The President and the Journalist

Thursday, September 26, 2019
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Susan Estrich

Syndicated Columnist

Of course, Donald Trump is not just another president, and Cokie Roberts was not just another journalist. Cokie was, in her way, the epitome of the Washington elite; daughter of the powerful, friend of the connected, respected by everybody; a card-carrying member of the Swamp Culture, which is to say a brilliant reporter. She used her experience to inform and to educate. She used her contacts to find the truth.

Her death should be an occasion not only to mourn the loss of a pioneer but also to celebrate the profession she loved and the skill with which the ultimate insiders kept the insiders honest.

It is an opportunity to remember journalism as an essential element of our constitutional system, a check and a balance of the power of government. Its freedom guarantees ours. That’s the First Amendment.

All the other presidents — Bush and Barack and Bill — said nice things. What would possess a man to do anything else on the day of a much-accomplished patriot’s passing?

Donald Trump didn’t meet her.

She wasn’t nice to him.

What else is there to know? That was his comment.

A life spent in pursuit of truth, in service of the First Amendment, was dismissed because he is all that ever matters. It was a life spent raising a family, supporting the community, being a friend across all party lines — the best American.

Reagan would never have said such a thing. He would have picked up the phone. He would have spoken for all of us to communicate our condolences.

We took for granted that that is what presidents do. They exist, at least in moments like this, at a place above politics, where we are all Americans. It is the place we go to when we are under attack, when the planes crashed, when the bombs hit. It is a place this president refuses to even go near.

Donald Trump has a perfectly conventional case for reelection: a strong base and a strong economy. His likely opponent is the sort of Massachusetts Democrat who generations of Republicans have turned into a liberal they claim is dangerously to the left of most Americans.

But the conventional rules don’t apply, and it is not only because Elizabeth Warren is a very different kind of politician than Dukakis or Kerry or Kennedy, or because American demographics have so radically shifted but because Trump has finally done what no Republican before him succeeded in doing, and certainly what we never succeeded at.

He has made ideology irrelevant.

In the usual year, that would be the whole pitch: “Elizabeth Warren’s America.” So far left she left America ...

Problem is we live in Donald Trump’s America, and job numbers notwithstanding, it’s become an embarrassment, a shame, a kind of a scourge.

Like him.

You look at the numbers and his support has fallen below his base.

What kind of man can’t say a nice thing about a beloved American who has passed away? Thank her for her service. Is that so hard?

The Americans who tipped the last election may not have liked Hillary Clinton, but Elizabeth Warren — the former speech pathologist from Oklahoma — is a very different person who happens to also be a woman. And more important, the Donald Trump of 2019 is not the outsider who dared speak the truth (sometimes) and call it like it was (maybe) but the man who can’t even find a nice thing to say about an American hero. We are better than that, even if he isn’t.

(To find out more about Susan Estrich visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.)

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