There he goes again

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Kath­leen Parker

— From Shang­hai to Paris to Moscow, the world has been watch­ing to see how the U.S. elec­tion is af­fected by the lat­est ter­ror­ist blood­bath on our soil, this time in the shadow of Mickey Mouse and Don­ald Duck.

News­pa­pers in those cities and in many oth­ers fo­cused at­ten­tion on the mass mur­der of 49 rev­el­ers in a gay, Or­lando night­club and what might be ex­pected from ei­ther a Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump or a Pres­i­dent Hil­lary Clin­ton. It es­caped no one that the lat­est hor­ror would be­come a fac­tor in the cam­paign. Noth­ing, not even the sor­rows of the be­reaved, takes a back­seat to po­lit­i­cal op­por­tu­nity.

While Clin­ton spoke against an­tiMus­lim rhetoric, Trump leapt into the dark­ness with all four feet, snarling at Pres­i­dent Obama’s lack of pas­sion in ad­dress­ing the Or­lando slaugh­ter and con­demn­ing him for re­fus­ing to use the words “rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ism” in iden­ti­fy­ing the en­emy.

These charges are fa­mil­iar enough, but this time Trump went a step fur­ther, sug­gest­ing that Obama re­sign from of­fice and, con­spir­a­to­ri­ally, that there’s more go­ing on than we know. De­fault­ing to his cus­tom­ary tem­plate, Trump shifted re­spon­si­bil­ity for these thoughts to “peo­ple.”

“Look, we’re led by a man that ei­ther is not tough, not smart, or he’s got some­thing else in mind,” Trump said Mon­day on Fox News.

“And the some­thing else in mind — you know, peo­ple can’t be­lieve it. Peo­ple can­not, they can­not be­lieve that Pres­i­dent Obama is act­ing the way he acts and can’t even men­tion the words ‘rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ism.’ There’s some­thing go­ing on. It’s in­con­ceiv­able. There’s some­thing go­ing on.”

And who are these peo­ple who can’t be­lieve “it”? Trump’s Twit­ter fol­low­ers? The tiny voices in his head? For cer­tain, they’re not The Wash­ing­ton Post jour­nal­ists whom Trump now has barred from his cam­paign events.

Why? Be­cause the Post ac­cu­rately re­ported Trump’s words, not­ing the ob­vi­ous im­pli­ca­tion that the pres­i­dent of the United States was some­how in league with the ter­ror­ists. Maybe it’s only the “peo­ple” think­ing this, but Trump’s modus operandi is well known by now. His book, te­dious even to Dick and Jane, is wide open.

In a nor­mal world, Trump would be booed off the stage. In­stead, he is ap­plauded (by some) for adding the Post to his list of jour­nal­is­tic or­gans de­nied ac­cess to his cam­paign.

The ap­plause is dis­heart­en­ing, and is ev­i­dence that news­pa­pers are lit­tle un­der­stood or ap­pre­ci­ated. This is ow­ing in part to a few no­to­ri­ous fab­ri­ca­tors, who were duly pun­ished, as well as a vast ar­ray of al­ter­na­tive news sources. But mostly to blame for the de­mo­niza­tion of the me­dia broadly are faux news me­dia out­lets, Repub­li­cans and their co­horts.

For decades now, con­ser­va­tive news sources, many of which are ag­gre­ga­tors de­pen­dent upon the main­stream me­dia for their bread and but­ter, have joined ra­dio hosts in blast­ing tra­di­tional news sources. Kill the mes­sen­ger is their op­er­at­ing prin­ci­ple. Repub­li­cans who ben­e­fit from this por­trayal of the me­dia ten­der their si­lence in er­rant grat­i­tude.

The fact is, Trump hasn’t needed any help in ex­pos­ing his pre­var­i­ca­tions, ex­ag­ger­a­tions and just plain aw­ful be­hav­ior. His words and deeds speak for them­selves. Thus, the idea that there’s some sort of anti-Trump ca­bal in the Post news­room is non­sense. And pick­ing a side be­tween a bom­bas­tic fab­u­list like Trump and one of the most-re­spected ed­i­tors in the coun­try, Marty Baron, shouldn’t cut any fresh fur­rows in any­one’s brow.

That is, not if one val­ues the First Amend­ment, be­cause you can be sure that Trump does not.

Al­ready, he has said he wants to “open up” li­bel laws so that peo­ple like him can more eas­ily sue news­pa­pers. This isn’t only un­likely to hap­pen but would prove oth­er­wise prob­lem­atic for Trump. Among other cri­te­ria, li­bel law re­quires ev­i­dence of defama­tion of char­ac­ter, the im­plicit pre­sump­tion of which would seem to in­oc­u­late the ac­cused in Trump’s case.

More trou­bling in the long term is Trump’s ap­par­ent as­sump­tion that he can block a free press — much as tyrants, po­ten­tates and dic­ta­tors through­out his­tory have done. Un­doubt­edly, a state news agency would suit him fine — all the news Good Cit­i­zens are fit to read.

Our al­lies and en­e­mies, mean­while, will have noted that a pos­si­ble pres­i­dent Trump, who used the deaths of in­no­cents to es­sen­tially in­dict Pres­i­dent Obama of col­lud­ing with ter­ror­ists, would do all in his power to un­der­mine the old­est democ­racy in the world.

It is hard to sell free­dom when at least a siz­able por­tion of the coun­try pro­mot­ing it seems no longer to un­der­stand what it means.

Kath­leen Parker is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact her at kath­leen­parker@wash­post.com.

WASH­ING­TON

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