Leadership: The Press and the President

All Hail Aurora

To hear Donald J. Trump and his dwindling band of die-hards tell it, he is the first US president to feel the lash of the vicious media as they write away about his version of leadership and governance.

George Washington, with his famous temper, is turning in his grave at the very notion.

President Washington

The thin-skinned Washington was bedeviled by none other than Ben Bache, the grandson of uber-American Benjamin Franklin.

Bache, a Jeffersonian Republican and the publisher of the Philadelphia Aurora, rode Washngton and Adams hard, even suggesting that Washington had secretly collaborated with the British during the war.

Ben Bache

That’s some pretty hard talk.

Washington and Adams were not alone.

Abraham Lincoln was called an idiot, gorilla and many other epithets during his time in office by an aggressive press.

The Atlantic

He famously used humor and stories, many at his own expense, to deflate such criticism.

As a counterpoint, America went through a period where the press cozied up to a sitting president, not only printing what he wanted but helping him create “good copy.”

FDR and the Press

Franklin Roosevelt may be the best example but he is hardly the only one.

Our country is ill-served by such a close and uncritical relationship.

There may be three branches of government but the press plays a critical roll in providing the public with a stream of information which keeps those branches, and our leaders, more forthright than they otherwise would be.

Trump’s carping and whining is completely undone by 241 years of history where the press has consistently made us stronger, safer and more democratic.

Each time he whines about the “dishonest press” he gets smaller and smaller, shrinking into the mists as the weight of history presses against him.

Jasper Johns





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