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Columns

Trump's Demagogic Illogic

December 5, 2016 - 7:00am

On the first stop of his "thank you" tour in Ohio Thursday, president-elect Donald Trump hit replay on several of his campaign tropes.

Among the crowd pleasers, he heckled the "crooked media," prompting boos from the audience, and reiterated his pledge to criminalize flag burning.

And he's not even president yet. More than a month and a half away from Inauguration Day, Trump's only discipline seems to be making good on bad faith. His attacks both on the media and on those who, rather rarely, burn an American flag, are fundamentally assaults on the Constitution and the First Amendment.

Do Trump followers really not care about these founding documents and their bearing on all the freedoms we take for granted? Or, could they really not know any better? 

Most disturbing is the absence of objections from the right. Where are the Republicans when the leader of their party speaks so dismissively toward our principles of freedom and the journalists, many of whom they know personally, who practice in good faith the spirit of the law? How long before Trump's words convince some off-balanced Second Amendment "patriot" to take out a "crooked" media person, fully expecting to be applauded by the president-elect? 

We the people believe in free speech and a free press not so that we can burn flags but so that we can expose government corruption, protest oppression, and express opinions that others may find disagreeable without fear of repercussion.

As offensive as flag burning is to patriotic Americans, it can also be an act of patriotism, a proposition I offer as argument not endorsement. If you love your country and fear that it's being led toward tyranny, you might well burn a flag to demonstrate such concerns. To the extent that the flag is a symbol of freedom, burning it is also a symbolic act. I would argue that many if not most veterans, including those in my family, fought, suffered and died for the right of all Americans to speak freely. 

Indeed, it is the objectionable expression that is the true test of the strength of our freedoms. We don't need a First Amendment to protect get well cards or love letters. We don't need it to protect Christmas carols. But should someone challenge the latter, given its religious content, wouldn't many of those Ohioans cheering Trump's demagogic illogic be grateful that free speech protects their right to stroll the streets singing songs of praise?

Understanding the crucial importance of free speech and a free press to all other freedoms compelled the Supreme Court to rule that even flag burning is protected. And this is why Trump, a man who professes to love freedom and has presented himself as the best person to lead the free world, should be roundly condemned for suggesting that anyone who burns a flag should be punished by imprisonment or even loss of citizenship.

Or why his persistent attacks on the media, threatening to restrict press freedom, are so misplaced, potentially dangerous and, not least, impossible for him to do constitutionally. Either Trump knows this, which makes his crowd-baiting not only offensive but irresponsible, or he's unfamiliar with the Constitution, the defense of which is one of the primary functions of the presidency.

As to the crooked media, Trump's gibes are patently ludicrous. Was he over-covered? Perhaps, but he was early on the Republican frontrunner and subsequently the nominee. The media could hardly ignore him, much as many of us would have liked to. Yes, some members of the media are biased, but not most, and they're usually drummed out through peer review. 

It should be obvious that without the so-called mainstream media, especially newspapers such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, no one would know anything that has any basis in objective fact -- and yes there is such a thing. We will rue the day we forgot that newsgathering is a profession with demanding standards regarding performance and ethics. Notwithstanding the billion-member global newsroom, it's nice to have smart, well-educated, experienced reporters and editors to pluck the pearls from the muck.

Therefore, the highest service the president of the United States could perform would be to actively engage the media in the national interest of nurturing an informed populace, without which a democratic Republic cannot long survive. 

To do otherwise is the first act of the dictator.

     

Kathleen Parker's email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

(c) 2016, Washington Post Writers Group

Comments

it is just saber rattling... However, I agree dangerous saber rattling. Flag burning is reprehensible, especially for veterans, who understand the price of freedom that flag symbolizes. The thing that concerns me more is that it is not shunned completely by the very society who is protected by it... Flag burning was a unanimous free speech protection, which I understand no matter how disgusting, but don't think for a second that vets or conservatives agree with that part of the 1st amendments protections. We merely accept it as an insult, but to be able to have all the good that comes with the protections, far outweighs the reprehensible behavior of a few. You can make your point w/o disrespecting your country and all who died preserving the very freedoms that allows you to be a misguided fool. God bless America!

Based on your support of the first amendment, I'm going to assume you have the same unfettered support for the second amendment. That's the only one that says shall not be infringed. Yet government Federal,state, and local governments constantly do!

Daniel et al. start watching the history channel(or is that NOT free speech?) about Germany in the 1930's. Everything I see about Trump and his ignorant legions smacks of it. It can't happen here? Just sit back(which is what you do best) and watch. Yao asked for it moron. Let's see if ANYONE on the right is going to object. Great piece, Kathleen. I do have to give this rag credit for printing it. Maybe someone IS objecting.

Kathy, you're a typical "media wonk" who maligned and misjudged America's Citizens, and can't bear your own responsibility for the "TRANSFER" of your government to "saner hands". The "pablum" you are now attempting to "feed your readers" (who apparently understand America's "founding documents" far better than you do), might make you more popular if you "feed it" to the embarrassing and mal-educated students and professors populating this country's overpaid colleges...

You sound just like the media Trump is talking about. The media that knows more than anybody else. Even more than our Founding Fathers, bless their little souls (you'd say). What in the world will you do (meltdown) when a 5/4 comes out against flag burning? Trump's 2nd Amendment patriots won't harm you darling. Only the left will, and has. "Freedom" is only what SCOTUS says at the time. Going to be quite a few 5/4s & 6/3s going the conservative way here shortly. Trump is picking the next couple of jurists you know. Yes, Trump was "overly"covered by the media, but that coverage was about 90% negative, and its intent was to besmirch Trump, not actually cover him. By the way, what were you saying when Hillary's media outlets were saying Trump's supporters were harassing and attacking everyone? You believed it didn't you Ms. Gullible? It was Hillary's paid supporters committing all the violence & raucous after all. Hmmm... You're freaking ignorant to be such a perty gal. Remember, only the ugly women work for the media's left. Please get re-educated and denounce the left's idiotic narrative.

Daniel: You sir, are exactly what Hillary meant when she said half of Trump's supporter are deplorable. "Freaking idiot", "perty gal", "ugly women". I guess ignorance (yours) is bliss.

Kathleen: Absolutely brilliant! I suspect the answer to your question "Do Trump followers really not care about these founding documents and their bearing on all the freedoms we take for granted? Or, could they really not know any better?" is the latter. And I suspect it applies to Trump himself. At least I hope to hell that is the case. Thanks for a great piece!

Kathleen, show some respect and quit being so negative towards Donald Trump our President elect.

Show some respect? Are you kidding? After 18 plus months of Trump's intolerable rhetoric and 8 years of Republication disrespect of President Obama we should ignore the dangers that that rhetoric and disrespect has wrought on our nation? Go back under the rock you've been living under.

Comments are now closed.

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