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President Trump’s now-infamous news conference last week at least put to bed the idea that he would go through his presidency avoiding tough questions by calling only on friendly reporters. That was the good news.

The bad news? When Trump wasn’t making bizarre arguments with no basis in reality (for example, that the media is to blame for Vladimir Putin’s renewed military aggression), he was disparaging the journalists in attendance with gusto and obvious personal enjoyment.

The most lighthearted moment of the wild session came when Trump promised to stop using the term “fake news” to describe their work product. The new term? “Very fake news.”

This rankled a lot of prominent journalists’ sensibilities. Perhaps it should, given the important role that a free press plays in American democracy.

“This not a laughing matter,” NBC’s Chuck Todd tweeted. “I’m sorry, delegitimizing the press is un-American.”

Todd showed admirable restraint in comparison to Carl Berstein, who on Sunday called Trump’s criticism “demagogic and frightening and treacherous words that have meaning in terms of threats to democracy,” and compared it to something Hitler or Stalin might have said.

Yet if Trump went too far, so do these arguments. It’s as American to disparage and delegitimize the press as it is to criticize the president. In fact, that’s part of having a free press, as opposed to a state-controlled press that is bolstered by the supposed credibility of officialdom. In America, journalists earn trust in a free market of evidence and ideas. Americans get to criticize and disparage both Donald Trump and Chuck Todd, based on their own conclusions.

Todd actually had a stronger argument that should be fairly represented here. As he put it, the issue is that of someone “in power” attacking the press in this way. Here too, he misses the mark.

When they wrote our Constitution, our Founding Fathers anticipated not just Trump, but someone much worse. They expected the republic to have presidents who not only couldn’t control their anger over the coverage they received, but who would actually follow their worst instincts and try to use the mechanism of government to suppress it.

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This is why they put, right at the top of the Bill of Rights, an absolute guarantee of press freedom that surpasses anything in Europe or the world’s other advanced democracies to this day. It’s also why they created an independent judiciary to safeguard the Bill of Rights — a judiciary whose members cannot easily be removed from office for political reasons, and whose pay cannot even be cut by lawmakers.

This is why, when I see Trump rail against judges and journalists, I don’t panic. I shrug.

Is Trump being stupid? Unhinged? Unpresidential? Absolutely. Should we criticize him? Definitely. Should the voters punish him? Perhaps.

Is he a threat to the republic? No. Not even a little bit. For the moment, at least, the FEC remains a greater threat to press freedom than our over-the-top commentator-in-chief, because three of its commissioners have actually tried to punish journalists for the content of their presidential debate coverage.

Others have pointed out, correctly, that tyrants rail against independent journalists just as Trump does. But tyrants don’t earn the title by doing anything so trivial. Tyrants expel journalists from their countries in retaliation for negative coverage. They blackmail and extort journalists. They assassinate journalists. They wiretap journalists. They have them arrested on trumped up charges that are seemingly unrelated to their journalism.

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A tiresome president who habitually over-shares his opinions? He’s a boor, perhaps. An Internet troll. Whatever you want to call him — and our Constitution says you’re free to call him much worse things than that. But his intemperate comments don’t rise to anything like that level.

The more interesting question is whether Trump is undermining popular faith in America’s free press. But think about it: that would imply that the American news media is losing a credibility contest against someone who routinely makes statements that are so obviously false you don’t even need a Google search to check. Against an administration that has now manufactured at least three terrorist attacks that never happened.

If that is so, it can only be because there were a lot of big, unaddressed problems in the media before Trump. And Trump’s puerile whining over the tone of his press coverage should be the least of our worries.

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