Peter Funt Peter Funt, 2/1/2017 [Archive]

The Republic Stands Tall

The Republic Stands Tall

By Peter Funt


PHOENIX - The heroic effort by Arizona's largest newspaper to oppose Donald Trump, which began last September, continues now that he is in the White House, with even greater vigor than before.

Until Trump came along, the Arizona Republic had endorsed only Republicans for all of its 126 years. After it declared support for Hillary Clinton there were death threats against the Republic's staff and plenty of cancelled subscriptions. But none of that has quieted the paper's editorial writers and columnists; indeed, it seems to have made them stronger.

In just the few weeks since Trump took office the Republic has confronted him almost daily. Under the headline "Trump hasn't put America first," the paper criticized his border wall with Mexico, noting, "The numbers of illegal border crossings are way down."

The editorial stressed that immigration here isn't just about Mexicans seeking jobs but also "the heartbreaking dynamic of Central American women and children seeking refuge from violence."

The Republic's editorial cartoonist, Steve Benson, turns his rapier pen toward the new president with regularity. An example: the Statue of Liberty holding a tablet high above her head with the inscription, "Trump is not my president."

The next day Benson drew a terrorist toting a machine gun and waving a black flag with Trump's picture on it. The caption read, "ISIS recruitment flag."

Editorial page editor Phil Boas, who describes himself as a lifelong Republican, told my son Danny in an interview for the Columbia Journalism Review last fall that Trump "is a demonstrably bad human being."

The other day, after another of Trump's attacks on media, Boas wrote: "The scoundrel here is not the mainstream press. It's the president of the United States."

The Republic's outspoken columnist E.J. Montini hasn't minced words either. When Trump spoke of "extreme vetting" of immigrants, Montini noted, "Seems like we all should have done a little of that...before choosing a president."

The outcry from this Gannett-owned paper is mighty tough stuff in a state that for a long time was among the reddest of red.

Arizona has a Republican governor and two Republican senators. Despite the Republic's opposition it voted for Trump, although only by a whisker.

Trump won here by about 100,000 votes but his mandate is tenuous. Hillary Clinton's votes plus those cast for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein total more than what Trump received. This mirrors the national outcome in which Trump received 46 percent of votes cast.

When Trump issued his executive order on immigration, he encountered bitter opposition from senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, with McCain saying, "we should not turn our backs on refugees." More than 75 professors from Arizona's three state universities quickly signed a letter of protest.

With 31 percent Hispanic population and an influx of young progressive residents, the political landscape here is changing. Despite the election results last November, shifts in Arizona might signal the future for Trump and his party across the West.

Meanwhile, it is positively inspiring to read the Republic each morning as it seeks to chronicle and criticize behavior of the Trump administration.

Trump and his associates, notably the far-right conservative Steve Bannon, have made no secret of their contempt for journalists. It's easy for big media in liberal strongholds like New York, Boston and San Francisco to push back; it's a lot harder here in the desert.

Yet, the Republic's editorial board writes about the reckless Trump administration, "The people who can tighten the chain on them are us."

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Peter Funt can be reached at www.CandidCamera.com

Peter Funt is a writer and speaker. His book, "Cautiously Optimistic," is available at Amazon.com and CandidCamera.com. © 2017 Peter Funt. Columns distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate.

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