The renowned journalist, Brookings fellow, and Murrow Professor emeritus at Harvard offers an indictment of President Trump's efforts to delegitimize the American press as an endangerment of democracy on par with threats posed by the nation's worst political actors and dictators around the globe.
Kalb provides an engaging recitation of the Murrow vs. McCarthy saga ... Kalb mines some fascinating nuggets from the Trump-McCarthy vein ... What is to be done? Kalb offers few specific prescriptions ... To Trump, the journalists, judges and bureaucrats who try to hold him accountable and preserve democratic norms are 'fake news' and 'the deep state.' To Kalb, they are heroes. Reading this book may stiffen their resolve.
Initially, Kalb writes like a mystery author, tracking down where he believes Trump, who is not known for reading history books, learned of the enemy phrase. He presents a strong argument that Trump heard the phrase from a speech made by a Democratic pollster, Pat Caddell, who repeated the phrase in an interview on Breitbart radio ... Kalb’s argument is compelling ... But when Kalb pulls the authorial lens away from Trump, the book lags ... Kalb writes at length about the McCarthy communist hearings and of Edward R. Murrow’s challenge to McCarthy. The narration feels stale ... Kalb flings his final assault, calling Trump the true enemy of the people. It’s an easy barb and one that feels beneath the book’s intellectual discourse.
When it comes to throwing off journalistic objectivity for the first time in a 60-year career, Kalb has decided to go all in ... The parallels [between Sen. Joseph McCarthy and Trump] are useful, but they only go so far ... McCarthy hitched his fortunes to the hottest topic of the time to ride to prominence, he was in the end a one-trick pony ... In contrast, the current president has journalists playing daily—even hourly—Whack-a-Mole, where the shifting, unending outrages lead to a sort of numb exhaustion ... Kalb has written this book as something of a journalists’ call to arms, reminding them that determined reporters can and do make a difference in rooting out and spotlighting corruption, and in holding our leaders accountable to the people they represent ... So it’s not a big stretch for me to agree with Kalb’s final sentence: 'And, so, with all due respect to the office you hold, Mr. President, the ‘enemy of the people’ is not the press. It is you.'