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Year ends on hard note for Trump and press

Jamie Stiehm on

Hard rain's falling here in Washington as 2019 ends and the Newseum is closing to underline the dreary moment in time.

The showy museum of journalism, with the First Amendment emblazoned on its frontispiece, is over now, slinking into the shadows while a miscreant, proud hater of the press remains president of the United States.

That's pure salt poured on a wounded profession in the social media era. It sure feels like a stark, symbolic win for Donald J. Trump over surviving scribes in the Fourth Estate -- if not a real one.

A very palpable hit, as a prince in Shakespeare says. It was not a lean, hungry journalist like Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein who instigated the 2019 impeachment. It was a conscientious insider within the government establishment, a CIA officer whistleblower.

Ironically, on his first full day in office, Trump went to the CIA and boasted to officers about his "war" on the press, ranting about reports of his inauguration crowd. That marked a bitter new American epoch: Jan. 21, 2017.

Yet at year's end, Trump is wounded, too, facing an impeachment trial in the Senate. Journalist-historians are kicking around the lofty question of how past presidents have changed the office. David Shribman, former editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, wrote a long front-page essay on this sober topic for the Los Angeles Times, surveying presidents since the Civil War.

 

History means nothing to Trump. The real point here: The office has not changed Trump one whit, not one bit.

The presidency inevitably changes the man inside the White House -- always, until it comes to Trump. His scorn and hatred of institutions (like the press), countries (like those in Africa), government agencies, treaties, immigrants and individuals has only become more known and intensified.

Trump has not grown in personal stature, with qualities like kindness, compassion, eloquence or empathy for the human condition. Nor has he shown an iota of sophistication in dealing with domestic politics, a House turned blue or foreign policy principals like North Korea's Kim Jong Un, Russia's Vladimir Putin or, um, Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

A simple call to Zelenskiy for a sinister "favor" set the House stage for impeachment this fall. (Trump pressured Zelenskiy to announce an investigation into Joe Biden for personal gain.)

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