Everyone on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” had a good laugh yesterday after co-host Mika Brzezinski played a flashback of White House press secretary Sean Spicer addressing the importance of the media.
“We have a respect for the press,” Spicer says in the video, which is from December. “When it comes to the government, that is something you can’t ban an entity from. Conservative, liberal, or otherwise, I think that’s what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship.”
After a couple of snide exchanges, Brzezinski asks the panel in earnest, “Are they trying to create a dictatorship? I’m not joking and I’m not angry.”
The flash point for this “gotcha” moment was the much-reported exclusion of major media outlets, including CNN, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, from a press gaggle last Friday. You know that the move had to be egregious because Dan Rather (aka the Father of Fake News) shared his shock and outrage on Facebook.
The White House defended the move by noting that is was predominantly members of the pool — the small rotating group of news organizations that share, or “pool,” their resources — who attended. The watch word in that sentence is predominantly. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders conceded that “we decided to add a couple of additional people beyond the pool.” Admittedly, the optics of this are bad, especially in view of the already adversarial relationship Donald Trump has with the press.
That said, if this incident shows his inclination toward tyranny, then there have been bigger tyrants. One of them was so despotic that he ditched not only the press but the press pool. That was Barack Obama, who left the pool behind after a round of golf in 2012. And it was not his only time, according to Politico’s Jennifer Epstein:
Earlier this year, some of members of the pool didn’t get to the White House in time to join the president’s motorcade to a weekend morning basketball game. In that instance, the White House press list received an e-mail at 8:16 a.m. alerting the pool to be at the White House at 8:15, earlier than initially scheduled. Then, though, some journalists were already at the White House and were able to follow the president to the game.
The full pool was last left behind in April 2010 when Obama left the White House for a daughter’s soccer game two hours before the press corps had been asked to gather.
The difference between now and then is that then no one accused the president of “trying to create a dictatorship.”
Speaking of which, another hallmark of a tyrant-in-the-making is the expressed desire for his own private army of thugs — something along the lines of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the Quds Force. Or this:
True, he never made good on the threat once he was elected. But can you imagine the reaction if Trump had said anything remotely similar?