Tonight, the Washington press corps is gathered and preening at the annual White House Correspondent’s Association Dinner and for the second year, President Trump is not joining them in favor of attending a rally of supporters in Washington, Michigan (my post on the subject).
I’ve never liked these things because it is difficult to really believe the press and president can be all that chummy, like they were with Obama, and really cover the administration (spoiler alert: they can’t) and the passive-aggressive nastiness they showed with George Bush seemed calculated to demean the presidency and elevate their own importance. If you want to see examples of the latter, click the link to my article.
Now CNN’s Brian Stelter, Mr. Potato Head, himself, has come up with a novel theory. That by boycotting the WHCA dinner, Trump is hurting the First Amendment.
For a second straight year, President Trump is using the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner to wage his war on the reporters who cover him.
It would be one thing if he skipped the dinner to oversee crisis response or host a community service event. But instead he is counter-programming the dinner by holding a campaign rally in Washington Township, Michigan. If it’s anything like last year’s rally during the dinner, more media attacks are sure to come.
It means the black tie dinner — billed as a celebration of the First Amendment — will have a slightly different feel.
As one White House correspondent quipped at a Friday evening event, “He’s going to mock us for celebrating ourselves while he’s celebrating himself.”
Factually, little of this makes sense. The WHCA dinner is not a celebration of the First Amendment. It is a self-congratulatory circle jerk. The First Amendment doesn’t mention a White House press corps and, in fact, the first press conference wasn’t held by a president until the Wilson administration. More important, the First Amendment is about the press, which, constitutionally, is as much RedState as it is the New York Times. It is not about the elite of a particular business or industry.
Why Trump ridiculing the press in Michigan is somehow more offensive than the press ridiculing Trump at the WHCA dinner escapes me.
Presidents don’t always want to show up and tell jokes and socialize with the press corps, but until now it’s been a part of the job in the modern media age.
“Historically presidents have felt that it’s important to send the signals, both to Americans and to the rest of the world, that they support this sort of quintessential part of American democracy, the First Amendment,” correspondents association president Margaret Talev said on CNN Saturday morning.
This is where I think this argument becomes just stupid and an excuse to attack President Trump.
While the “separation of Church and State” is not in the US Constitution, most denominations support the idea. If you look where the greatest violence has been done to any church it is where it has been so closely identified with the State that it is seen as an agent for the State. The reason for the suppression of the Catholic Church in Mexico and the Cristero War was because the Church was so closely associated with the former regime that it was considered part of the enemy. The same with the French Revolution. The same with the Catholic Church throughout Latin America. And on and on.
If these people truly treasured the First Amendment, and not their faux celebrity status, the last people they would want at their dinner is the president. Because this close association with the DC power structure is just another indicator that they have been weaponized and are no longer reporting news but are actors themselves. (As this is a CNN story, I’d point out that that network has been foremost in this effort. They ran the leaked hit job from Adam Schiff about the Donald Trump Jr. emails that they had to retract. They ran the false story about Ronny Jackson wrecking a car while driving drunk even after it was debunked. They organized the hideous townhall meeting in Florida that branded Dana Loesch and Marco Rubio as murderers. They have pushed to the forefront the Parkland kids and their gun control extremism.)