Tag Archives: First Amendment

Is the man recanting his oath?

You go, U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse!

The young Nebraska Republican —  a freshman member of the “world’s greatest deliberative body” — has asked a pertinent question of the president of the United States.

Is Donald J. Trump “recanting” the oath of office he took in January?

Trump, you see, is ratcheting up his battle with the news media. He is suggesting that television networks are “disgusting” him by reporting negative news. He calls it “fake news,” of course. Trump is suggesting also that networks could have their licenses revoked because of their reporting.

But wait! He took an oath to protect the Constitution, which allows the media to do their job without government interference or pressure.

Sasse writes: “Mr. President: Words spoken by the President of the United States matter,” the Republican senator wrote in a statement. “Are you tonight recanting of the oath you took on Jan. 20 to preserve, protect, and defend the 1st Amendment?”

Fascinating, yes? Sasse is a Republican, just like the president. Oh, but the president keeps yapping that all this negative stuff is being fueled by Democrats.

Now he is seeming to imply that the Constitution’s guarantees of press freedom in the First Amendment don’t matter.

I’ll give the president “credit,” though, for this. He has “united” partisans on both sides of the aisle in condemning his ridiculous notion of censoring news outlets.

Answer to your question is easy, Mr. POTUS

Donald John Trump fired off another in an endless string of tweets.

He writes: “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”

I can answer that one, Mr. President. It’s never appropriate! Especially not from someone in your position!

NBC News reported that Trump wants to increase the nation’s nuclear stockpile, apparently in response to growing threats from North Korea. The president denies it. NBC stands by its story.

POTUS goes on the attack

Trump calls it “fake news,” which has become his favorite throwaway line to disparage anything he deems negative.

What is “bad for country” is for the president to bully the media, to seek to push reporters, editors and assorted news executives around with threats against their profession.

The president needs to layer on some additional skin. It’s tough out there, man. You ought to know that. Moreover, you ought to accept critical reporting as being part of your job.

Hey, Mr. POTUS, the Constitution allows it!

I beg your pardon, Mr. President?

You, Donald J. Trump, need to acquaint yourself with the document you took an oath to defend and protect. Then again, you’ve heard that call already from many of your critics.

And yet your supporters seem to give you a pass for the ignoramus-sounding statements you keep making while you bitch about the media doing their job.

Your statement about being “disgusted” that the media can report certain things is utterly, completely and profoundly ignorant. How’s that? Well, that silly ol’ First Amendment allows a “free press” to report without any government interference, bullying or coercion.

It’s in there. Honest, Mr. President.

Loosen libel laws?

And what’s with this nutty notion of wanting to loosen libel laws, to make it easier for people on whom the media report to sue the media for damages. Most states make it difficult to prove libel for a reason. They establish truth as an absolute defense for those being sued.

The press can write “whatever it wants,” Mr. President? That’s what disgusts you? The media do a pretty good job of policing themselves already. They have “outed” many reporters over many years who have reported falsely. Do the names Jason Blair and Janet Cooke, to name just two, ring a bell with you? They were caught reporting bogus news stories and essentially booted from the profession.

I write all this, Mr. President, as someone who toiled as a journalist for nearly 37 years. I didn’t get to cover the presidency directly. I harvested my share of hard feelings, though, from public officials I’ve reported on or offered commentary regarding their activities. I’ve managed to remain humble enough over the years, never taking myself more seriously than my craft.

Many other journalists fall into the same category of individuals who seek to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

They don’t need any bullying from the president of the United States. In fact, the Constitution of the United States would appear to prohibit you from doing what you are trying to do.

So, with all due respect, Mr. President … knock it off!

‘Even the loons’ deserve to have guns?

Bill O’Reilly isn’t on TV much these days but he still has quite a following around the nation.

I feel the need, therefore, to challenge an assertion that the former TV host made in a blog post he wrote about the Second Amendment, the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of Americans to “keep and bear arms.” He said the Las Vegas massacre this weekend is the “price of freedom” and said the “Second Amendment is clear that Americans have a right to arm themselves for protection. Even the loons.”

Even the loons?

No, Bill. The loons might have that right currently, but they do not deserve the same rights to own firearms for protection.

This cuts pretty close to the heart of a debate that’s going to rage across the nation in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre that killed 59 people and injured more than 500 others. The gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of a hotel onto a floor filled with concert goers who were listening to a concert performance by country music star Jason Aldean.

The debate over the Second Amendment has commenced, despite what White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said today about it being “too early” to have this national discussion.

Price of freedom?

I have no specific answers to the changing the status quo. I do believe in the Second Amendment. I believe Americans’ right to own firearms should remain. However, I continue to believe that there must be some additional controls placed on those who purchase firearms to do something to keep them out of the hands of people like the Las Vegas gunman.

There are limits on certain elements of the First Amendment; you can’t yell “fire!” in a crowded theater, nor can you slander or libel someone. Yet, there are those who contend that the Second Amendment must remain untouched from what the founders wrote in the 18th century. 

I won’t accept that notion. Surely there can be a way to craft reasonable restrictions on the purchase of firearms that seek to keep them from nut jobs like the guy who opened fire in Las Vegas.

And, no, I am acutely aware that no additional law is going to deter every single monster from obtaining a weapon, just as laws against murder haven’t eliminated that crime from occurring.

As we move forward with this discussion, my hope is that we can find a way to keep this debate as calm as possible and look as dispassionately as we can at alternatives to the status quo.

Mr. President, there’s that First Amendment thing

Donald Trump has weighed in on professional football players’ conduct while listening to the National Anthem being played before the start of NFL games.

Fire ’em if they sit or kneel while “The Star Spangled Banner” is being played, he said at a Huntsville, Ala., political rally this week.

According to CNN: Trump said NFL owners should respond to the players by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!” 

Well …

This whole discussion began a year ago when former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel during the Anthem to protest the country’s treatment of African-American citizens.

Count me as one American who was appalled at Kaepernick’s disrespectful display. I thought he acted stupidly at the time. He is free to express his political views, but I just didn’t like the manner in which he chose to do it.

However, what he did was legal. Not only that, it’s guaranteed under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees citizens the right to protest in any peaceful manner they wish. If they want to burn Old Glory in the town square as a form of political speech, that’s allowed, too. Just don’t do it in my presence.

The president’s urging of NFL owners to fire players who sit during the Anthem ignores the First Amendment guarantee of a cherished civil right.

I could argue that the president simply should keep his trap shut when it concerns such matters, except that the First Amendment damn sure gives him the right to speak his piece, too.

Then again, Donald Trump isn’t just your average Joe. He is the president of the United States of America, which gives his words a lot more weight than those that come from some shmuck blogger out here in Flyover Country.

Oh, the price of living in a free society.

About the Constitution’s ‘simplicity’

The Amarillo Globe-News published a brief editorial this morning. Two elements contained within it compel me to respond. Here’s the editorial:

Sunday was Constitution Day — the day set aside for celebrating the anniversary of the U.S. Constitution.

Allow us to present a few facts about the U.S. Constitution, which more than likely are not in history books.

The phrase “separation of church and state” is not in the U.S. Constitution.

The concept of marriage is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, much less the authority of government to require marriage licenses.

The U.S. Constitution is the oldest and shortest of written, national constitutions. There is probably a reason for this — simplicity. The document was written in clear and concise language.

It is too bad these facts about the U.S. Constitution are forgotten — or ignored — today.

I love the U.S. Constitution as much as the next guy. Maybe more so. Allow me this brief rejoinder.

The Constitution doesn’t need to use the phrase “separation of church and state” to make this point abundantly clear. The First Amendment says “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.” Is that clear enough? I believe the intent in that clause is to separate church from the state.

Nor does the Constitution need to insert the term “marriage,” either. I am guessing the G-N is suggesting that same-sex marriage, which the U.S. Supreme Court has sanctioned, isn’t covered by the nation’s founding governing document; the G-N opposes the court’s decision. You see, the 14th Amendment provides “equal protection under the law” for all Americans. That includes marriage, by golly.

If we’re going to parse the Constitution’s language, let’s also note that it doesn’t mention the words “murder,” or “extortion” “bank robbery,” let alone does it say specifically that those activities should be deemed illegal.

I do agree that the founders wrote a fairly simple and declarative document when they created the United States of America. They didn’t need to clutter it up with a lot of do’s and don’ts to make clear what’s allowed.

James Comey: in the political bulls-eye

James Comey is man under siege.

Think of it. The former FBI director is taking incoming rounds from Hillary Rodham Clinton, who blames him for costing her the 2016 presidential election. Her new book “What Happened” seeks to lay out the case that Comey’s 11th-hour decision to take a fresh look at Clinton’s “email controversy” cost her crucial votes down the stretch.

So, does that make Comey a sort of Trump toadie? Is he snuggling with the Trumpkins now that their guy, Donald John Trump, got elected president against Hillary Clinton?

I don’t believe so.

White House staffers now want Comey to be investigated for his leaks to the media in the wake of his sudden firing by Trump as FBI director earlier this year. Let’s not forget that Comey was in the midst of an investigation into the “Russia thing,” which prompted Trump to can him in the first place.

Comey’s allies come to his defense.

Has the former FBI boss committed a crime by leaking information to the press? No chance. He didn’t leak any classified or confidential information. What’s more, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the media against efforts to prevent them from doing their job.

Comey has become a principal figure in special counsel Robert Mueller’s expanding investigation into the Russia matter.

His role in the email controversy involving Hillary Clinton really is irrelevant in the context of the here and now, which is the Russia investigation. It’s worth mentioning only to highlight what I believe is James Comey’s curious position in the crosshairs of leaders in both political parties.

For the record, I don’t believe Comey’s decision to take a fresh look at Clinton’s e-mail mess by itself determined the outcome of the election. Clinton lost to Trump because she made too many other mistakes down the stretch; she snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Nor do I believe Comey should be investigated by law enforcement over his leaks to the media after his shocking dismissal as FBI director. He didn’t break the law.

Keep standing tall, Mr. Comey.

Is it gut-check time for the NFL?

The National Football League needs to re-evaluate a few priorities.

A young man is trying to find a spot with one of the NFL’s professional football teams. He’s a pretty good quarterback. He once led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013.

Then he did something foolish, perhaps even stupid. He decided to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem at the start of football games. Colin Kaepernick was protesting the plight of African-Americans. He decided to make a political statement by declining to stand for the Anthem.

He’s been vilified ever since.

Why the NFL re-evaluation? Well consider a thing or two. The league has allowed actual convicted felons to play football. They’ve been convicted of spousal abuse, sexual abuse, illegal dog fighting, drug peddling. Why, one of the game’s all-time greats — retired linebacker Ray Lewis — once pleaded no contest to a charge in connection with the murder of an individual. He retired recently and has been feted as one of the game’s giants. Huh? Yep.

Kaepernick has been convicted of nothing. He has committed no crime. He merely chose to make a political statement. Yes, I wish he hadn’t done it that way. But that is his prerogative. It’s in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees him the right to do what he did.

Kaepernick was waived by the 49ers. He wants to keep playing football. General managers, team owners and head coaches are afraid of fan reaction, I suppose.

Check out John Feinstein’s excellent column on Kaepernick right here.

Do you remember when a young boxer declined induction into the U.S. Army, citing his religious objection to the Vietnam War? The late Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title in 1967 and then denied the opportunity to fight for a living. He was deprived of more than three prime years of his career. Then in 1970, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Ali had been denied his constitutional right of religious freedom.

Ali returned to the boxing ring and, well, the rest is history.

Colin Kaepernick is facing much of the same recrimination. It is unjust. It’s gut-check time in the NFL.

Long live the secular state!

Jon Mark Beilue has done it again. He has written a spot-on column for the Amarillo Globe-News that I want to share here.

I won’t restate my friend’s thoughts, other than to echo his notion that the founding fathers created a marvelous governing document that has withstood many challenges over time.

They knew that the nation’s European immigrants came here to flee religious persecution, so they wrote into the Constitution’s First Amendment that there should be no law that established a state religion; indeed, of all the liberties protected in the First Amendment, they mentioned religion first.

Here, though, is an additional point I want to make above Beilue’s excellent essay.

It is that the United States to this very day remains a significantly more religious country than virtually all the nations of Europe. Americans are more inclined to attend worship services than Europeans. I am aware that church attendance is declining in the United States, but it remains far greater than it is throughout Europe, where worship attendance has plummeted for decades.

Why is that important? Because many nations of Europe have state religions. The United States has none. The Church of England? A state religion. Catholicism is ingrained in the governing documents of several European nations.

I make this U.S.-Europe connection only because those original immigrants came across The Pond from Europe.

The Constitution stipulates that there must be “no religious test” applied to candidates for public office at any level. The word “Christian” does not appear in the Constitution.

Were the founders fueled by their personal religious faith when they wrote the Constitution? Certainly. I don’t doubt that for a moment. However, they knew better than to write their faith into the nation’s government document.

As Jon Mark Beilue writes: “Our Founding Fathers, they knew what they were doing.”

Why give Alex Jones a platform?

People such as Alex Jones give me heartburn.

I happen to be a First Amendment purist. I believe in the amendment’s guarantee of free speech and I do not want it watered down.

Then along comes people like Jones, the radio talk show blowhard who’s been thrust into the news yet again. Broadcast journalist Megyn Kelly has booked him on her NBC News show and snippets of her interview with Jones have enraged some survivors of one of the nation’s worst tragedies.

Jones has spoken infamously about how the 9/11 attacks against the United States were an “inside job” and then — and this goes way beyond anything resembling human decency — he has alleged that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut was staged; he says the children who were slain were “actors.”

Kelly is giving this guy’s moronic views a platform.

Should he be allowed to spout that trash? Should he be given air time on a major broadcast network? That pesky First Amendment says “yes.” Tenets of good judgment and basic humanity suggest that this guy shouldn’t be given a platform to spout the filth that pours out of his pie hole.

Kelly deserves the criticism she is getting from at least one of the Sandy Hook parents who lost a child in that hideous act of cruelty.

And that damn heartburn continues to churn in my gut.