What I’m scared of with this administration: Telling the truth, and having Americans’ backs

One of the things that a lot of people have been talking about with this incoming administration is fear. I've been trying to put into words what those fears are, and, well, we're going to go ahead and work this one out. Basically, it comes down to this:

I'm an American, and I don't feel the president has my back.

Also:

My wife is an American, and I don't feel the president has her back.
My parents are American, and I don't feel the president has their backs.
My nieces are tiny Americans, and I don't feel the president has their backs.
As an American, I am lucky to be able to be an example for the world. I don't feel the president cares that the rest of the world needs us.

I want to start with the media, and before you roll your eyes, let's do some civics. This won't take long, I promise. Maybe. I guess we'll see how much I ramble.

The Founding Fathers wrote freedom of the press into the first amendment to the Constitution for the United States because they knew that having a news media operating independently of governmental influence is important to a free republic.

The Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle popularized the moniker "fourth estate," referring to the three estates of the UK Parliament, checked by the fourth estate, the media.

It translates well to the U.S.

I know you learned this in middle school, but let's have a little reminder. We have three branches of government with a check-and-balances system. The Executive branch has veto power over the Legislative branch and appointment power over the Judicial branch. The Legislative branch has advise-and-consent power over both branches, along with the power to override a presidential veto. The Judicial branch has the ability to strike down laws written by the Legislative branch and enacted by the Executive.

What happens, then, when there's collusion?

You are aware of what the government does because of media. If the three branches of government are our three estates, then the media are our fourth, and it's their job to tell us what they see — not what they're told to tell us.

There are absolutely fake news sites out there. So when Donald Trump, then president-elect, called CNN "fake news" and refused to take a question from the network's reporter, it was a sign that the war Trump had waged on mainstream media during his campaign was going to continue into his presidency.

CNN, some of you might be old enough to remember, brought us the first Iraq war in real-time. It doesn't get a lot less fake than that. Has CNN developed something of a bias over the years? Maybe, but even if so, that's not super-important (we can argue about it here, or you can go read my post on objectivity vs. transparency in media).

Flash forward to Trump's inauguration. It was well-attended. In fact, it was probably the third- or fourth-best-attended inauguration in the past 35 years, and certainly the most well-attended inauguration for a Republican in that time.

It was not the best-attended ever, as the president's spokesman, Sean Spicer, asserted Saturday during his first press conference — right before not taking any questions from the media at all.

You read that correctly. The press secretary lied to the press, then didn't take questions from the press.

How do I know Spicer lied? I have eyes. Here, take a look at these photos (I'll explain what you're looking at underneath it).

There's a camera on top of the Washington Monument. It provides a live feed. These are screengrabs from that feed. The top is from Barack Obama's first inauguration; the second is from Donald Trump's. Both are taken at the time the incoming presidents are taking their respective oaths of office.

Can you objectively look at that bottom photo and tell me there are more people in it than in the top photo? Even if you have no idea how many people are in either, there are clearly more in the top photo. However many people there are in that top photo, there are certainly more people in it than however many people there are in the bottom photo.

There's not a partisan issue here. The media are responsible for telling citizens the truth when their government lies. That's the issue.

Presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway went on "Meet the Press" Sunday morning and told Chuck Todd Spicer didn't lie to the media, he merely had "alternative facts." Here's the clip.

Here are some alternative facts: I'm a seven-foot-two Mexican midget.

Conservatives like to make fun of special snowflakes getting butthurt? We officially have the most special and unique snowflake ever in the White House, and he hasn't even been there a week.

It appears that the president and his administration are at war with the media. Remember that this isn't the media's fault. Media aren't combative by nature, they're skeptical. Without a skeptical media, you get whatever the president wants you to hear. Like in North Korea, or Russia.

And before you ask me why media gave Obama a pass? It's because you weren't paying attention. Even an outlet like The Washington Post — which is certainly reporting on Trump from a contrarian position — rated Obama's administration one of the most secretive ever.

Again, media should be skeptical. That's how they protect us. It's their check against all three branches of the government. Really, it's our check against the government.

OK, so I lied. I rambled a lot.

Let's talk about what's really bothering me about this administration. And by bothering, I really mean scared. Honestly frightened. Like, it might be time to start selling stuff and become a prepper frightened.

Like I said at the top, I don't feel like the president has my back as an American.

It's the government's job, above all else, to keep its citizens safe. Not safe-space safe. Safe. Like I don't have to worry about going to the gym and having a racist blow me up safe.

If the president does nothing else well, he certainly talks — and tweets — a good game. He said nothing last week when several dozen synagogues and Jewish Community Centers across the country had bomb threats called in.

Or when the institution that trains a fair percentage of the rabbis in the U.S. was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti. Or when it happened at an Upstate New York college. Or in South Philly.

The thing these incidents all have in common is that they've happened since the election. Some were accompanied by "Make America Great Again" accompanying it. The vandalism is by people who feel empowered by Trump's election to bully others.

All Trump had to do was say, "This kind of thing won't be tolerated."

It's too late now, I think. I don't think I'd believe him at this late date.

I've been saying since the election I want to be wrong on Trump. If he succeeds, America succeeds, and if America succeeds, I succeed. Unless he succeeds in making us something else.

If you've been listening to the podcast the past couple of weeks, you know I've been worried to the point of paranoia. I didn't really have words for what I was actually scared of until now.

If the president doesn't have my back as an American Jew, he definitely doesn't have my back as an American who works in news media.

With no details of the president's health plan rolled out, I'm concerned for my parents, who are getting up there in age. If Medicare goes away, if Social Security goes away, will they have insurance as they head toward retirement? Will they be able to afford it?

I'm also worried about health care for my wife, of course — if we go back to a private, largely unregulated insurance market, should she get pregnant, will that be seen as a pre-existing condition? Will she be able to be covered at all?

This is not to mention all the allegations of sexual assault and that tape that got Billy Bush fired. They may or may not be important politically, but knowing what you know, would you let Trump date your daughter?

And my nieces. Again, Trump's problems with women. But also, did you watch those Betsy DeVos confirmation hearings? She's more concerned about grizzly bears coming into schools than mentally ill adults with weapons. She's long been a proponent of for-profit charter schools that have no requirement to meet any educational standards.

She's a candidate for education secretary who can't be bothered to proofread her own tweets. I'm no angel when it comes to social media and grammar, but this, more than any other time in her life, is a time to be a good example for students.

As my nieces' parents have to decide where to send the girls to school, will there be viable public schools? If not, will charter schools that get federal money actually teach them facts, and the tools they need to survive as adults?

And finally, the US has never been out front on human rights. We've declined to sign the United Nations' Universal Decleration of Human Rights. I get that. But after Trump spent a part of his campaign slamming the UN, a few Republican congressmen on Jan. 3 introduced a bill to have America leave the UN, removing us, essentially, as a world citizen.

I suppose this shouldn't surprise me. During his campaign — and now on the White House website — he prefers the phrase "America First." While this sounds merely isolationist on its face, it harkens back to a racist, anti-Semitic group called the America First Committee, which wanted to keep America out of World War II — not because they wanted to keep citizens safe, but because they wanted Europe to worry about Europe.

They clearly hadn't thought about what that meant for trade or innovation.

That group disbanded shortly after the attacks on Pearl Harbor.

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for writing this!

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