Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was exposed to the cold reality of Donald Trump expressing views with which Earnest strongly disagreed. After last week’s shooting in San Bernadino, Trump publicly stated that if elected, he will bar Muslims from entering the country, until we “figure out what the hell’s going on”. This statement wasn’t politically correct, Trump acknowledged.
In fact, pretty much every public figure from Bernie Sanders to Ted Cruz joined in Earnest’s disapproval. But while others came to terms with their disagreement rather quickly, they lacked the fragile soul of the White House press secretary.
Unable to accept a statement so at odds with his beliefs, Earnest used his daily press briefing to notify the press that Trump’s statement had disqualified himself from the U.S. presidency. So wounded was Earnest that he added anyone who refuses to denounce Trump is also disqualified from office.
Earnest explained the “deeply offensive” comment “runs counter to the Constitution”. The press, ever sympathetic to the Obama Administration, didn’t ask Earnest about the deafening silence that followed Trump’s suggested surveillance of mosques – which might justly raise concerns about freedom of religion. Nor did they challenge his boss, the sitting president, who the Supreme Court repeatedly found to be actIng outside the realm of the executive branch.
The media is sympathetic to Earnest’s sense of entitlement. Their own influence has faded over the past decade. Not so long ago, the media shaped society’s views very effectively via selective reporting.
They still walk in lockstep but their ability to tell the public what to think is nearly gone, and Trump is a symbol of that. The standard media crucifixion had never failed but it failed on Trump. And, Trump isn’t just immune to attacks – he’s now controlling the conversation. Josh Earnest is part of this community of diminishing power.
Josh Earnest revealed something profound: the Constitution guarantees his right to not be offended. This was an alarming revelation: how often have I carelessly trampled on the press secretary’s liberty by thinking – and even voicing – unsanctioned opinions?
The great French philosopher Voltaire said, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Josh Earnest is no Voltaire.
But the press secretary is like a delicate hothouse orchid, who must be shielded from opposing opinions and other unpleasantness.
Earnest being questioned about Trump is at the 1:00:30 mark: