"If I want your opinion I'll give it to you." - Samuel Goldwyn
Backing down after a legal defeat at the hands of a Trump-appointed judge - the best kind! - a cornered White House Monday restored CNN's Jim Acosta's press credentials and then swiftly, dare we say vengefully issued a set of unprecedented new rules aimed at curbing further "unprofessional behavior," like, say, asking Il Douche a question he doesn't like. The rules, reminiscent of what you might find scrawled on a blackboard on the first diligent day of fourth grade: A journalist "will ask a single question and then will yield the floor to other journalists," said "yielding" consists of "physically surrendering" the microphone, follow-up questions will be permitted "at the discretion of the president" or his sycophants, and "failure to abide" by any of the rules may result in "suspension or revocation of the journalist's hard pass."
The decree, Sarah Sanders explained in a scolding, noxious, Sarah-esque letter, was created "with a degree of regret." For years - actually a century, others noted - White House reporters had attended countless press events "without engaging in the behavior Mr. Acosta displayed," and naturally they would have "greatly preferred to continue hosting (those events) in reliance on a set of understood professional norms." This is, of course, a bald-faced lie, as anyone who's ever witnessed the decades of rowdy, combative White House press conferences could attest. What's different today isn't Jim Acosta. It's that before there was always an adult in charge, and now there's a sick, mean, wildly insecure, tantrum-throwing malignant narcissist man-child whose daddy didn't love him enough, leaving a dangerous gaping hole the world, or at least the press, must now attempt to fill.
Alas, many noted, this is not their job - which is, as guaranteed and cherished by the Constitution, to question, challenge, poke, prod, doubt, hassle, confront and sometimes piss off people in power to arrive at the truth, a requisite of democracy. Rules that allow the banning of a reporter for asking an "unauthorized" follow-up question, argues Ben Wizner of the ACLU, “give the White House far too much discretion to avoid real scrutiny (and) should be revised to ensure that no journalist gets kicked out of the White House for doing their job.” Other critics blasted the attempt to "shave down to one question" the Constitutional right to free speech, noting that above all the rules, while "adorable," egregiously mandate "decorum" only for those seeking "to interview persons totally lacking any." Many want a rule Trump has to answer the damn question, or at least let a reporter ask it completely "BEFORE he starts his lying. Or insulting the reporter. Or deflecting."
Others wonder if the rules mandate starting each question with “Your Royal Highness” or "My Liege," though they agree kissing his ring is optional, as is genuflection. One brilliant suggestion: A dunk tank for anyone who fails to answer a question honestly. Even better, Rule 5: "Failure by the President or other White House official taking questions to answer said question may result in their temporary or permanent removal from office." At the very least, many propose serious ways for journalists to fight back: Keep asking any question that goes unanswered, hand the mike to Acosta every time, write their own rules, walk out en masse. Apt, given the gag rules landed the same day as the cowardly news that this year's White House Correspondents' Dinner will feature a historian, not a comedian; the group is evidently still smarting from Michelle Wolf's blistering roast of not just Trump but an-often-complicit mainstream media. "You helped create this monster," she declared, "and now you're profiting off of him." She's right. Time to buckle up.