Trump Is Like Stalin? Not Even Close
Flake's comparison is beyond absurd. It was Obama, not Trump, who was more of a threat to journalism.
This Wednesday, President Donald Trump plans to present his much-discussed “Fake News” awards. Trump postponed the presentation last week, tweeting, “The Fake News Awards, those going to the most corrupt & biased of the Mainstream Media, will be presented to the losers on Wednesday, January 17th, rather than this coming Monday. The interest in, and importance of, these awards is far greater than anyone could have anticipated!”
From the very moment Trump won the election, much of the mainstream media began spearheading the #Resistance effort against his presidency. Recall that much of the MSM believed it had helped Trump win the Republican primary, and in so doing presumed to have provided Hillary Clinton with the easiest opponent to beat. Trump has been feuding with the MSM ever since.
On Monday, retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) announced that he would be giving a speech prior to Trump’s Fake News awards. In released excerpts of his planned speech, Flake states, “It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies. It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase ‘enemy of the people,’ that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of ‘annihilating such individuals’ who disagreed with the supreme leader.”
Flake’s assertion that Trump is essentially Stalinist due to using the phrase “enemy of the people” when referencing grossly biased news reporting is simply asinine. Even though this is the age of snowflakes, the fact still remains that hurting people’s feelings is not equivalent to killing (millions of) them. Flake, of course, knows this, but he’s after his 15 minutes of fame — ingratiating himself with the Leftmedia — on the way out the door.
Other than call out the press for dispensing fake news, when has Trump engaged in any real suppression of speech? The answer is never. In fact, when compared with his predecessor, Trump has been downright congenial.
Even though most of the MSM were sycophants of Barack Obama, with the exception of Fox News, they learned quickly his vindictive distain for bad press. Indeed, Obama was a far greater threat to freedom of the press than Trump has ever dreamed of being. As The New York Times noted in December 2016, “If Donald J. Trump decides as president to throw a whistle-blower in jail for trying to talk to a reporter, or gets the FBI to spy on a journalist, he will have one man to thank for bequeathing him such expansive power: Barack Obama.”
Recall that it was Obama who had his “Justice” Department spy on reporters. The DOJ went after Fox News’ James Rosen, targeting and labeling him as a co-conspirator in a criminal case simply for doing his job. In a 2013 report, Leonard Downie, a former executive editor of The Washington Post, called Obama’s war on journalism “the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration, when I was one of the editors involved in The Washington Post’s investigation of Watergate.”
One of Obama’s favored tools in his battle against the press was the Espionage Act of 1917. Between 1917 and 2009 only one person had ever been convicted under the act for leaking information to a news organization. Obama changed that by directing then-Attorney General Eric Holder to aggressively prosecute government employees who leaked information to the press. In so doing, the Espionage Act, originally designed to prosecute those acting against the United States, was regularly applied, resulting in a record number of reporters’ sources being jailed.
As The Washington Post noted last June, “Trump rages about leakers. Obama quietly prosecuted them.”
But Obama’s war against the media really wasn’t all that quiet. While it is obvious that Trump’s favorite media whipping boy is CNN, and deservedly so, Obama aggressively and regularly derided Fox News. Starting back in the 2008 election, Obama said that if it wasn’t for Fox he might be two or three points higher in the polls. Throughout his time in office, he regularly attacked the news organization, and even sought to have Fox excluded from the press pool coverage of interviews with key officials.
And just days ago, on a newly premiered David Letterman show on Netflix, Obama ripped Fox News and its viewers, saying, “If you watch Fox News, you are living on a different planet.” Clearly, Obama’s animosity for the news network hasn’t abated, nor has his disdain for anyone who disagrees with his “right side of history” condescension.
What is actually ironic about Flake’s faulty and childish comparison of Trump to Stalin is the fact that the mainstream media is far from being silenced; indeed, it is thriving. Trump has proven to be a windfall for the major news media outlets, and none more so than The New York Times, which has witnessed its digital subscriptions explode from fewer than a million before the election to 2.5 million since. And much of this new growth can be attributed to the MSM self-designated resistance to Trump. In other words, “democracy” in America is far from “dying in darkness.”
Flake is doing nothing more than expressing sour grapes for a man he clearly doesn’t like. This amounts to one last spiteful parting swing as he leaves office, and it’s a far cry from any thoughtful contribution to the party or the conversation.
Update: Flake has already walked back a little on his yet-to-be-made speech. “I am in no way comparing President Trump to Joseph Stalin,” Flake insisted. “Joseph Stalin was a killer. Our president is not. But it just puzzles me as to why you’d use a phrase that is so loaded and that has such deeper meaning, the press being the enemy of the people.”
Then why float that you’re set to give a speech making that comparison?
Update 2: You can read Flake’s speech here.