Congressman-elect Dan Crenshaw of Texas first came to national attention when his looks — especially the patch over his eye that he lost serving in Afghanistan — were mocked on "Saturday Night Live." The NBC show amended its rudeness by putting him on the show the next week and allowing him to make an earnest pitch to Americans to "never forget" the sacrifices veterans make.
On Nov. 18, Crenshaw appeared with three other House freshmen on CBS' "Face the Nation." As is typical, the other three were all Democrats. He suggested the public image of Congress could be improved if the tone of the debate were to improve. "Let's not attack each other's intent," he said. "Let's not ... attack each other as a person. Let's attack ideas. All right. We can debate ideas. We can disagree on ideas all day long."
That's not an easy standard in politics. Politicians know that voters say they don't like negative attacks, but they also know voters are more likely to believe negative attacks than positive presentations. What made Crenshaw's approach stand out was his challenging the idea that freedom of the press is under attack.
Rep.-elect Joe Neguse, D-Colo., claimed that under President Trump, "our democratic freedoms" are under attack. Crenshaw demanded specifics and said: "Democracy is at work. People are voting in ... record numbers." Neguse responded, "the undermining of the free press." He cited CNN having to go to court to fight correspondent Jim Acosta's suspended press pass. Crenshaw noted that was one reporter, not the entire network, and that he was "highly disruptive."
Rep.-elect Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., then jumped in. "I would argue that our president is consistently disruptive in those very same press conferences. And I would argue that he treats them with disrespect," she said. Crenshaw challenged that, asking, "how is that an attack on the press, though?" Houlihan replied, "it's literally an attack on the press." Crenshaw shot back: "Oh, I've literally been attacked. ... let's choose our words carefully."
This underlines that our metaphors can be far too overdramatized, especially in emotional reaction to Trump's ridicule. Houlihan continued: "his language is an attack in those spaces." So Crenshaw asked, "why is he not allowed to use his own language and freedom of speech?"
This is a terrific question. Apparently, it's against freedom of speech to attack the press as a bunch of partisans who sometimes put out "fake news." The media would like to rewrite the First Amendment and insert the commandment "Thou shalt not question the motives or professionalism of journalists." They have the thinnest skins in Washington.
Houlihan insisted that the president should lead by example. Crenshaw said that it's fine to question the president's style, and that he dislikes the term "enemy of the people" to describe the press corps.
But if the Democrats and the press think it's important to lead by example, is Jim Acosta leading by example? Are they proud of his style? It seems obvious they feel strongly that someone really needs to lecture the president like he's got the intelligence of a tomato. They aren't telling Acosta he's setting a bad example for the children.
Those on the left have been ranting for years now that the press can't allow Trump to be "normalized" — in other words, the media must always behave as if an election-stealing dictator is sitting in the White House. For the left, there is no universal morality. There are the idealistic leftists who must be celebrated, and there are the Cynical, Lying Bad Guys who must be destroyed. Dan Crenshaw exposed how much civility is limited when it comes to conservatives.
L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.