Baltimore Sun columnist David Zurawik is an odd bird. Just two years ago, he penned an op-ed lambasting those who call President Trump the "worst ever," noting that President Barack Obama (and previous presidents) committed worse assaults on the first amendment than Trump did. But, today, he told CNN's Brian Stelter on Reliable Sources that the commander-in-chief is purposely driving journalists to "exhaustion" so that they quit fact-checking him, which Zurawik believes is how dictators win.
David Zurawik says Trump drives the press to "exhaustion" with all the fact-checking they have to do: That's the way dictators win. They drive the free press almost to exhaustion with this. pic.twitter.com/DIi2eWf3m3— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) April 7, 2019
Townhall's military and veteran's contributor Julio Rosas snagged the soundbite. Zurawik began by lamenting the fact that journalists constantly chase down, in his opinion, comments from the president that are destructive to the American way of life, and thereby allow the commander-in-chief to set the agenda. To Zurawik's credit, this is largely true. President Trump says or does something that gets under the mainstream media's skin, they spend two days looking like idiots discussing the ins-and-outs of whether or not DIet Coke is actually a healthy drink or whatever, and the nation looks at them as fools.
But, then Zurawik goes on to say that "The other thing, Brian, is that he drives us to exhaustion. If we quit fact-checking him, if we accept this. He wins. That's the way dictators win. They drive the free press almost to exhaustion with this."
So, if Zurawik's point is that Trump is a dictator because journalists need to do their jobs with him, then by his own standards, President Barack Obama must have been the second coming of Joseph Stalin. In a May 2017 piece entitled, "Trump's War on Press No Match for Obama's," Zurawik documented the story of President Obama's egregious handling of Fox News reporter James Rosen. President Obama more or less tried getting a reporter placed in jail.
And, in fairness to Trump, his administration has not escalated the conflict with the press to a new level. It has not yet come close to doing what President Obama's administration did in making the act of reporting itself criminal behavior in a case that started in 2009 under the Espionage Act of 1917.
At the heart of the case is James Rosen, chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, publishing information about North Korea that he received from a State Department employee.
In obtaining a subpoena to access Rosen's phone and computer records, the Justice Department labeled him "an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator." It also described him as a flight risk.
Branding a reporter that way in court documents had never been done by the government. Since the case was widely reported, I am surprised an act that really was unprecedented was overlooked by so many pundits in making their worst-ever analyses.
Furthermore, Zurawik even criticized Brian Stelter in this piece, saying that President Trump's lies paled in comparison to President Lyndon B. Johnson's which got thousands of Americans killed in Vietnam.
Host Brian Stelter offered a variation of this claim on CNN's "Reliable Sources" Dec. 4, and I responded to him by saying for all the frequency and casualness of Trump lies, he has done nothing to approach Lyndon Johnson and his lies about the war in Vietnam. How many Americans and Vietnamese died because of the lies told by Johnson and his press secretaries?
To add troubles to Zurawik's woes, the one area he truly praised the press in that May 2017 column was for its coverage of the Russian collusion scandal. The only problem is that pretty much all of the press's coverage of said Russian collusion was wrong, it turns out.
So, what changed since 2017 for Zurawik? Well, that's unclear. It seems he is just very tired. And exhaustion can lead to the types of silly comments he made on CNN today. Luckily, we have folks on Twitter to serve as actual reliable sources instead of the talking heads on TV.
FACT CHECK: Dictators win by killing political opponents, suppressing liberty, and suspending free elections. https://t.co/e5qfEwC5Pe— Jay Cost (@JayCostTWS) April 7, 2019