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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Donald Trump is to conservatism as SpaghettiOs are to Italian food: a distant, crude and almost unrecognizable cousin. But last year, many conservatives who had trouble rationalizing a vote for Donald Trump settled on one decisive reason. Justices appointed by President Hillary Clinton, they said, could not be trusted to faithfully follow the Constitution.

These strict constructionists now find themselves with a president who regards the nation’s founding document as something between an irrelevance and a wad of gum stuck to his shoe. On Wednesday, he uttered statements that would have shocked conservatives had they come from Clinton or Barack Obama but were taken as inconsequential coming from Trump.

The president was angry with NBC News because it reported he had proposed a huge increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. He fumed that it is “frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write” and threatened to punish the network by revoking its license to broadcast (though licenses, as he probably doesn’t know, are granted to stations, not networks).

Trump has held up the late Antonin Scalia as his model of a justice. Scalia disdained the idea of a “living Constitution” — whose meaning evolves over time. “The only good Constitution is a dead Constitution,” he declared.

If Trump had his way, the Constitution would be deader than the czars, though not quite in the way Scalia meant. When the president swore an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” he took it just as seriously as the debts he escaped in bankruptcy court.

Trump would start by amputating the First Amendment, which upholds the disgusting freedom of journalists to “write whatever they want to write.” This is the same president who invited violence against reporters by tweeting a video doctored to make it look like he was punching a CNN representative.

Press freedom extends to broadcast news media, which are entitled to report and comment without government interference. To suggest that the president has the authority to punish allegedly inaccurate reporting by silencing a news organization betrays gargantuan ignorance and childish petulance.

But Trump’s empty threat flowed naturally from his past pronouncements on such matters. During the campaign, he vowed to change libel laws to make it easier for the likes of him — loudmouthed, grossly dishonest public figures — to win libel suits.

His position is at war with one of the Supreme Court’s most important and unassailable decisions, reached in 1964. It said the First Amendment requires that citizens be able to express their views without fear of being punished for inadvertent misstatements. If Trump were thinking clearly, he would realize that existing libel law is his friend, because it immunizes him for his fraudulent claims about critics.

His three orders on foreigners traveling to the United States so obviously stemmed from his campaign vow to ban all Muslims that administration lawyers implored judges to forget everything he had previously said. The judges didn’t. The first two travel orders were ruled unconstitutional, and the latest is being challenged.

He and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have spurned the January Justice Department report that found Chicago police guilty of “pattern or practice of unconstitutional use of force” — including killing people without a good reason. Barack Obama’s Justice Department wanted to prevent these abuses through a consent decree. Sessions has no interest in fixing or even noticing such problems.

He flaunted his indifference in a memo rejecting corrective action: “It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal law enforcement agencies.” Actually, when they violate the federal Constitution, it is.

What are the responsibilities of the federal government, according to Sessions? To “promote officer safety, officer morale and public respect for their work.” If the point wasn’t clear enough, Trump told an audience of police officers in New York they should rough up suspects they arrest.

That was too much for a lot of police departments. The New York City police commissioner objected: “To suggest that police officers apply any standard in the use of force other than what is reasonable and necessary is irresponsible, unprofessional and sends the wrong message to law enforcement as well as the public.”

Trump’s supporters feared that if Clinton were elected, constitutional rights would be damaged over time by a liberal Supreme Court. Instead, they got a president who prefers to damage them immediately all by himself.

Steve Chapman blogs at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chapman. Follow him on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

 

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11 responses to “Trump Declares War On The Constitution”

  1. FireBaron says:

    This is what happens when a group of people who are so grossly ignorant of the Constitution and how Government works elect an individual who is so grossly ignorant of the Constitution and how Government works.

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    • dbtheonly says:

      Flagged the spam for you.

      Is it that the Republicans don’t know the Constitution or rather that they want the Constitution to work the way they desire?

      I am confident Republicans and Trumpistas will be happy with the Constitution as Roberts, Alito, Thomas, & Gorsuch interpret it.

      • TZToronto says:

        Oh, Congressional Republicans know about the Constitution. They know that it limits what they can do, and they don’t like it. Trump, on the other hand, doesn’t know what they Constitution says, and he doesn’t care that he doesn’t know. He also doesn’t know that he’s also limited by the Constitution and thinks that the President of the United States operates as as an absolute dictator, giving orders that he fully expects to be followed (even if they contradict the orders he gave the day before). Trump sees the Senate confirmation of his appointments as inconvenient and unfair. He see McConnell as one of his employees who has not obeyed the orders he was given, and he can’t figure out why he’s unable to fire Mr. Turtle. And he doesn’t understand that the people he has appointed to Cabinet positions (and others) serve the people of the United States, not the POTUS. He also doesn’t understand the he himself serves the people of the United States, not himself and his family. The is a long list of leaders who have put themselves and their families above their subjects. That is why the United States has a Constitution. Trump has already shown that he has no use for it and expects to rule, not govern.

        • dbtheonly says:

          TZ,

          We disagree here. You see the Constitution as something specific and inflexible. I see it as something malleable and plastic. The Constitution means only what the SCOTUS of the time says it means. For good or ill, what the Constitution “says” at one time is irrelevant to what it may “say” at another.

          For 200 years of he Constitution did not guarantee the “right” to a personal gun. Then came Heller, and “bingo” there was that right hidden all along. For 180 years, States, under the influence of the Catholic Church could make contraception illegal. Come 1965(?) and suddenly the right to privacy trumps that. And where does the Constitution say anything about privacy?

          You talk about the Constitution guarantees of “free speech”. Does that include “hate speech”? We’ve had discussions on this issue over the past months.

          No, the Constitution provides no protections when the Government is unified in its goals. The only, ONLY, protection is to remove each and every Republican from office. Defund, disgrace, or demolish those Corporations or Churches devoted to the politics of hate and destruction.

          We must act and keep acting.

          • TZToronto says:

            I agree that we need to keep active in fighting the tyranny of business and religion that the far right wants to impose on Americans. As for the Constitution, there are the written words, and there is the spirit of those words. Nowhere does the Constitution say that corporations are people, yet the Supreme Court has ruled that they (and unions) are people when it comes to political contributions. It is possible that the Supreme Court could reverse that decision–but not this court. It’s more likely that the Supreme Court will rule that corporations have the right to vote (I hope not) before they rule that corporations are not people after all.

          • dbtheonly says:

            Corporations have religious rights. See Hobby Lobby

  2. johninPCFL says:

    “regards the nation’s founding document as something between an irrelevance and a wad of gum stuck to his shoe.” – accurate. IQ45 wants what he wants when he wants it regardless of the future consequences, as evidenced by his serial bankruptcies, serial marriages, and serial runs for office.

    Now that he’s won, he can’t find the handle on the football, and wants government changed to suit his moods.

  3. Richard Prescott says:

    Herr Drumpf would be happiest if there was no Constitution. That way his abject ignorance of it wouldn’t be so evident.
    Then all he has to fight is his lack of common sense, proper behavior and morals.

  4. Da FrogMeister says:

    Watch and see if IQ45 tries to overturn the 2 term limit so he can declare himself emperor for life. If he does that, I hope that he has a very short and miserable life before someone puts him out of his misery.

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