President Trump has dispatched tweet after tweet after tweet savaging the representatives of a free press in the United States. He has publicly riffed about the possibility of retaliating against critical outlets and revoking the credentials of journalists. Through it all, certain voices have preached calm: The media attacks are just “theater,” they’re devices to trigger more coverage, they drive a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Those takes have relied on a wealth of evidence. Trump is a one-man bluster-fest, after all. There have been times when he’s publicly threatened measures — like pulling broadcast licenses and “opening up” libel laws — that he doesn’t even have the authority to promulgate.
A new phase in the understanding of Trump vs. the media, however, is now opening up. According The Post’s Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey, Trump himself has “personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages.” What does that have to do with the media? Amazon’s founder and chief executive is Jeffrey P. Bezos, who is also the owner of The Post — a juxtaposition that has angered Trump for years. As far back as 2015, he launched the false accusation that Bezos uses the newspaper as a tax shelter. As the Paletta-Dawsey collaboration notes, the two companies’ finances aren’t “intermingled.” So, like many of Trump’s proclamations, this one sounds juicy, and baseless.
There’s always the possibility that Trump’s thing about Amazon stems from some Trumpian principle about how the parcel business should operate. Nah. Trump isn’t much for principles. And The Post’s Philip Rucker reported in March, “One person who has discussed the matter repeatedly with the president explained that a negative story in The Post is almost always the catalyst for one of his Amazon rants.”
A sense of duty has clearly compelled Brennan to reject Trump’s price-hiking suggestions; she notes to Trump, as The Post reports, that contracts govern these matters and new arrangements must undergo review by a regulatory commission. For decades and decades, as it turns out, the U.S. government has been nurturing instrumentalities that now appear custom-designed to thwart an autocrat like Trump.