John McCain jabs Trump, warns public about demonizing free press

UPDATE — 1:41 p.m. EST: Appearing CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) nearly echoed the words of John McCain in praising the media, calling journalism “the backbone of democracy.”

“They’re worth fighting and dying for,” Graham said, referring to both the press and America’s judicial system, which President Trump has also recently belittled.

Differing from his colleague, John McCain, the South Carolina senator suggested that the media is “over the top,” when it comes to Trump, and “acting more like an opposition party.”

 

The ongoing feud between Donald Trump and John McCain intensified over the weekend with Arizona’s senior senator defending America’s press from the president’s continued blunt and antagonistic comments.

The president held a 77-minute White House press conference Thursday in which he repeatedly attacked media outlets and reporters for apparently not reporting the truth.

Responding to a question about President Trump’s tweet declaring the press as “the enemy of the American people,” on NBC’s Meet the Press, McCain replied:

“We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital. If you want to preserve — I’m very serious now — if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.”

Sen. McCain immediately expanded on his remarks and, offering a historical analysis, said a pattern illustrated by dictators on the path to strengthening power often begins with disabling free expression of the press.

Mr. McCain’s remarks followed John Dickerson’s Friday comments to radio host Hugh Hewitt, in which the CBS anchorman offered his own explanation of what accounts for a staggering loss of confidence in the press.

Subsequent to Hewitt asking Dickerson if he agreed with his assertion the media, defined by Hewitt as “Manhattan-Beltway elites,” had lost the country, Dickerson replied:

“Well, yes. I mean, yes, it’s true, and it’s not because of anything obviously Donald Trump did. The press did all that good work ruining its reputation on its own, and we can have a long conversation about what created that.”

A critic of the president, McCain has dueled with Mr. Trump over a variety of issues since 2015.

Following Trump’s election, McCain and the president have clashed over the lifting of sanctions against Russia and, recently, the GOP senator contacted Australia’s ambassador to the U.S. to soothe relations after it was reported Trump had held a heated phone conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

In early February, the White House defended the president after McCain dismissed the success of a late-January SEAL raid in Yemen in which a SEAL member was killed.  Trump declared the mission a success; McCain remained skeptical of the worth of the raid.

Early last week, Mr. McCain criticized a White House in “disarray” at the Munich Security Conference after National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was forced to resign following revelations he spoke with Russian diplomats regarding sanctions imposed by the Obama administration.

 

[Politico] [New York Post] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy The Wrap]