Authoritarian-Style Leader Takes On the Press

Authoritarian-Style Leader Takes On the Press

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

President Trump continues to amaze all who are watching as he keeps pushing the envelope to see if he can centralize more and more power in his hands and those of his henchmen in the White House. This is being accomplished at the expense of even those Department heads and Agency chiefs who have been approved by the U.S. Senate. While most Cabinet heads are in place or will be confirmed when Congress returns next week, the problem for these Departments and Agencies is that at the next levels of senior appointments there are hundreds of vacancies still to be filled.

Operationally speaking, many of the Departments are limping along with acting deputies or assistants, most of whom are temporary hold-overs from the Obama Administration. The movement of power, therefore, to the White House is natural and might well be temporary; but, there has also been an intentional determination made by the President and his senior staff to exclude Cabinet Secretaries even as decisions are being made or discussions being held germane to their portfolios.  

This centralization of power is manifested as well when one examines the persistent Presidential attack on the media. Here again for Donald Trump it is all about control. It is not only that some of the press were being excluded from briefings. They have been publicly ridiculed mercilessly by Trump and his press secretary for reporting “fake news”; interpreted to mean anything with which the Administration does not agree. It is not only the President’s decision not to attend the White House Press Corps annual dinner where he knew he would be roasted, but also his unwillingness to recognize that a free press is not a public relations tool of the President’s.

Both the President’s integrity as well as that of the media’s depend on maintaining a free and open press. In fact given Trump’s personality he needs the press to be heard because not everyone is following him on Twitter. We may soon approach a time where the President may well attempt to try to legally restrict or stop the press from doing its job. At the rate at which Trump is upsetting convention and challenging democratic principles it may well be that the only way he can be stopped will be with an aggressive totally accurate free press; with Courts which uphold the law and do not kowtow to rhetorical and political intimidation; and with a Republican Party which is prepared to put country above party.


A Quick Reality Check For Foreigners

The renowned French Jewish historian Henry Rousso was detained for almost ten hours last week at the airport in Houston, Texas, on his way to a symposium at Texas A & M University and he was almost deported. One agent—who admitted his inexperience– when informed that Rousso was being paid to participate in the conference told Rousso he needed a work visa and not a tourist one. Professor Rousso, a Jew born in Cairo, specializes in the history of World War II and has been in Texas often . He has taught at the Sorbonne and at Columbia.  It appears that were it not for the intercession of a prominent immigration professor at the Texas A & M law school, Rousso would have been sent back on the next flight. (Stopping Muhammad Ali’s son–a U.S. citizen–on February 7 may have gotten a bit more prominence, but the Rousso incident suggests that Jews once again might expect to be stopped from entering the U.S. This may be especially so if they were born in any of the seven countries on the Trump list, or even anywhere in the Middle East.)  

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