Just look at the recent history of the Federal Confusion Commission and the President. An up-close-and-personal example: Last week we wrote about FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and his “One meeting, one new re-nomination” with the President and noted that it “Must have been quite cordial” -- though he won’t talk about it. Since then, the President reiterated his anti-press tirades, dissed the Congressional Budget Office and claimed the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor got the employment numbers right since he’s President.
And Ajit Pai testified before the Senate Commerce Committee! The Republicans gently questioned and praised him. The Democrats less so. In fact, post-testimony the 13 Democrats on the committee sent a letter to Pai warning that the independence of the FCC is at risk … and so might Pai’s re-nomination be as well.
All because of how the President seems to operate: praise expected and conformity expected or else.
During the hearing, according to the Washington Examiner, “Pai was asked by Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M. and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H. whether he agrees with Trump's assertion that the media are the “enemy of the American people.” He declined to answer the questions directly, saying only that he “didn't want to wade into the larger political debates” and that “every American enjoys the First Amendment protections guaranteed by the Constitution.”
Well, yes. But the FCC regulates the very media the President declared to be an enemy -- and Pai didn’t defend ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN et al. Plus, he refused to answer direct questions about his meeting with the President.
Now that he has his Chairmanship, he clearly wants to keep it -- and answer to a President who routinely undermines other branches and departments of his government. That chilling effect at work.
It will be really interesting later this week (due by the 17th) when Pai is to clarify and expand upon the original answers he gave to the questions now re-poised by those 13 Senators.
Freedom of the press and the 1st Amendment are cornerstones of our American Republic and democracy. Period. Any threat to any part of either is serious. And worrisome. To reiterate, here’s part of my November 15, 2016 column:
"Here’s a big heads’ up for media mavens (in case you haven’t already noticed): The times they are a’changing.
With apologies to Bob Dylan, I would suggest that the U.S. has now joined the rest of the world with a newly elected leader who regards the media as one would a gnat: If it annoys you, swat it. Swat it hard.
This puts us squarely in the global mainstream of authoritarianism, especially regarding freedom of speech. Out of curiosity (and a bit of masochism), I counted the number of nations with significant levels of press controls. On my first pass, the total came to 145.
In short, of the 197 sovereign countries in the world, the great majority have governments that to one extent or another attempt to regulate and control the various forms of media. True freedom is rare. And getting rarer.
Among the most repressive for press freedoms are (in alphabetical order by country/ruler): Cambodia/Hun Sen; China/Xi Jinping; Cuba/Raul Castro; Egypt/Abdel Fattah el-Sisi; France (maybe/Marine Le Pen?); Hungary/Viktor Orban; Iran/Hassan Rouhani; Phillipines/Rodrigo Duterte; Poland/Andrzej Duda; Russia/Vladimir Putin; The 7 ‘Stans’; Turkey/Recep Tayyin Erdogan; Venezuela/Nicolas Maduro; Vietnam/Tra Eai Quang; and Zimbabwe/Robert Mugabe (or as my Kenyan friend calls him: TIM … that idiot Mugabe).
Donald Trump’s list of role models?"
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