The verbal sparring between my father and Sam Donaldson of ABC, or Helen Thomas of UPI, is well documented. But there was never vitriol, there was never name-calling, and if anyone had attacked a journalist, my father would have been the first to stand in the way.
I’ve tried to imagine what my father would have done if people attending a political speech of his had turned to the press and raised their middle fingers, hurled obscenities or physically menaced the reporters who were there doing their jobs. I found it difficult to conjure the image, and then I realized why. It simply wouldn’t have happened. The person on the podium, the person everyone has gathered to see, sets the tone.
President Trump has quite successfully set today’s tone. He expertly stirred up the anger that was already simmering in the people who support him, and then he lit a match to it. He gave them an enemy — always a useful tactic. And naming the press as the enemy has precedents: Many tyrants have employed it to their advantage. Trump may not read much, but I’ll bet he knows that.