Historians will note how Donald Trump used social media to say what he wanted – unfiltered by media gatekeepers.
Let history note, however, that the tables have turned.
With so many insiders so willing to leak what they know, Americans are getting boatloads of damning information – unfiltered by Trump.
Right now Trump wants us to be alarmed about leaks, as opposed to – you know, everything else about him. Here’s another word for leaks: truth.
Truth about meeting with Russians peddling campaign dirt. Truth about Don Sr. covering up why Don Jr. did it.
Truth about how an oaf conducts business, like telling Russians in the Oval Office exactly why he fired James Comey – to stop an investigation.
And consider the oafishness displayed in leaked transcripts of two calls abroad.
First, and most embarrassing, was the Jan. 28 call where Trump berated Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about a matter which our president showed no grasp (a 2016 agreement to resettle some boat-arrival refugees, each to be vetted thoroughly by our government. Trump said they were in “prison.” No – a refugee camp).
Or consider the mortifying Jan. 27 call with the president of Mexico. Despite his bluster about it, he called the border wall “the least important thing we are talking about.” Politically, though, “This might be the most important,” and he wanted Mexico to pay for it.
When Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto refused, Trump told him: “But you can’t say that to the press. The press is going to go with that and I can’t live with that.”
It turns out that Trump can’t live with the press, period.
After all, the press is in the truth business, and Trump is in the Trump business.
In a gesture clearly meant to regain favor with his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that in addition to ramping up investigations to find leakers, the government might file charges against reporters who share leaked information.
Sessions framed this as a matter of national security. It sounded a lot like what the Nixon administration was saying when it sought to block publication of the Pentagon Papers, which showed the shady manipulation of truth in prosecuting the Vietnam War.
The Supreme Court sided with truth and the First Amendment in 1971 when it ruled the government could not stop publications from printing information it had obtained lawfully.
Before it’s over, Trump will have left Nixon in the dust, both for overall corruption and for antipathy for truth.
Fortunately, with The New York Times and The Washington Post more leading the way, the press has behaved in spectacular fashion in nudging along investigations into collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice by Trump.
Trump so wishes he could clamp down on a free press (maybe have critics terminated?) as happens in Putinland.
He’s talked about changing libel laws to make it easier for public figures to sue. That would take a constitutional amendment to overrule court precedent, but Trump knows not of what he speaks.
He should be satisfied having his own Putin-style media arm, also known as Fox News.
Unfortunately for him, Fox is losing its mojo amid its own scandals, and MSNBC, with truth-seeking superstars Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes, is on the rise.
Oh, and let’s not forget Stephen Colbert, whose barbs about Trump are as hilarious as they are informative, and which have boosted him to the top of late-night ratings.
Once upon a time presidents stood for truth. Not this one. Truth is his mortal enemy.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young now lives in Colorado.