President Donald Trump has announced that he will not attend this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner slated for April. The black-tie affair, which raises money for journalism scholarships, takes place every spring and is usually attended by the president, journalists and celebrities.
"I will not be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner this year. Please wish everyone well and have a great evening!" Trump tweeted on Saturday.
Several news organizations have withdrawn from the event in protest of Trump's treatment of the media.
Nevertheless, there will be no winners in this ongoing battle between the president and the press. The sure and certain loser will be America, its people and its cherished institutions.
When you pay attention or listen to the president, a reporter or a pastor, the underlying assumption or expectation, albeit naive, is truth, accuracy and honesty. When this does not occur you are left feeling unnerved and unsettled. So, you lose your moorings and stability, and become like driftwood tossed and turned by almost any wave.
Lies and dishonesty always foster separation, mistrust and division. The net result is we build a HOUSE OF LIES.
In this precarious and uncertain structure, we are faced with the age old question:
WHOSE REPORT DO YOU BELIEVE?
The following is part of an email I received from friend Nancy,
"To me, he's a gift to the church. An open door that the Lord has given. Do you see what he says about removing the Johnson amendment? Did you hear how many preachers were at his inauguration and how many times the name of Jesus was named in prayer? "
The following is an excerpt from Business Insider.
John McCain (R-AZ) defended the free press on Saturday following President Donald Trump's attacks on the media.
"I hate the press, I hate you especially," McCain told NBC's Chuck Todd on Saturday. "But the fact is, we need you we need a free press. It's vital."
McCain was responding to Trump's tweet on Friday where the president attacked the media as the "enemy of the American people."
"The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!" Trump tweeted. He followed that with another tweet on Saturday morning, telling his followers not to "believe the main stream (fake news) media."
"That's how dictators get started," McCain said. "They get started by suppressing the free press, in other words, a consolidation of power."
No matter which side of the political aisle you find yourself, the above should be alarming.
Even Chris Wallace and Shephard Smith of Fox News, a network normally sympathetic to Republican presidents and their policies, have expressed their concerns and frustrations.
Nancy, my Republican friend, a supporter of Trump, should be especially worried. She is Cuban.
She knows all too well how it started-- the suppression and subsequent elimination of all voices contrary to what the gentleman from the Sierra Maestra mountains deemed to be true and correct.
I still remember the images of the bearded one riding atop a tank down the streets of Havana to the applause and adulation of the adoring crowd.
Soon thereafter, his power consolidated, the free press eliminated, was founded and established "Granma," the official voice of the Cuban communist party.
Consequently, all the cries of the opposition were imprisoned, executed or had to flee with one small suitcase --basically the clothes on their backs.
"Believe only me, he said, and the one above is now saying.
Easy switch to: pay attention only to the media that expresses a favorable opinion of everything I say and do.
That, my dear friends, is not a pillar of a democracy which encourages dissent, and the idea behind the institution of a free press.
Nobody, including Trump or the press, is right all the time.
My wife and children will certainly and fully endorse that statement about me and earnestly shout with alacrity. Amen.
This is the stock reply from a typical Trump supporter:
"The press is always misconstruing every word he says. They are unfair to him. He is not a politician and he does not say things the proper way sometimes."
This inevitably leads me to the question, does inexperience justify half-truths, inaccuracies and misstatements. Mr. Trump is 70 years old, when is he going to learn?
The highest office in the land is a terrible place to find yourself on a learning curve.
The press, no matter what they want you think, is guilty of bias, misinformation and inaccuracy. If not, what would be the motivation behind libel suits, retractions and corrections?
The Paul Newman film, "Absence of Malice," required viewing in most journalism schools, is a frightening depiction of the destructive power of an unbridled press and inaccurate, incomplete reporting.
But, by the same token, that means that nobody is wrong all the time.
As I have expressed before, even a broken clock is right two times a day and a liberal press is not always synonymous with "a lying press."
Therefore, we need an adversary, opposition, friction, governor or editor to ensure that we stay on point, we remain sober and vigilant and we do not go off the deep end.
The man with an opposing point of view is not always, dumb, stupid and dishonest.
Any man surrounded only by adulation, affirmation and agreement is susceptible to derailment and involving other people in a trainwreck.
It is not coincidental that our currency, our medium of exchange which declares this note is legal tender for all debts public and private" also says "in God we trust"
A sign I saw in a business establishment also succinctly confirmed it. "I TRUST IN GOD. ALL OTHERS PAY CASH."
All men are capable of disappointing you and letting you down no matter how passionately and fervently they promise not to do it.
Look no further than Adam, Cain, Aaron, Samson, Eli, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Judas, Peter and Demas. Their failures are recorded in the Bible for the expressed purpose of warning us that the arm of flesh will fail us and we must always trust in the name of the Lord.
This is what Peter promised the Lord, the day before Jesus was arrested to be crucified.
"Though all others forsake you, I will not forsake you."
The Bible also recorded, and so said all of them, meaning the disciples. Upon further reading, you will discover these distressing words after he was betrayed and apprehended--"and they all forsook him and fled." Lying mortally wounded on the floor of the Senate, the victim of the bitter sting of betrayal, what did a surprised Julius Caesar ask? "Et Tu Brute"(Even you, Brutus)
Let us consider for a moment the dynamics of adultery.
Two people stand in the house of God, in front of the people of God, facing the man of God, and vow to a holy God and each other, I will love and cherish you only, keeping only unto you, until death do us part."
They really felt it and meant it when they said it to each other, and each one truly believed the other.
And yes, women, the fairer sex, are also afflicted with this disorder.
Hear again the words of Bob Coy, former Pastor of Calvary Chapel in Ft Lauderdale, Fl.
He was dismissed from his post after a moral failure---meaning adultery.
"I knew one day, I would disappoint you, he had told the congregation.
Billy Graham is the paragon of virtue and morality of a spiritual leader in America. Yet his grandson, who became pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Ft. Lauderdale, over the objections of many parishioners, lost his position due to marital infidelity.
At this point, I must remind you that Mr. Trump has been married three times and declared bankruptcy four times.
Did he tell all those wives and employees, "believe only what I say, not what others are saying?"
In fairness to Mr. Trump and his ardent, fanatical 24 million followers on Twitter, Pastor Paula White says he is a "baby Christian," which means that God can turn him around and he can become a mighty vessel in the hands of God, fulfilling all the hopes, desires and dreams of his fervent supporters.
Do you remember Jacob in the Bible?
He also had a very inauspicious beginning. He exploited his vulnerable brother at a weak moment. In collusion with his confederate, complicit mother he deceived his blind father to steal his sibling's birthright. Indeed, a thoroughly reprehensible and despicable act.
Yet God used him to become the father of the children and nation of Israel. If God can use a crook and liar like Jacob, he is well able to use a Donald Trump.
However, one evidence of Christian conversion is some evidence of change.
He must demonstrate that he adheres to the primary Christian ethic, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
So far, I have not detected that inclination in Mr. Trump The most alarming thing about all the men described above. They knew what was right. They preached and professed what was right. They told us and expected us to believe that they were all right. They pretended and lived like everything was all right, right up to the very moment it was revealed that they did wrong.
No, Mr. Trump. I will not totally believe you nor any man, ever allowing room for that potential misstep.
Unfortunately, scripture and history have conditioned me to that mindset and attitude. Moreover, recent occupants of the same position have not helped your cause.
The gentleman who preceeded you, whom many of you are still convinced is not a US citizen and a Muslim at heart, despite his frequent denials.
Yes that one, he promised hope and change and if you like your insurance you can keep it.
His predecessor took us into a war in Iraq, ostensibly to unearth weapons of mass destruction.
His father sternly rebuked us and admonished to, "read my lips, no new taxes."
What about the "player" from Arkansas, who was totally exasperated that we did not believe his definitive declaration, "I DID NOT HAVE SEX WITH THAT WOMAN."
Now, because Paula White - a fellow divorcee - assures us that you have found Jesus, how many pastors attended your inauguration and how many times the name of Jesus was mentioned at the ceremony, I am supposed to believe everything you say?
My problem, you see, sir, is I work in jail ministry and every week someone finds Jesus and faithfully promises to turn his life around. Thereafter, I meet many of them again in lockup with a sheepish, resigned expression on their faces.
There is an inconvenient troubling verse in the Bible that is always in the back of mind during any interaction with mankind, "by their fruits you shall know them."
Furthermore, you must admit that your personal track record is a little spotty at best.
Forgive me, given your history, if I am a little skeptic.
I always will, as Ronald Reagan advised, "trust but verify."
I will always, as the Arab proverb tells me, "trust in God, but tie up my camel."
A man unfettered and unhindered can also become a man unhinged.
I believe only in God.
"I know in whom I have believed and I am fully persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." 2 Tim. 1:12.
V. Knowles is a husband, father and prison minister with an interest in penning issues that serve to uplift mankind. He melds his love for Classic literature, The Bible and pop culture - as sordid as it may be - into highly relatable columns of truth, faith and justice. Hence the name: Just Thinking. If he's not buried in a book or penning his next column, you may find him pinned to his sectional watching a good old Country and Western flick.