Tag Archives: First Amendment

Trump trots out flag-burning non-starter

Donald Trump’s mediocre campaign rally today produced few talking points, but one of them does surface.

He said from the podium in Tulsa, Okla., that anyone who burns Old Glory should be arrested, charged and if convicted sent to jail for a year.

Huh? Earth to The Donald: The Supreme Court has settled that one. It said that burning the Stars and Stripes in a political protest is protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It is, according to the court, a legitimate form of protest against government policy.

I agree with Trump on one point only: Anyone who burns a flag in my presence is not going to win me over to whatever point of view they are espousing. I hate the act and am repulsed by it. However, it’s a legit form of protest that the nation’s founders protected when they wrote the First Amendment.

Then again, political reality never gets in Trump’s way when he’s trying to ignite the cheers of his fans at political rallies.

Kneeling is a legitimate form of peaceful, civil protest

OK, here it comes again: the discussion over whether “taking a knee” while they play the National Anthem dishonors Old Glory.

I didn’t want to re-enter this discussion, but I am going to do so anyway. I’ll just need to prepare for some blowback.

Americans are protesting today against the treatment of African-Americans by some police departments and officers. It’s been a longstanding problem that the nation has so far failed to face on a national level. The George Floyd tragedy brought it to our attention in graphic, tragic and reprehensible fashion.

You saw the former cop kneeling on Floyd’s neck, snuffing the life out of him. Now we have re-ignited the discussion of whether professional athletes have dishonored Old Glory when they take a bended knee while they play the National Anthem.

No. The flag is not dishonored.

What does the kneeling represent? It represents a form of civil protest against certain practices and policies enacted by law enforcement agencies. The demonstration against those policies is, at its very essence, the basis for the founding of this great nation and the flag that flies over government buildings.

The nation was built by men who protested religious oppression. They created a governing document that laid out certain civil liberties in the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The first of those amendments addresses several key provisions: Congress shall make no law that establishes a state religion or interferes with a free press or prohibits the right of citizens to speak freely and to seek “redress” of grievances against the government.

Is that clear enough? It is to me.

Kneeling during the playing of the Anthem speaks against policies that many of us find objectionable. It is in no way a statement of disrespect to the flag, to the nation, to the men and women who fight to preserve our freedoms, or to those who serve the public.

Yet this form of civil protest has been perverted into something unrecognizable to the men who sought to make a hallmark of the government they created.

It all started when a pro football player took a knee to protest. Donald Trump called him and other pro athletes “sons of bitches.” He said they should be tossed aside, ignored, punished for their alleged disrespect of the flag. That is as shallow and idiotic a response as I can imagine.

Here’s my request: If we disagree with the method some folks use to protest a public policy, then focus the disagreement on the act itself … and stay far away from suggesting it disrespects or dishonors the principles on which the founders created this country.

Good heavens! Taking a knee in peaceful protest is the embodiment of what the founders intended!

Media earn a shout out on pandemic coverage

I imagine you’ve heard the gripes, mostly from conservatives, who bitch about the media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

They complain that the media are covering this matter so intensely for the so political harm to Donald John Trump

Their complaints are without basis. They are dubious in the extreme.

The media have done a spectacular job covering this crisis. And it is a crisis, no matter how many times some of our political leaders — such as The Donald — might seek to understate its impact on the world.

The media coverage arc has tracked like many of these events often do: They report on an incident, give it the attention it deserves; they follow its progression, then report on increases of incidents; then the story explodes when governments start reacting to the increasing instances of illness … and death.

The World Health Organization has weighed in with a declaration that the coronavirus outbreak has reached pandemic status, which quite obviously is a major development. The media have covered the WHO involvement carefully and thoroughly.

What’s more, the media have explored the nuts and bolts, the ins and outs, the zigs and zags of this issue from damn near every angle imaginable. There are quite likely to be even more angles to cover.

As for the political impact, well, let me just declare that the media only have reported the stumbles, bumbles, bungles that have come from the U.S. government’s highest levels. There can be no way for the media to paper it over. Has it harmed Donald Trump? Yes, more than likely. Is it the media’s fault? Hell no! The media are simply the messengers delivering the news.

So it has gone. The media are charged with the responsibility of chronicling what government does for us … and to us. The Constitution protects the rights of a “free press” and the media seek to be true to the document that informs government that it cannot interfere with or manipulate them.

The media will continue to do their job as the pandemic likely worsens. They will report to the world what they see without regard to the political consequences, which are of no concern to journalists who simply are doing their job.

Trump engaged in frontal assault against freedom of the press

Leave it to Chris Wallace, the host of “Fox News Sunday,” a staple of Donald Trump’s favorite news/opinion cable TV channel, to put it in perspective.

Wallace said this to a gathering at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.: “I believe President Trump is engaged in the most direct, sustained assault on freedom of the press in our history.”

Oh, brother, is he ever!

The man who played on his “experience” as a reality TV celebrity host, who once courted the media because they found him, um, entertaining is now launching a full frontal assault on the constitutional guarantee of a free press.

He routinely bullies cable, broadcast and print media representatives. He accuses them of peddling “fake news.” He curries favor with media outlets and then blasts them to smithereens when they don’t do his bidding; Wallace and the Fox News Channel serve as a prime example. Trump has labeled the media as the “enemy of the people” and has applauded right along with the know-nothing faithful who cheer his frightening rhetoric.

Presidents dating back throughout the history of the republic all have noted the adversarial relationship with the media that is built into the presidency. None of them — not until Donald Trump came along — has blathered the kind of incendiary rhetoric toward the media that this president has spewed forth.

As a former full-time print journalist, I — along with many of my former colleagues — take this kind of treatment personally. Now that I am writing for myself, I still take it personally.

Moreover, I continue to salute and honor the great work that media organizations of all stripes continue to do in reporting the goings-on regarding this presidential administration.

The good news for all of them — and the rest of us — is that Donald Trump won’t be president forever. He’ll be gone from the halls of power and will no longer be able to bully the media.

I am waiting for that moment of deliverance from this attack on our essential press freedom.

Praising a system that allows bloggers to rant

I want to say a word of high praise to the greatest political system ever created. Yes, it’s a mess at times, but as Winston Churchill noted, it is far better than any other system ever conceived.

The United States is in the midst of an impeachment battle. The House of Representatives is going to impeach Donald John Trump Sr. It will be sloppy and messy, perhaps bloody in a political sense.

Through it all, this system of government of ours allows folks like me to continue to rant over the performance of the president, who I believe should be impeached. The House will do as I wish, albeit my journey to this point took me some time to get here.

I watched a clip of a young Illinois state senator speaking to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Barack Obama saluted a system of government that allowed dissent “without a sudden knock on our door.” Amen to that. The young senator would be elected to the U.S. Senate and then, four years later, would become the nation’s 44th president of the United States.

Donald Trump calls the press the “enemy of the people.” He couldn’t possibly be any more wrong. The Constitution protects the press against government coercion and interference. Yet the president sees the press only through the eyes of someone who lusts for positive coverage of his words and deeds, no matter what! It does not work that way, Mr. President. If this man had any understanding of what the nation’s founders intended when they established the First Amendment to the Constitution, he might comprehend the press’s role in ensuring the freedoms we all enjoy.

Accordingly, that role extends to folks like me. I no longer work full time for a formal media organization. I’m out here in Flyover Country sharing my views with the world through this blog. High Plains Blogger is my therapy, my release and my vehicle to vent my frustration with government. I also offer praise now and then.

As I continue to write critically of Congress, the president and even the courts, I do so with the knowledge that I can speak my mind freely without concern for the knock on the door that will not come.

Trump wants to “make American great again”? Hah! Our system of government crafted by those wise men at the founding of this nation ensured our ongoing greatness. It will last for as long as there is a United States of America.

Stop shifting the blame, Mr. POTUS

For crying out loud, Mr. President. You deliver a decent talk this morning about the need to condemn “white supremacy” and to battle the scourge of hate across the land.

Then you put something like this out there. The Twitter message blames the media, “fake news,” for contributing “greatly to the anger and rage that has built up over many years.”

C’mon! Knock it the hell off, Mr. President!

The media have reported your words, your fiery rhetoric, your declarations that “Mexicans bring crime” to the United States, your insistence on banning entry into the country from residents of certain Muslim countries, your declaration that Africa and parts of Latin America comprise “sh**hole” countries.

Are you saying the media should ignore these things? That the media shouldn’t do its job and report on what flies out of your mouth, or circulates through the Twitterverse?

Mr. President, you do not appreciate a single thing about what makes America great. One symbol of our nation’s greatness, sir, is the existence of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees a free press should be free of government interference or coercion or, dare I say it … bullying from the president of the United States.

No problem with ‘In God We Trust’

If you think your friendly blogger — that would be me — is a godless heathen who stands with left-wing causes of all stripes, then I want you to ponder this.

I have no problem at all with public schools displaying the phrase “In God We Trust,” which is going to occur in South Dakota beginning with the upcoming school year.

The Legislature there approved the bill, which Gov. Kristi Noem signed into law.

OK, let’s visit the First Amendment for a moment. It declares that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … “

So, does plastering the phrase that appears on our national currency on school walls constitute the establishment of religion? It does not! Supporters of the motto placement say they want it to promote patriotism, to which I say, “Whatever.”

Quite unsurprisingly, certain groups contend that putting “In God We Trust” on public school walls sends a message to children that we are governed by a theocracy. Really! That’s what the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which calls it a “stealth” campaign to inject religion into state law.

Come on! Let’s get a grip here!

The motto suggests we should put our trust in God. It does not instruct anyone to do so. And what is so wrong with invoking “God”? Some non-Christian groups appear to be objecting to the reference to the deity. Well, God listens to people of all faiths, at least that is the way I always have considered the Almighty’s power.

And in the event that a public school student should wonder out loud in the classroom about the tenets of the nation’s founding, it falls on the teacher to teach the student accurately about what the nation’s founders intended.

They created a secular state. From where I sit, the U.S. Constitution is a rock-solid document that affirms what the founders intended.

Trump should ‘apologize,’ not his critics

Donald John Trump is at it again.

The president let a political rally crowd shout “Send her back!” when he invoked the name of a progressive congresswoman who he attacked via Twitter.

Then he said he disagreed with the chant of his avid/rabid followers.

Oh, and then he said he agreed with them.

Now he is calling on the congresswoman and her three ultra-liberal colleagues to “apologize” to the nation for the “horrible things” they have said about the country and, oh yes, about his policies.

Apologize? Really, Mr. President?

I need to remind him of something he should already know. The nation was founded by a gang of dissenters who resisted Great Britain’s tax policies and its repression. The United States of America was created and the founding document guaranteed its citizens the right to criticize the government.

He keeps doubling, tripling and quadrupling down on this ridiculous feud with U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Alyanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. He said they should return to “where they came from.” Hah! Three of them were born in the United States; the fourth is a Somali refugee who earned her citizenship.

They all know about the Constitution. They all are practicing their rights that the document guarantees them.

Now the head of state said they should apologize?

Get real. The president should apologize to the nation over his absolute and astonishing ignorance of what the Constitution allows and what it guarantees.

Trump digs in against accusation of racism

“If you’re not happy here, then you can leave.”

There you have it. That’s the view of the president of the United States of those who have the temerity to criticize government policy, who seek radical change, who believe the government needs to do a better job for all Americans.

Donald Trump has doubled down on his racist Twitter rant against four congresswoman who have been highly critical of the government.

They are Alexandrea Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanne Pressley and Rashida Tlaib. What do these women have in common? They are women “of color.” That’s it. Oh, they also are all U.S. citizens, three of whom were born in this country; the fourth congresswoman, Omar, is a naturalized citizen.

Trump said they all could return to where they came from and fix the problems there. That, I submit, is one more testament to the stupidity that the president exhibits with shocking regularity.

I’ll make one final point: This nation was founded by dissenters. Its very first constitutional amendment speaks directly to the rights of citizens to seek “redress” from their government.

Trump doesn’t get that. He needs to read the U.S. Constitution. He needs to come to grips with its meaning and the philosophy that led to its ratification as the governing framework for this great nation.

Founders didn’t get it perfectly right … but they came close

I feel this need to come to the defense of our Founding Fathers over the work they did to create a “more perfect Union.”

The very words of the document they crafted to form the framework of our government — “more perfect Union” — recognize that the founders knew they hadn’t reached perfection.

I’ll tell you this: They came pretty close to it.

Accordingly, I also believe the founders would be horrified at how the political winds are blowing these days and, for that matter, have blown for some time. They would disapprove mightily of a president who seeks to usurp legislative authority by blocking Congress’s oversight responsibilities. They would bristle at the influence being exerted on our national election by foreign powers and the president’s seeming acceptance of it.

The founders would not like one bit the introduction of religion into our political debate, the notion being argued by many that this is a “Christian nation,” and who are horrified at officeholders who swear an oath to defend the Constitution by placing their hand on a holy book other than the Bible.

Our founders knew of the circumstances that brought their ancestors to this land in the 17th and 18th centuries. They were fleeing religious persecution. They did not want their government telling them how to worship. So, the founders ensured that the Constitution they would write would state specifically that Congress shall make no law that establishes a state religion and that citizens were free to worship — or not worship — as they saw fit.

They wrote language into one of the articles that declared no office seeker should be held to a “religious test.”

Yes, the founders argued mightily as they crafted the Constitution over whether it should contain any reference to religion. The document refers to the “Creator” and officeholders swear to “God” to defend and protect the Constitution.

It is the secular nature of the Constitution, though, that protects us against the imposition of radical religious doctrine in our government — be it radical Christian, radical Muslim or radical anything.

The Constitution as it was ratified initially did have some serious flaws. It didn’t allow women to vote. It failed to outlaw the enslavement of human beings. It didn’t allow for the direct election of senators by citizens.

In the years since then, though, the descendants of those great men saw fit to improve the Constitution by fixing those egregious errors.

But the Constitution has held up over the course of 230 years. The separation of powers lined out in the document have kept the president in check. The Constitution has enabled Congress to rise up against abuses of power by the executive branch through impeachment. Indeed, we just might be on the verge of seeing yet another congressional uprising.

We have survived constitutional crises. We have done so because, as Gerald Rudolph Ford said upon ascending to the presidency in a time of monumental crisis that forced the resignation of his immediate predecessor, “Our Constitution works.”