The U.S. Senate adopted a unanimous consent resolution Thursday declaring that the press is not the enemy of the people. The resolution was put forward by two Democrat senators, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Brian Schatz of Hawaii. Senator John Kennedy, (R-LA) doesn’t think it is a rebuke to President Trump, though, so perish the thought.
When asked if the resolution was a direct rebuke of President Donald Trump’s harsh words toward the press, Kennedy said: “I don’t consider it to be a direct rebuke of anybody or anything.”
The timing of the resolution indicates otherwise, though. The fact that it happened Thursday, the day that 350 newspapers chose to participate in The Boston Globe’s coordinated effort to trash President Trump via editorial pages across the country makes it suspect. Though it was really just another day for the newspapers that participated, there are no coincidences in politics. By including this vote on only one of three days the Senate has worked this month thus far, makes the intention clear. The senators wanted to make a point of showing support for the First Amendment and this was their symbolic gesture.
President Trump weighed in with his thoughts about America’s free press and voiced his support, too. You’ll note he worked in his favorite slogan – fake news – into the tweet.
There is nothing that I would want more for our Country than true FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. The fact is that the Press is FREE to write and say anything it wants, but much of what it says is FAKE NEWS, pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people. HONESTY WINS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2018
Mostly, though, it is clear from the text of the resolution that the gesture was meant to cover their bases and reassure the constituents back home that a separation of powers exists. If this is supposed to make folks think the Senate is bold and brave, I think it misses the mark.
The Schatz-Schumer resolution “reaffirms the vital and indispensable role the free press serves to inform the electorate, uncover the truth, act as a check on the inherent power of the government, further national discourse and debate, and otherwise advance our most basic and cherished democratic norms and freedoms.”
“This bill is an opportunity for us to uphold our oath and make clear that we support liberty and free speech,” Schatz said in a statement. “It also sends the message that the legislative branch is capable of functioning as a separate and co-equal branch of government.”
Who doesn’t “support liberty and free speech”? Which senator would possibly cast a vote that would expose himself to critics saying otherwise? That is a very basic tenet of our constitutional republic. The problem arises when the prima donnas in the press are offended by President Trump’s use of fake news. I would also be inclined to think that there is not a senator in that chamber who has not had to bat away a bogus story, claiming it is a phony story. In other words, fake news.
It’s no secret that President Trump is not an artful speaker. He is, however, able to get under the skin of the press corps like no other resident of the White House that I’ve observed. He uses a take no prisoners approach when he punches back and that is his way of holding them accountable.
It is quite hypocritical of those on the left, in particular, to suddenly find their support of the First Amendment so under attack. Given the nearly complete hiatus taken by the media in the Obama era as that administration went about systematically silencing conservative voices through the heavy hand of the U.S. government and use of federal agencies like the I.R.S. and DOJ, spare me the indignation of the bruised ego now.
Many of today’s reporters consider themselves celebrities. Cable news shows are packed with journalists who are regulars on the D.C. cocktail circuit and use opinion-based reporting instead of just simply presenting the facts. Politicians who oppose President Trump take criticism personally, and now use expressions like “these extraordinary times” as code for in Trump’s America.
The Senate’s resolution outlines the importance of a free press in democracy, saying it serves “to inform the electorate, uncover the truth, act as a check on the inherent power of the government, further national discourse and debate, and otherwise advance the most basic and cherished democratic norms and freedoms of the United States.”
“The press’s dogged pursuit of the truth—uncovering and reporting facts, exposing wrongdoing, and holding public officials accountable—has never been more important,” said Blumenthal in a statement. “When we look back at these extraordinary times, I strongly believe that our free press will be recognized as heroes—and I’m proud to stand with them today.”
Senator Blumenthal is a vocal critic of Trump. He utilizes the coded language in his quote to the press. Where was he during the eight years of the Obama administration? Where was his concern about press coverage then?
You can read the text of the resolution HERE.
With all due respect to Senator Kennedy, a man with a no-nonsense way of talking, I would argue that this resolution was solely a rebuke of President Trump’s handling of the press. Trump’s criticism of fake news is regularly conflated into criticism of deliberately biased and false reporting. The Senate does itself no favors by throwing in with them.