Tag Archives: US Constitution

POTUS uses executive authority … but wait!

I normally wouldn’t complain about Donald Trump’s use of executive authority, given that he’s doing what the Constitution allows him to do.

But you see, the president has been a royal pain in the posterior over his gripes about the executive orders signed by the man he succeeded, Barack H. Obama.

Now he has set a sort of dubious record. Trump has just signed his 49th executive order, the most orders signed at this stage of the presidency since President Lyndon Baines Johnson. The LBJ standard stood for the past 50 years.

CNN reports: Why does it matter? Because Trump was a vociferous critic of then-President Barack Obama’s use of executive orders — casting them as a purposeful end-run of the legislative branch.

I happen to believe strongly in presidential prerogative. Trump is using the authority granted to him by the U.S. Constitution.

But the president doesn’t respect that the same authority also has been bestowed on others who came before him. President Obama’s use of that authority often came amid strong criticism by those who were hell bent on opposing everything he sought to do.

Trump was among those critics.

Trump signs ’em quickly

Given that the president has been unable to push any significant legislation through Congress in the nine months he’s been in office, it stands to reason he would rely on the executive authority he has been handed.

Except that he launched a ridiculous tirade against Barack Obama for doing the very thing that he, too, had the power to do.

Oh, by the way, President Obama signed 26 executive orders at the same point in his presidency … a little more than half of what Trump has signed. I won’t say that Trump is abusing his authority.

But still …

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!

Let’s get real: mend, not end, 2nd Amendment

I’m hearing a lot of chatter throughout my social media network about how the United States should end the carnage of gun violence.

Las Vegas’s tragedy has awakened us yet again to this horrifying aspect of modern American society. Fifty-eight victims, all attending a music festival, were shot to death in an act of insanity by a monster perched on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. Five hundred-plus more were injured; some of them are in critical condition.

The debate has been joined throughout many social and other media.

I am hearing significant chatter about how Australia managed to clamped down on firearm ownership in the wake of a 1996 mass shooting. The Aussies have been massacre-free ever since. Other countries prohibit the purchase of firearms. Let’s model our firearm policy after those countries, the argument goes.

I happen to believe in the Second Amendment, awkward phrasing and all. I believe it says that Americans have the constitutional right to “keep and bear arms.” I get that.

However, I also believe there must be a solution to improving the Second Amendment. How can we preserve its principle while legislating within its framework stricter laws that make it illegal for civilians to own fully automatic assault weapons like the one used in Las Vegas by that madman? Isn’t there a solution to be found somewhere, somehow, by someone smart enough to draft a law that maintains the Second Amendment principle of keeping and bearing arms?

As my friend Jon Mark Beilue has noted in a wonderful column published today in the Amarillo Globe-News, other amendments in the Bill of Rights have limitations. He cites the First, Fifth and Sixth amendments. The Second Amendment, though, remains untouchable mostly because of entrenched political interests groups — I’m talking about you, National Rifle Association, among others — who bully and pressure members of Congress to keep their hands off that amendment.

Check out Beliue’s essay here.

Can we get past the overheated rhetoric that flares up when these tragedies strike? If we can, then perhaps we can find a solution to mend the Second Amendment. Don’t tell me that such a reach is beyond our collective grasp.

Parsing the founders’ language in the 2nd Amendment

Of all the amendments to the U.S. Constitution — all 27 of them — the one that gives me the most serious case of heartburn is the Second Amendment.

Here is what this amendment says. It’s brief, but it’s so damn confusing in my humble view: A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

Americans are talking yet again about this amendment. Events in Las Vegas over the weekend have thrust this issue to the top of our minds once more. We’re talking about gun violence, gun control. We’re even debating whether we should be debating this issue at this time. I believe we should.

But I want to look at the Second Amendment’s sentence construction. I’ve read it thousands of times over my many years on this good Earth. I don’t understand what it’s saying.

The founders were smart men. They did a good job of developing a fairly cogent and concise bill of rights that are contained in the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. The Second Amendment, though, seems to make two points that are not connected to each other.

Indeed, the first 12 words preceding the comma seem to be lacking an ending. It refers only to a “well-regulated” militia and the necessity to have one to maintain “the security of a free State.” That’s it!

The following clause could stand as a complete sentence in that it contains a subject, some verbs and a predicate.

Those who favor stricter controls on firearms point to the first clause as their rationale. Those who oppose such controls look to the clause after the comma as their rationale.

My sense is that here is where the debate over this amendment seems to break down. Those on opposing sides of this mammoth chasm place their emphases on separate clauses. One means something different from the other one.

I know that courts have ruled countless times that the amendment means that Americans can own firearms, that it’s protected in the Constitution.

The Bill of Rights was ratified Dec. 15, 1791 and thus, the Constitution was established to form a framework for our representative democracy.

The founders got it mostly right when they crafted that framework. They wrote the Bill of Rights almost without exception with sentences that make sense; nine of the 10 amendments comprising the Bill of Rights were constructed in ways that make sense to laypeople such as yours truly.

The Second Amendment, though, gives me heartburn.

By all means, let’s talk about guns

Part of the debate in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre has spun into a discussion about the timing of a debate over gun violence and whether we need more laws to control the ownership of firearms.

Donald Trump believes it’s premature to talk about such matters.

The White House echoes the president’s view on the timing of that discussion.

Others, meanwhile, have kicked that debate into first gear and are shifting into higher gears quickly.

To be honest, I am with those who want to start the discussion now.

I am not dishonoring the victims of the gunman’s horrific act. I pray daily for the 59 people killed and for the 500-plus victims who were injured. I pray for our country and hope we can return to some semblance of sanity.

Moreover, I do believe we can enact some additional controls on the flow of firearms without dismembering the Second Amendment guarantees of firearm ownership. I won’t engage in that debate here.

I do want to deal briefly with the notion that we can have that discussion while mourning the loss of life in Las Vegas. It’s not too early. I am mystified at the idea that it is inappropriate to seek measures to protect us against this kind of heinous act.

TV talking heads are grilling politicians about gun control. Some of them are hedging. Others are willing to engage — right now — in that discussion.

The carnage that spilled on the floor in Las Vegas has prompted yet another national debate over how — or if — we can ever protect humanity from gun madness.

Do I have confidence that this moment will produce any action? Consider this: If the deaths of those 20 innocent children and six of their teachers, who were slaughtered in Newtown, Conn., couldn’t get politicians to budge, does anyone believe they’ll move as a result of the Las Vegas massacre?

Their likely refusal does not make a national discussion any less important.

‘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.

Another tragedy likely to ignite another debate on guns

Americans awoke this morning to horrifying news.

At least 58 people are dead, hundreds more injured and a nation is shaken to its core because of gun violence. This time is occurred from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.

A gunman opened fire with a fully automatic rifle from high over the ground floor where revelers were enjoying a country music festival.

What in the name of all that is supposed to make sense do we think about this?

The shooter is dead; he reportedly took his own life as police were closing in on the room where he was holed up. The FBI is assisting local police in investigating what drove this monster to do what he did. The president of the United States, Donald Trump, called this an act of “pure evil,” which it most certainly is.

Somehow, in a macabre sort of way, any discussion of what to call this dastardly act seems pointless so early as we have become consumed by our national grief. I’ll call it what I believe it is: an act of domestic terrorism. I will let others debate how this should be labeled; I won’t join that debate.

Make no mistake, too, that this act is going to spawn yet another “national conversation” about gun violence and how — or if — we can ever enact reasonable, tighter gun control laws that do not infringe on people’s constitutional guarantees to the ownership of firearms.

I’ve long believed the Second Amendment is not wholly sacrosanct. I believe there can be restrictions placed on weapons of the type used in the Mandalay Bay massacre. That debate will be joined in due course.

Meanwhile, I am going to collect my breath and say my prayers for a nation that has been thrust into mourning once again by the insane act of a gun-toting madman.

Speaking of ‘disrespecting the flag … ‘

Now that the nation has become full of “experts” on how to respect Old Glory, I want to make a plea to my fellow Americans.

Yes, many of us have become engulfed in this controversy over on-the-field protests by professional football players. The president of the United States has yanked the discussion away from its origin: the treatment of some police officers of African-Americans. It’s now become a matter of huge concern over whether those protests disrespect the U.S. Constitution and the Stars and Stripes.

The players kneel quietly, peacefully while bowing their heads during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Why, that’s just damn disrespectful, according to Donald Trump and many millions of other Americans. I’ll say once again that this form of protest isn’t much to my liking, either, but I seek to respect the players’ right to do what they’re doing.

Here’s my plea.

The next time you’re at a public event where they play the National Anthem, be sure to remind the fellow who wears his hat while the song is being played to take it off. Don’t forget to tell the individual who’s playing with his or her cell phone to put the device away. Instruct anyone you see or hear talking, laughing or cutting up while the anthem is being played to be quiet and to pay attention.

Be sure y’all stand at attention, quietly. Look directly at the flag. You are welcome to place your hand over your heart. You also are more than welcome to sing the words of the National Anthem as it’s being played.

If you don’t want to correct your fellow Americans, then just take note of the number of them you see disrespecting the flag.

Then remember what you see when you criticize an athlete who’s trying to make a political statement that has nothing to do with the flag, or the anthem, or the Constitution.