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Montini: Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain defend ‘enemy of the people’

Sen. Jeff Flake skewered President Trump in a speech on the Senate floor, warning fellow members of Congress against adding to the danger.

USA TODAY

Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake want to save my job.

Well … maybe not my job, but certainly the jobs of my hardworking brothers and sisters in the media.

They wish to do so not out of any affection for those of us in the press – who consistently give them a hard time – but because they recognize that saving the free press is necessary to saving American democracy.

Flake has taken to the floor of the U.S. Senate to compare President Donald Trump’s attacks on the press to those of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Flake is right about Trump and Stalin

And, as I said in an earlier blog, before you throw a hissy-fit over Flake’s statement you should know that he has Thomas Jefferson on his side.

Jefferson was a staunch believer in the need for a vibrant, independent press.

One of his more famous quotes comes from a letter he wrote in the late 1700s in which he said:

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

From before he got elected Trump has tried to do what dictators like Stalin have done, get the people to believe them – and only them – over the thousands of men and women working in the media.

And to convince regular people that the media – which is made up of regular people – is the enemy.

Jefferson would like what they said

Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake stood for decency and urged us to work together, no matter the personal costs.
Wochit

In his Senate speech Wednesday Flake said: “2017 was a year which saw the truth – objective, empirical, evidence-based truth — more battered and abused than any other in the history of our country, at the hands of the most powerful figure in our government.

“It was a year which saw the White House enshrine ‘alternative facts’ into the American lexicon, as justification for what used to be known simply as good old-fashioned falsehoods. It was the year in which an unrelenting daily assault on the constitutionally-protected free press was launched by that same White House, an assault that is as unprecedented as it is unwarranted. ‘The enemy of the people’ was what the president of the United States called the free press in 2017.

ROBERTS: Flake says truth needs allies. Amen, but where are they?

“Mr. President, it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies. It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of ‘annihilating such individuals’ who disagreed with the supreme leader.”

Meantime, in an op-ed for The Washington Post, Sen. John McCain reinforced the same idea, only putting the issue on an international scale. He pointed out how Trump’s attacks on the media at home have emboldened dictators and repressive regimes (and even some democracies) to attack reporters in their home countries.

McCain wrote, “While administration officials often condemn violence against reporters abroad, Trump continues his unrelenting attacks on the integrity of American journalists and news outlets. This has provided cover for repressive regimes to follow suit. The phrase ‘fake news’ — granted legitimacy by an American president — is being used by autocrats to silence reporters, undermine political opponents, stave off media scrutiny and mislead citizens.”

I agree with them both. And, again, as I’ve said before: Even better – way, WAY better – so, too, would Thomas Jefferson.

READ MORE:

Flake disputes Trump’s denial of vulgar comment, says he heard it

Editorial: Jeff Flake and John McCain tried to save us from ourselves

Diaz: Jeff Flake quit. Trump won. And civility lost

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