If there is one single thing that defines the American tradition and the success of our nation, it has to be the First Amendment, with its guarantee of free speech and freedom of the press. Thomas Jefferson expressed it best: “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.” That’s because powerful people in both government and the private sector are always doing end runs around the law. The temptation to cut corners, abuse power and commit fraud is almost irresistible at the top of the food chain. And it’s just too easy to get away with it—unless you have dependable journalists who shine light into the shadows and hold the bastards accountable. That’s why dictators hate the press, and honest reporters are always their first victims—jailed, expelled or murdered.
Many American Presidents have been hostile to the free press. Nixon was notoriously bad; his band of “plumbers” even considered assassinating famed journalist Jack Anderson. But Donald Trump takes this hostility to a whole new level.