President Thin Skin. Again.

Posted by admin on September 10, 2018 in Politics |
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Bob Woodward is at it again. His new book is shaking Washington to its very core, leaving a standing president to whine and moan about how he is being treated unfairly and how the libel laws of the land should be changed to rein in all this bad publicity and hateful words.

Now, I happen to be a fan of Woodward. He’s one of the reasons I got a degree in journalism and have my profession today. His reporting has mostly been well researched and well presented without personal opinions. He checks multiple sources and keeps confidential sources confidential. He, along with Carl Bernstein, brought the Nixon administration down, with all its bald-faced lies, cover-ups and attempts to purge and ruin perceived political enemies.

This isn’t the first time the resident president has had a meltdown about unfavorable coverage. In the early days of our nation, there was another thin-skinned president who wanted to strip the average person of their rights to criticize the executive branch and specifically, the president. His name might ring a bell: John Adams.

Yes, our second president couldn’t handle criticism by the press or anyone else for that matter. And in a historic abuse of power, he got Congress to pass the Alien and Sedition Act, which made it illegal to write, print, utter or publish any writing with the intent to defame Congress, the president, and any laws or acts they pass, including it seems, the Alien and Sedition Act itself.

Let that sink in for a moment. This is one of our Founding Fathers, trying to stamp out any criticism of him or his administration (think free speech and freedom of the press here). Adams himself would have been guilty if there had been a similar law in colonial America, back when loyalty to the king was the only option. But he seems to have forgotten all that once he ascended to the most powerful position in the country.

Several publishers and authors were found guilty under the act, which, by the way, was passed in the interest of national security, It also made it easier to deport immigrants and made it harder for naturalized citizens to vote in elections, hence the Alien part of the Alien and Sedition Act. One of Adams’ first targets was Benjamin Franklin Bache, the grandson of Ben Franklin who had described the president as “old, querulous, bald, blind, crippled, toothless Adams.” He was arrested for these publishing these words, which in an age of name calling and Tweeting, seem oh, so very sticks and stonish.

James Callender, a pro-Jefferson journalist for the Richmond Examiner, wrote a pamphlet that said, “As president, [Adams] has never opened his lips, or lifted his pen, without threatening and scolding; the grand object of his administration has been to exasperate the rage of contending parties… and destroying every man who differs from his opinions.”

Federalists defended the new act, of course, claiming that all the public and media criticism was designed to undermine Adam’s lawful election (yes, this is nothing new in the political playbook).

The real goal was to stifle opposition, specifically the reporters who supported Thomas Jefferson, who was Adams’ vice president.

Don’t think for a moment that this was just a tactic to mute political foes and reporters.

Famously, in Newark, New Jersey in July 1798, a skipper of a garbage boat ran afoul of the law and Adams’ thin skin. As a 16-gun salute fired to honor the president as he passed through town, Brown Clark told the skipper, “There goes the president, and they are firing at his arse,” to which captain Luther Baldwin replied that he didn’t care “if they fired thro’ his arse.” The tavern owner reported the conversation and both men were imprisoned and fined for sedition.

The point of all this is that we are living in dangerous times. We seem to have another paranoid president on our hands, one who thinks everyone is out to get him, leaving no stone unturned in his relentless pursuit and persecution of his perceived enemies.

Thankfully, the Alien and Sedition Act ended with the Adams administration. Thomas Jefferson, the country’s new president, pardoned everyone convicted under the act and eventually, all the fines collected were returned.

We no longer live with this heinous, divisive act of Congress and a thin-skinned president.

But one has to wonder what our early history would have been if Adams had had a Twitter account and was able to use it to spread his own views and faux news. Our current president’s thumbs must be worn to a nub with all his attempts to deflect and protect. He has circled the wagons against everyone who has said an unkind word about him and with Woodward hot on his heels, he has turned on many in his own, wondering who has questioned his commands and who has spoken to Bob Woodard and the Mueller investigators.

He’s even begun to blame his own supporters for the possibility that he could face impeachment, telling supporters in Montana last week that it will be their fault that he is impeached because they didn’t vote a straight Republican ticket in November.

President Adams would be proud of Mr. Trump. He’s managed to rekindle the rife paranoia Adams seemed to prize and encourages division when he should be preaching unity. He is turning us against one another while pointing the fickle finger of blame at anyone who questions his actions, his motives, behavior or morality, including now, his own supporters.

When asked once where the responsibility fell, President Harry S Truman once stated that “The buck stops here.” He didn’t pass that buck or blame others for his predicament or decisions that didn’t go well.

Those days are certainly gone. I never thought I would live to see the day when anyone, especially a standing president, would utter a word like impeachment. I thought we’d gotten past all this nonsense. I mean, what’s next? Duels and Congressional canings?

I thought Nixon was the end of it all, that we had learned about the abuses of power by men like Tricky Dick and Toothless Adams who don’t have our own interests and well-being at heart.

But here we are again, reliving history, putting our collective future at the hands of yet another crazy in the White House. Adams would be proud indeed.

In the Emerald City, wondering who let the crazies out to run the country,

  • Robb

 

 

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