Trump re­quires con­stant scru­tiny

Cecil Whig - - & - Ann McFeat­ters

— We all know Don­ald Trump loves the Sec­ond Amend­ment (guns). But the First Amend­ment? Not so much.

It’s re­ally sim­ple, as most pre­cious things are, read­ing, “Congress shall make no law re­spect­ing an es­tab­lish­ment of reli­gion, or pro­hibit­ing the free ex­er­cise thereof; or abridg­ing the free­dom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the peo­ple peace­ably to as­sem­ble, and to pe­ti­tion the govern­ment for a re­dress of griev­ances.”

Yet the no­to­ri­ously thin-skinned Trump, our pres­i­dent-elect, is threat­en­ing to black­ball re­porters who write things he doesn’t like, in­clud­ing things that are true. He hasn’t had a press con­fer­ence since he was elected. He dis­dains the pro­tec­tive press pool that has, un­til now, ac­com­pa­nied the pres­i­dent-elect and the pres­i­dent to let Amer­i­cans know what is go­ing on. For ex­am­ple, on 9/11, the press was there to re­port to the na­tion Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s re­sponse. When Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan was shot, the press was there to re­port what hap­pened.

Trump has also vowed to change li­bel laws. So “when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a to­tal dis­grace ... we can sue them and win money in­stead of hav­ing no chance of win­ning be­cause they’re to­tally pro­tected.”

For half a cen­tury, the Supreme Court has held that pub­lic fig­ures, such as the pres­i­dent, can’t prove li­bel against news out­lets un­less the pub­lic fig­ure can prove “ac­tual mal­ice,” know­ing what was printed was false. Trump would change that, if he could.

With­out a free press, there is no democ­racy. Thomas Jef­fer­son fa­mously said: “Were it left to me to de­cide whether we should have a govern­ment with­out news­pa­pers or news­pa­pers with­out a govern­ment, I should not hes­i­tate a mo­ment to pre­fer the lat­ter.”

But Trump loathes the Con­sti­tu­tion in other ways, too.

For ex­am­ple, the Eighth Amend­ment pro­hibits cruel and un­usual pun­ish­ment. Trump wants to rein­tro­duce wa­ter­board­ing of sus­pected ter­ror­ists, thus open­ing the door for for­eign gov­ern­ments to tor­ture Amer­i­can pris­on­ers. He also said he’d kill in­no­cent rel­a­tives of sus­pected ter­ror­ists, in­clud­ing chil­dren.

That’s not to men­tion that in 1969, the Supreme Court ruled that Amer­i­cans have a con­sti­tu­tional right to protest by burn­ing the flag, as odi­ous as most of us find that act. But Trump tweets: “No­body should be al­lowed to burn the Amer­i­can flag — if they do, there must be con­se­quences — per­haps loss of cit­i­zen­ship or year in jail!”

Scary stuff, folks. Has this man, who next month will swear to “pre­serve, pro­tect and de­fend” the Con­sti­tu­tion, read it? He says yes but also ex­pressed ad­mi­ra­tion for Ar­ti­cle XII. There are seven.

Does he know we have a con­sti­tu­tional right to free ex­er­cise of reli­gion? He pro­posed that Mus­lims be banned from this coun­try. Or, in a re­fine­ment, Mus­lims from some coun­tries, to be named later. Early on, un­til he was rightly ridiculed, he wanted to ban Amer­i­can Mus­lim sol­diers serv­ing their coun­try in war from re­turn­ing home. His ap­palling fight with Gold Star par­ents of an Amer­i­can Mus­lim who died for his coun­try shows he can’t curb his tongue.

After the ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Paris, Trump said the U.S. govern­ment should close mosques. He ex­plained, “We’re go­ing to have no choice. Some re­ally bad things are hap­pen­ing.” Sub­sti­tute mosques with syn­a­gogues or tem­ples or churches, and see what you think.

All this would also vi­o­late the 14th Amend­ment with its Equal Pro­tec­tion Clause, for­bid­ding the govern­ment from de­priv­ing in­di­vid­u­als from “equal pro­tec­tion of the laws.”

Trump’s fights with judges in­di­cate he doesn’t un­der­stand the con­sti­tu­tional pur­pose of an in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary. And he will likely be nom­i­nat­ing a num­ber of Supreme Court jus­tices.

His sup­port­ers say, “Oh, he doesn’t re­ally mean what he says.” How do we know? We are about to in­au­gu­rate a man who tweets out in­flam­ma­tory state­ments, and we have no idea which ones he means and which he says for fun on the spur of the mo­ment.

His sup­port­ers in­sist, “Oh, just give him the ben­e­fit of the doubt. He is go­ing to be pres­i­dent.”

Well, yes, he is. But that is no rea­son to roll over and let him say — or do — what­ever he wants if it is un­con­sti­tu­tional. He must be held ac­count­able, ev­ery day, in ev­ery way, for all he says and does.

Ann McFeat­ters is a colum­nist for Tri­bune News Ser­vice. Read­ers may send her email at am­cfeat­ters@na­tion­al­press.com.

WASH­ING­TON

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