On Sunday, New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman suggested that it was hypocritical of President Trump to criticize the Iranian government’s treatment of journalists, given the way that he himself talks about the American press.
Earlier that day, Trump tweeted:
To the leaders of Iran – DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS. Thousands have already been killed or imprisoned by you, and the World is watching. More importantly, the USA is watching. Turn your internet back on and let reporters roam free! Stop the killing of your great Iranian people!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2020
Haberman then replied, saying: “‘Let reporters roam free’ says the president, who routinely refers to the US press as ‘enemy of the people,’ to Iranian leaders,” according to Fox News.
In other words: In Haberman’s mind, it is absurd for Trump to criticize the Iranian government’s treatment of journalists — which includes, you know, jailing, torturing, and sometimes even killing them — when he himself speaks negatively of the American press.
Anyone with a functioning brain, of course, could quite clearly see that her comparison is what’s absurd; saying bad things about a group of people is hardly the same as murdering them.
Now, I am certainly not saying that I agree with the way that Trump has treated the press throughout his time in politics. Far from it. In fact, I myself have criticized him on this; it’s been the subject of more than one of my columns. For example: In October of 2017, I slammed Trump when he called for television programs to give “equal time” to positive coverage of him and his viewpoints, calling it “unsettling” for him to suggest that the government has anything to say about our media’s coverage of it, pointing how our press having the freedom to criticize the people in power over us without any constraints serves as an important check on that power becoming unbridled.
Later that month — after Trump stated that he thought it was “frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write” — I became so frustrated with supposedly small-government conservatives neglecting or refusing to condemn the way that the president speaks about the media, in a column titled: “Conservatives, Get Real with Yourselves and Denounce Trump’s Attacks on the Press.”
Here’s the thing, though: It’s exactly comments like Haberman’s that make it more likely, not less, that Trump’s supporters will continue to fail to see anything wrong with the way that the president speaks about the press in this country. After all, when you say something as objectively outlandish as she did, all you’re doing is making it far less likely that people will be willing to take any of your legitimate criticisms seriously.
This is a trap that we see people on the Left fall into fairly often — their penchant for comparing Trump to Hitler, for example, is one that immediately comes to mind. Unfortunately for them, however, this doesn’t do them any favors. I understand that they hate Trump; I understand that they believe he is a total, irredeemable disaster for the country, and that they want him out of office. The thing is, though, if your goal is to change people’s minds about Trump, you should do your best to avoid weakening your own credibility by stooping to objectively ridiculous arguments.