By Michael J. Cozzillio and Krista J. Cozzillio
For 40 months, President Donald Trump has chosen to use his press conference podium as a bully pulpit in the most literal sense. When he has opted to hide in his bunker, he simply dispatches one of his stooges from the prevarication panel to emcee the surreality show.
One such display of incivility involved a slam at a reporter for wearing a face mask in a crowded Rose Garden. Trump snidely accused the newsman of donning the mask out of “political correctness” as opposed to responsible behavior to protect himself and his fellow citizens from infection. Regrettably, there is no personal protection device that could insulate him from the toxic invective being spewed by Typhoid Donnie.
To recount here the number and pitch of the smug insults that he has levlled at journalists is superfluous. One would hope that even the most casual observers would recognize the litany of boorish, insufferable, spiteful comments visited upon the White House press corps – indisputably most often women and people of color.
Sadly, during Trump’s absences, his assigned minions have only perpetuated his fantasies and have shown no greater respect for the audience.
When are the victims of this vitriol going to say “enough is enough?”
And when are their employers going to say, “To hell with the story, preserve your dignity, walk out with our blessings, and leave the socially bankrupt host to peddle his inarticulate drivel in a vacuum?”
Further, there should be no amount of job security or journalistic duty that will compel obeisance while colleagues are abused and intimidated, even absent institutional media backing.
Arguments that the press, as competitors, cannot be expected to show some unity and camaraderie are unconvincing as are remonstrations that an empty newsday would be devastating.
The public could survive and might relish the silence while this egomaniac melts away under the garish sun of inattention. After all, what prior president has striven so singlemindedly to be the centerpiece of every day’s news, and for the sake of sheer antics rather than for newsworthy deeds?
True, a show of allegiance would require a bonding of erstwhile competitors who may otherwise vigorously joust over a breaking story.
But, history is rife with examples of groups who band together in common enterprise even though the members may be diverse in several ways. We may have differences with our neighbors, but on the night of a fire or other calamity, we are one responder.
We have seen rivals in one context demonstrate remarkable esprit de corps in others. The evolution of labor organizations in professional sports provides a telling illustration.
In numerous labor disputes, players who vie as competitors on the field have stood shoulder to shoulder to contest the leagues’ financial exploitation and restrictive intrusion on their contractual freedom.
Admittedly, a boycott, rather than a strike, may be a more pertinent analogy, because it does not presuppose an employer-employee relationship. Nonetheless, that point having been acknowledged, the message remains the same.
Finally, and most apt, the purveyors of daily events have experienced a few labor battles of their own. Militant expressions by the press are by no means novel concepts.
Countless strikes have occurred commencing as early as the turn of the 20th century involving all aspects of that industry, from the “newsies” of 1889 to the reporters and pressmen. While many of the industry’s disputes involved only certain members of a particular labor organization, in 1995 members of several different unions participated in a strike in Detroit lasting almost two years.
Labor unions, civil rights’ organizations, and town hall gatherings have all reached points where they have said, “We have had it!”
Sacrificing individual ambition, they often epitomized fortitude when family, friends, and the general public counseled more passive resistance.
Clearly, some showing of civil disobedience or discontent is by no means a subversive notion. Indeed, the press manifested its sense of professional courtesy and collegiality several years ago when some of its members voiced support for a Fox News protest against the Obama White House’s dismissive comments.
When faced with an adversary that demeans their entire raison d’etre, aren’t they all bedfellows, however strange? How many times will a captive media cower before this dominating stalag ubermeister?
Moreover, not only is Trump’s behavior inexcusably disparaging, the lack of any meaningful pushback by the victims enables him to convert a dialogue into a rambling campaign speech as evidenced by his recent Rose Garden diatribes.
Stand up. Walk out. Let the empty suit spread his mendacious, self-indulgent pap to a crowd dressed as empty seats.
What will he do when the press walks out – stock the room with the Breitbart Brigade? Will he call the Pinkertons? Will he put down this walkout with thugs and brick bats, strikebreakers, all those things that in his distorted, myopic vision would “make American great again?”
Whom will he regale with his delusions of grandeur and fairytale achievements?
His raised voice will create a reverberating echo in the vacant room. The sniggering that he hears will be from the ghosts of the Fourth Estate who for years spoke truth to power in an effort to give the public the information that it craved, and did so without fear of vilification from someone with half of their intellect and none of their zeal.
Michael J. Cozzillio is a former member of the faculty at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law as well as Widener Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg, where he has served as Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Law. Krista J. Cozzillio is a graduate of Vassar College and Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law. She is a former law school administrator and area piano instructor. Their work appears occasionally on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.