Moments after taking the oath of office and becoming the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump expressed his gratitude to the outgoing president.
“Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful to President Obama and first lady Michele Obama for their gracious aid in this transition. They have been magnificent. Thank you.”
Across the Atlantic Ocean, some four thousand miles away from Washington, D.C., a very different scene was unfolding in the African nation of Gambia.
Yahya Jammeh, the mercurial longtime dictator of that tiny nation, had initially conceded his December election loss in a jovial telephone call on live media, only to change his mind a week later and announce that he had no intention to vacate his office. The victor in that election, fearful for his own safety, had to take his oath of office in nearby Senegal on Thursday.
It took intense international pressure and a regional military force to convince Jammeh to agree to relinquish his office late Friday night. After he finally left the country a day later, it was revealed he had spent his last days in office plundering state assets, stealing millions from the impoverished country, and smuggling out luxury vehicles by cargo plane.
In sharp contrast, though the Obama administration used a series of last-minute policy decisions and executive orders to set up stumbling blocks to make it as difficult as possible for President Trump to keep his campaign promises, the actual transfer of power between the 44th and 45th presidents on Friday was calm and smooth. President Obama and his wife looked on as his successor took the oath, as did former Presidents Carter, Bush, and Clinton — as well as Secretary Hillary Clinton, the loser of the bitterly fought election campaign. Though they all would have preferred it otherwise, they ultimately chose to accept the reality that this is whom the American people had decided should be the next leader of their country.
The same could not, however, be said for many in the liberal establishment, including some five dozen Democratic members of Congress who boycotted the inauguration ceremony. Nor can it be said about the powerful entity sometimes referred to as the “fourth estate of the realm.” Unlike the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, the members of this elite club aren’t elected by the people, nor chosen by duly elected representatives of the populace.
Were they operating in an actual courtroom with legal boundaries, most members of the mainstream American media would have to recuse themselves from judging — or writing about — Donald Trump. From the very beginning of his candidacy, they were confident that he didn’t have a chance of getting the nomination, and even when it was clear that he was on track to becoming the Republican nominee, they waxed eloquent and opined about a contested convention. When that didn’t happen, either, they made no secret of their animosity towards Mr. Trump and repeatedly predicted not only his political implosion, but how his virtually certain loss would damage the entire Republican Party.
On election night, the members of the media were flabbergasted by how badly they had misjudged the mood of the people, and quickly sought to point fingers elsewhere. The journalists and pundits who are constantly filing Freedom of Information Act requests and striking off-the-record deals with government officials for off-the-record scoops were suddenly expressing dismay over the fact that the FBI Chief was so forthcoming about an ongoing Clinton email investigation and that DNC emails had been hacked.
While the mainstream media has long been accused — for good reason — of having a clear left-leaning bias, in the past they at least tried to camouflage it with a veneer of objectivity. But when it came to President Trump, publications and outlets that pride themselves on their journalistic standards showed no compunction to cross all lines as open war erupted between the new leader of the United States and the men and women who are supposed to be covering the news. Concepts such as fairness or balance have been totally discarded, and seasoned reporters and editors trip over themselves in their haste to post and publish yet another story ripping into the new president.
There is no doubt that a free and open press is a vital part of the checks and balances that ensure a vibrant democracy. The media has the obligation to present all the facts, even when elected officials would prefer it otherwise. But at the same time, the only way the media can rightfully earn and keep the trust of the population is when they make certain not to allow personal bias to influence the way they deem what is factual, the way they present these “facts,” and what morsels of information they choose to highlight and what they choose to ignore. So far, the American press is, for the most part, failing miserably to fulfill their obligation to the people.
In his inaugural address, the new president declared that “today’s ceremony has very special meaning because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.”
In the months and years to come, it will become evident to what degree Mr. Trump will deliver on his campaign promises, as he seeks to give power back to the people. It is high time for the press to take a step back from this nasty personal feud and give the president a chance to prove himself.