For journalists, angry calls, thinly veiled threats, even outright threats, are a perverse kind of compliment.
It’s not that we want to receive vitriolic, often drunken, screeds or threats. And, FYI — threatening people is illegal. But, when someone is opposed enough to the free expression of a free press to get hammered and leave us a three-minute voicemail calling us every name in the book, and inviting us to go to hell, or when someone sends us a not-so-subtle note about “getting rid of your kind,” it means we’re doing our job. Really, if journalism and commentary doesn’t anger that segment of society, why bother printing it?
And if the angry screeds and cowardly no-name messages are an indicator of a job well-done, having someone who is a direct threat to freedom, democracy and the Constitution say you should be dead — well, that’s an award too big to frame.
So, imagine how tickled I was earlier this week to hear the president of the United States himself, ol’ Cadet Bone Spurs, wants me dead. OK, that may be taking too much credit. It’s not me individually so much as me and every other journalist in America.
I’ve known the president had a great disdain for journalists, and the truth in general, since his campaign. But this week, the allegation the president repeatedly expressed a desire to have journalists executed came out in John Bolton’s book. Mind you, I trust Bolton about as much as week-old gas station tuna salad. He’s a warmonger and a coward who didn’t have the integrity or courage to testify before Congress, who now is trying to cash in on his spin in the president’s revolving staff door.
But, I do trust my classmate from the Naval Academy, Guy Snodgrass, who was a speech writer for Jim Mattis when he was SecDef, and who confirmed the president’s desire that reporters “should be executed. They are scumbags.”
Business Insider published the confirmation from Snodgrass on June 17, adding the president’s expressed desire to execute journalists came at a time when “Trump was angry about his administration being undercut by claims from anonymous White House officials, believing reporters should be jailed to compel them to reveal their sources’ identities.”
So, apparently we’re to be jailed before we’re executed? Well, I hope the president runs a gulag better than he runs his hotels.
Joking aside, the president’s repeated and increasingly brazen attacks on a free press should come as no surprise — but they should be alarming. Many of you may not care if a few journalists get attacked or killed by Trump supporters eager to please their blessed leader. But, as Americans, you should care that a free press is the one bulwark between a healthy republic with a strong military, and a wicked tyrant with a compliant military.
Trump’s rhetoric of the media being “fake” and the “enemy of the people” is plagiarized straight from the lips and playbooks of such darlings of freedom as Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.
In February 2017, the late Republican Sen. John McCain told us during a “Meet the Press” interview the dangers of the president’s war on the media.
“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. “And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started … They get started by suppressing free press. In other words, a consolidation of power. When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press.”
Reread that warning from a true patriot, warrior and public servant, and then consider this September 2019 rage-tweet from the president: “Our real opponent is not the Democrats, or the dwindling number of Republicans that lost their way and got left behind, our primary opponent is the Fake News Media.”
I’m the No. 1 opposition to your particular brand of racist, hate-spewing ideology? Wow. Careful Mr. President — you’re going to make me blush.
Mr. President, opposing you — whether by opinion writing or the recitation of naked, unforgiving facts — is a great honor, and the perfect way for me to continue the oath I took standing in Tecumseh Court as a newly shaved 19-year-old on July 1, 1994, to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” In case you’re wondering, Mr. President, you are the domestic variety.
And, if fulfilling that oath means some hate-drunk stooge takes a shot at me, well, opposing this president is a pretty good cause in which to die. I’d chalk that up as a win in the vein of the class motto Guy Snodgrass and I follow: Virtus in Vitam, Honos in Mortem — Courage in Life, Honor in Death.
For future planning purposes, I’ve left instructions there’s to be an open bar at my wake. If you have any respect for me, you will have, and need, a designated driver.