That a grandstanding show pony like CNN’s Jim Acosta would be transformed by President Donald Trump into a First Amendment crusader knight is perhaps a sad but fitting comment on our age.
Acosta is back at work, isn’t he? And, as CNN’s White House correspondent, he’ll be able to ask questions the president doesn’t like. That’s the important thing. That and the Constitution.
Acosta’s credentials were taken by the White House Nov. 7 after a typically contentious exchange between Acosta and the president. Acosta was rude, as is his way, and Trump was rude, as is his way.
I backed Acosta, and so did many other journalists, because of the conservative principle of the thing.
But there is something else here that shouldn’t be ignored.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, the judge who ordered the Trump administration to reinstate Acosta, is a Trump appointee. He is also a member of the conservative Federalist Society.
That’s the same Federalist Society routinely bashed by the left, and CNN is most decidedly on the left. The general thrust of the Democratic Media Complex argument against the Federalist Society is that it has vetted prospective federal judges who would be servile rubber stamps for the Trump administration.
Wrong. Kelly just proved it to be wrong.
The use of the federal judiciary as a partisan hammer isn’t the conservative view. And naturally, it isn’t the Federalist Society’s view, either.
Conservatives ask that Congress make law, and that federal judges interpret those laws in accordance with the original intent of the Constitution of the United States.
But the left’s view is the opposite. The left wants federal judges to make laws that the left couldn’t pass through Congress.
What happened in Acosta’s case is that a conservative judge simply followed the law, Trump or no Trump.
In granting a temporary restraining order and restoring Acosta’s press pass, giving him regular access to White House grounds to cover news conferences and other events, Kelly noted, “I want to emphasize the very limited nature of this ruling.”
He did not rule on the issue of whether the First Amendment rights of CNN and Acosta were violated. That may come later, if the case continues. Kelly did note, according to reports, that Acosta’s Fifth Amendment rights to due process were violated by the Trump White House.
Acosta praised Kelly for the ruling.
“I want to thank all of my colleagues in the press who supported us this week,” Acosta said. “And I want to thank the judge for the decision he made today. Let’s go back to work.”
That’s what I called for a few days ago: To let Acosta go back to work because the Trump White House was wrong.
But as he goes back to work, I’d assume Acosta will avail himself of shining armor and polish it. My hope is that as Acosta prances forth, CNN producers will follow behind him clapping hollow coconuts together, as in some Monty Python skit of old.
I don’t like how Acosta handles himself at news conferences, but that’s a function of showbiz, not news. He puffs himself up and acts as if he’s the story. But in the CNN of old, when it was respected as a neutral news source, CNN Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno wouldn’t have tolerated the Acosta peacock act.
Tom Bevan, co-founder and publisher of the respected news site RealClearPolitics, says that Trump turned Acosta into the martyr he’s become.
RealClearPolitics sometimes links to my Tribune column, yes, but it offers contrasting points of view, from the left to the right.
“They (the Trump White House) turned Acosta into a martyr,” said Bevan in an interview on my podcast, “The Chicago Way,” on WGN Plus.
He doesn’t like Acosta’s style, neither do I. Acosta forgets that his job is to report the news, not play the peacock. Nor does Bevan appreciate Fox News’ Sean Hannity’s slavish cheerleading for Trump at a recent political rally. Neither do I. If I had been Hannity’s boss, I would have fired him for that.
“You had everybody from Fox News and others filing friend of the court briefs for Jim Acosta,” said Bevan. “The proper course for the White House would have been for Trump to say to Acosta, ‘Sit down, you are being rude. And guess what? I’m never going to call on you again. Never. And if CNN wants to get a question from this White House, they’re going to have to hire somebody else to do the job.’ But Trump can’t do that because he thrives on the conflict. He called on Jim Acosta, knowing exactly who he is, what he does and how he operates, and still called on him. Why? Because he likes the confrontation. He uses it.”
Much of TV news is showbiz and partisan echo chamber, and there are no signs of returning to a semblance of what had been.
“I don’t think we’re ever going back,” said Bevan. “That genie’s out of the bottle.”