Let's get some things straight:
- All presidents have a love/hate relationship with the media. From George Washington on.
- All politicians seek to have the most favorable coverage possible. Some, like John McCain will actively court favor by buddying up to the media. Others will "leak" info through third parties. There are as many strategies as there are politicians.
Richard Nixon took paranoia against the media to a whole new level.
"Never forget," he tells national security advisers Henry Kissinger, above, and Alexander Haig in a conversation on December 14 1972, "the press is the enemy, the press is the enemy. The establishment is the enemy, the professors are the enemy, the professors are the enemy. Write that on a blackboard 100 times."
But as crazy as that sounds, Donald Trump is in a completely different league to the status quo. He feels entitled to good coverage (or "nice" questions) by virtue of who he is. He's not accustomed to being challenged on any level nor being forced to account for his wildly contradictory responses, positions, assertions, or flat-out bald-faced lies.
Carl Bernstein, no stranger to the paranoia of Nixon and one of the journalists responsible for taking down the Nixon presidency, sees not only disturbing parallels, but concern that Trump is actually worse than Nixon when it comes to dealing with the media.
He told CNN's Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter, "There's a history of what 'enemy of the people,' that phrase means as used by dictators and authoritarians, including Stalin, including Hitler -- and I'm not about to say anything comparing Hitler and Trump. But it's a demagogue's statement. And we live in a time now when there is no civic consensus in this country like there was at a time of Watergate, about acceptable presidential conduct."
And that's the key. Nixon came just to the point of impeachment because even his own party agreed that he had breached the standard of "acceptable presidential conduct". But now, there's no such guarantee that the Republican majority will ever put the country over their own partisan interests.
I will also posit that Trump's attack on the media, as calculated and cynical as it is, is worse than Nixon because he has the ability to do so much more damage since Trump's surveillance abilities is so much more advanced than anything Nixon had:
[T]here are two key differences that set Trump apart from his predecessor in paranoia. First, his soul is sicker by miles than Nixon’s. And second, the surveillance apparatus he is about to inherit is far scarier than the one available to Nixon.
“Over the past two decades, we’ve witnessed the building of the greatest, most pervasive surveillance apparatus and security state that humanity has ever seen,” says Jon Stokes, co-founder of the news site Ars Technica and author of Inside the Machine. “Now we are about to hand over that entire apparatus to a paranoid, score-settling sociopath whose primary obsession seems to be with crushing his personal enemies.”
Oh yeah, that's clearly worse than Nixon. And we all know how well that turned out for everyone.