After teasing the president’s possible attendance in a tweet on Monday, The Faith and Freedom Coalition announced yesterday that Donald Trump had agreed to speak at the group’s “Road to Majority” conference. The sudden confirmation of Trump’s appearance on Thursday gives the impression of another desperate attempt by the president to divert attention from James Comey’s testimony that day on Capitol Hill. The schedule conflict establishes an almost simultaneous competition for media coverage and public attention — both of which Trump crave.
Though not a full-blown Führer rally like the country has seen in recent months, the “Road to Majority” conference offers Trump a safe haven among unscrupulous peers and rabid fans in which to espouse semi-lucid opinions and impulses. Staunch Trump supporter and one-time Jack Abramoff associate Ralph Reed heads the Faith and Freedom Coalition. A former lobbyist, Reed is alleged to have accepted laundered casino payments while working with Abramoff, so the president should feel right at home.
While the substance of the president’s remarks as keynote speaker is unavailable at this time, his comments are not likely to warrant the Washington press corps following him to the Omni Shoreham. In light of the more important speech that will be taking place across town, the media will be in the position of choosing allegiances: to the president’s ego or America’s future.
It should have become obvious to the public during the past six months that little of what Trump has to say has any value to American democracy or its people. In contrast, what James Comey has to offer on Thursday will have critical long-reaching effects on the nation’s future history. His responses vis-à-vis Trump and Mother Russia have the potential to rescue the republic from its present downward spiral.
Journalists occupy a unique role in the rapidly unfolding scandals under Donald Trump’s regime. There is no political or ethical obligation of the press to the president — though Trump’s insatiable appetite for melodrama surely pressures the media into following his every move. Additionally, the administration’s reward and punishment treatment of the press implies an imagined expectation of loyalty. Trump is a master manipulator who surely would rather see the press focus on him Thursday instead of broadcasting Comey’s apt-to-be-damning testimony.
However, the press has a paramount duty solely to the American public. The only spotlight on Thursday should be focused on James Comey, while the nation’s media outlets declare a 24-hour blackout on Trump. Absent announcement of his resignation, Trump’s pop star-like pandering to fans at the “Road to Majority” rally will have zero implications for the American people.
Almost 200 years ago, Scottish philosopher and social commentator Thomas Carlye recognized the importance of the press as instrumental to democracies. Carlye coined the concept of the press as the Fourth Estate in a three-parliament system of government. He was an early advocate of the value of a free press for its ability to propagate facts and opinions in response to tyranny.
Faced with a dictatorial businessman with no concept of facts, it is incumbent for America’s Fourth Estate to steel its resolve this week to do what is right — and not be led astray by the president’s cheap diversions, whether they be incoherent tweets or impromptu pep rallies. Depending on the material value of Comey’s statements against Trump, it is not unlikely that the president’s spin machine will reach to new extremes to distract the country from the one point that matters.
For the remainder of his term — be it a few days or years — the number one priority on the president’s agenda will be saving himself and not America, its citizens, or even Jared Kushner. While Trump clings desperately to his delusional pop-culture self-image as master of the Twitterverse, the rest of the country and the press will have another priority — saving and rebuilding America after Trump tried to destroy it 140 characters at a time.