John McCain's "dictator" talk ignores reality and his own past with the media

Arizona Senator John McCain is a very popular figure with the mainstream media. (I bet that’s a sentence you never thought you’d read.) The latest reason for this newly emerging love affair between the press and the decorated war hero is his response to the speech given by President Trump during his rally in Florida yesterday. Following the brief but raucous event, McCain was ushered out to give the media his own take on the speech, during which he invoked the image of a “dictator” when discussing the president’s critique of political journalism. (CNN)

“I hate the press,” the Arizona Republican sarcastically told NBC News’ Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.” “I hate you especially. But the fact is we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital.”

But he continued, “If you want to preserve — I’m very serious now — if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press,” McCain said in the interview. “And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”

We can have a debate over how much criticism should be fairly applied to cable news and the major newspapers if you like, but “suppressing the Free Press” is simply fake news. If we actually lived under a system where the Fourth Estate could truly be suppressed that would indeed represent a constitutional crisis. But as Powerline’s John Hinderaker observes, this is some sort of fantasy born from a fever swamp.

John, John, get a grip! Who is “suppressing” the press? Do you seriously not understand the difference between criticizing the press and suppressing it? The press is not above criticism. On the contrary, it deserves to be called out constantly for bias and inaccuracy. President Trump has taken a good step in that direction, but a great deal more press criticism is in order.

Also: not calling in CNN in a White House press conference does not constitute “suppressing” CNN.

That’s absolutely correct, particularly in light of activities taking place in other parts of the world. If you want to see actual suppression of the press you need look no further than the nation of Turkey. Over there, a nascent dictator on the rise quickly moved to engage in some actual press suppression immediately following the attempted coup last year. Rather than criticizing journalists who might have commented negatively on his policies, Turkey’s president simply shut down all of the media outlets aside from those sanctioned and controlled by the state. He upped the ante from there by not only putting hundreds of journalists on the unemployment line, but tossing a significant number of them in his dungeons just for good measure.

That, my friends, is what actual media suppression looks like. What’s taking place in the White House today is push back and criticism of American journalists. They are still on the air 24 hours a day and printing their newspapers, free to respond to these critiques and they have been doing so since the moment Trump began speaking in Florida yesterday.

It’s also worth noting that Senator McCain seems to have either a particularly forgiving nature or a short memory. I’m old enough to remember the autumn of 2008 when McCain was making his own bid for the presidency. At that time, the same media outlets who are now lionizing him for his brave stance in standing up against Trump were declaring him unfit for the office. To listen to their remarks and commentary in the final weeks of that race was to be treated to an endless series of tirades declaring that the very idea of voting for McCain over Barack Obama was laughable.

I suppose it speaks well of John McCain that he is so tolerant and forgiving. But there’s a new sheriff in town and his attitude on this subject is decidedly different.

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Jazz Shaw 10:01 AM on June 04, 2023