President Joe Biden should be held accountable.

A Democrat-controlled House of Representatives and for all intents and purposes a Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate should be held accountable.

Clearly, President Donald Trump drew more scrutiny than any American president in recent memory, and for good reason, but all presidents and their administrations should be held accountable by the media.

Historically, presidents have always been held accountable and skewered in political cartoons, probably none more than the man now viewed as one of the greatest American presidents — Abraham Lincoln.

While it may be true that every new administration gets its honeymoon period, it should not get a pass when it comes to public accountability.

For example, the early flurry of governing by executive order should be scrutinized. When still a candidate, President Donald Trump criticized executive orders signed by President Barack Obama. Then, once in office, Trump signed a flurry of controversial executive orders. During the 2020 campaign, Democrats criticized Trump for that same kind of governing by pen stroke.

Now, President Biden has taken swift action on several fronts, some welcomed but others, such as an order halting the Keystone Pipeline, has drawn early fire from Republicans whom the president hoped to ingratiate.

Clearly, sometimes quick action is needed — as in the immediate measures to combat the raging pandemic. But we have three branches of government and two houses of Congress for maintaining the balance of power.

In this nation, newspapers have a long, storied history of keeping an eye on government and holding the powerful accountable, and we must never lose that Fourth Estate.

In 1841, Thomas Carlyle wrote about the power of the press, conjuring the words of Edmond Burke: “Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”

Burke may have been chiding the press for its sense of itself but Carlyle used his words to write about the importance of newspapers to democracy.

Democracy is best served when newspapers provide checks and balances. Newspapers are not the enemy of government — rather they are the champions of ordinary men and women.

Newspapers are the most powerful advocate the public can have and for that reason should always provide an open forum for a redress of grievances and public expression.

Newspapers hold government accountable because at our very core we believe that government belongs to the governed and not to the governing.

The provisions of the First Amendment do not exist to protect the press. Rather, the press exists to help protect the freedoms of all Americans — Republicans, Democrats and everyone else.

This guest editorial was originally published by the The Valdosta (Georgia) Daily Times, a CNHI sister newspaper, on Jan. 25.

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