Ventura, Agnew were amateurs compared to Trump

Mike KnaakColumn, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. Joseph0 Comments

Enough.

Enough of this.

“Enemies of the people, lock her up, evil people, fake news, disgusting, low-IQ, crazy, mob, disgrace, a crazed and stumbling lunatic.”

Donald Trump frequently uses these words to demonize people and news organizations he doesn’t like. Amid incendiary rhetoric, targets of Trump’s words became targets of 15 bombs.

In Crazytown, it’s a short trip from words to the MAGAbomber’s actions.

Trump’s rallies include his regular set-piece attack on the attending reporters. He points at the journalists and the crowd boos.

At a Wisconsin rally the day the mail bombs appeared, U.S. Senate candidate Leah Vukmir was on stage when the crowd chanted “Lock her up” at the mention of Hillary Clinton’s name. Vukmir showed her leadership credentials by smiling and laughing. When Trump arrived at the rally later, he blamed journalists for the current toxic political debate. Trump sees a divisive, polarizing campaign not as a bug in the political system but as a feature – a feature he hopes to exploit so he can hold onto power.

Trump’s campaign rallies resemble the WWE events he headlined in his former entertainment-world life. At those wrestling matches, villains are created for the crowd to boo.

At a Montana rally earlier in the week, Trump saluted a member of Congress who was convicted of assault for body slamming a reporter.

It’s all fun and games until it isn’t. And last week it wasn’t fun and games any more when a solider in Trump’s army sent mail bombs to CNN and the people on his enemies list.

Criticism and threats directed toward journalists aren’t new. In my five decades covering the news, the newspaper I worked for, as well as me personally, have been threatened for stories we’ve published.

Often these threats come from kooks or people who want to intimidate and talk tough but have no intention of actually injuring someone. Once in a while, the threat sounds real and protective action is taken.

If you can get past the threats and the swear words, the vast majority of people are not really upset, like Trump, about “fake news.” The first question I ask a complainer is to point out the exact errors in the story. It usually turns out the story isn’t “fake” but that the upset person is mad because, for example, they were arrested, indicted or convicted and didn’t want the world to know about it.

I covered another “outsider” who was elected to high office, and unlike Trump, he could actually deliver a body slam. Minnesotans elected former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura over Democrat Skip Humphrey and Republican Norm Coleman, two veteran politicians who didn’t capture the voters’ passion.

As governor from 1999-2003, Ventura oversaw property-tax reforms and the state’s first sales-tax rebate.

Like Trump, Ventura attacked reporters for stories he didn’t like instead of focusing on his policy successes. At first, most journalists thought Ventura’s attacks were part of his act, which included distributing fake “Media Jackals” credentials. By the end of his term, most reporters no longer thought Ventura’s comments were a joke. To his credit, Ventura didn’t call reporters enemies of the people.

In the early 1970s, another politician made attacking journalists part of his act. I heard Richard Nixon’s Vice President Spiro Agnew speak in St. Paul. He called journalists “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

The story did not end well for either of them. Ventura did not seek a second term and Agnew resigned under criminal investigation. Solid reporting revealed Agnew accepted bribes and he pled no contest to a felony.

Ventura and Agnew are amateurs compared to Trump. The President of the United States is now blaming the attempted murder of Democrats on press criticism of him.

Author: Mike Knaak

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