracked his movements. It accused him of violating the Espionage Act of 1917.
- Indicted New York Times reporter James Risen as a “co-conspirator” under the same Espionage Act. It demanded his phone and computer records, tried to get him to testify against a source, and threatened him for years with prison. Not surprisingly, Risen called the Obama administration “the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation.”
- Considered (by did not implement) a Federal Communications Commission draft plan to oversee content of radio programming by placing government monitors in newsrooms “to determine how stories were selected, whether there was bias in reporting.”
- Withheld a record number of Freedom of Information Act requests from the press, Jack Shafer of Politico reported. FOIA is meant to make the bureaucracy more transparent to the general public.
Levin then states the obvious: Trump, despite harsh, mocking words for the working press that covers him, has not misused his powers. No 1917 Espionage Act accusations of press sedition. No indictments or threats of jail. No proposals of government monitors in the newsroom. He tossed CNN’s Jim Acosta out of his press briefings for extreme rudeness, but then relented a few days later.
When it comes to the press, Trump’s bark is worse than his bite. Obama, on the other hand, rarely barked. He just bit. Often. Yet the “free and independent” press didn’t protest vigorously. It makes you wonder why.
Read more of Guy Page’s reports at the Vermont Daily Chronicle.