In 2009, after President Obama had been in office for about eight months, he and some of his top aides had some unkind things to say about Fox News. As regular readers may recall, the Beltway establishment did not take it well.
The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus, for example, was outraged -- not because the Democratic president had said something untrue, but because Obama had the audacity to criticize a major news organization directly. Marcus called the White House's Fox criticisms "dumb," "childish," "petty," "self-defeating," and having "a distinct Nixonian ... aroma."
Soon after, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) took the Senate floor to complain that the White House's criticism of a news organization was evidence of the president's team creating an "enemies list."
Eight years later, I wonder what the reaction would've been if Obama had threatened the broadcast licenses of news organizations that ran reports that the White House disapproved of.
Yesterday morning, Donald Trump, apparently irked by NBC News, asked rhetorically at what point it might be "appropriate to challenge" the broadcast licenses of networks he apparently doesn't like. He went on to suggest major American news organizations are "bad for country!" Ten hours later, the president turned the question into a statement.
"Network news has become so partisan, distorted and fake that licenses must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked. Not fair to public!"
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), an occasional Trump critic who nevertheless votes with the White House's position in nearly every instance, responded by asking whether the president is "recanting" his oath of office -- since it was nine months ago when Trump swore to "preserve, protect, and defend" the Constitution, which includes the First Amendment.
And while that's a compelling point, all of this got me thinking: if Trump's authoritarian instincts got the best of him, and he actually tried to follow through on these threats, what would (or could) he do?