Trump still disparaging the very document he must swear to protect and defend


Quick, somebody get Donald Trump one of those pocketbook copies of the Constitution and Bill of Rights and read it to him aloud, slowly, starting with, “Congress shall make no law …”

On the campaign trail Trump has repeatedly disparaged the rights contained in the First Amendment and several others.

“We’re going to open up those libel laws,” Trump said in February. “So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace … we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected,” paying no heed to Supreme Court rulings such as Times v. Sullivan, which said public figures such as him had to show actual malice or reckless disregard for the truth to win damages.

He also suggested closing mosques because really bad things happen in them — another First Amendment diss.

Now, this week the president-elect took to his favorite forum, Twitter, to call for jailing and revoking citizenship for flag burners, paying no heed to 1989’s Supreme Court decision in Texas v. Johnson, which declared unconstitutional a Texas law making flag burning a crime or 1990’s U.S. v. Eichman, which did the same for a federal law passed after the Texas law was struck.

Justice William Brennan, who wrote for the majority in both cases, concluded in the Eichman ruling:

We are aware that desecration of the flag is deeply offensive to many. But the same might be said, for example, of virulent ethnic and religious epithets … vulgar repudiations of the draft  and scurrilous caricatures …

If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.

Punishing desecration of the flag dilutes the very freedom that makes this emblem so revered, and worth revering.

Someone should read that to Trump, too, though it is more than 140 characters.

The oath of office also exceeds Twitter limits:

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: — “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” — Article II, SectionN 1, Clause 8





19 comments on “Trump still disparaging the very document he must swear to protect and defend

  1. Steve says:

    Remember “de thumbing” ?

    I think there is some Oscar Goodman in “The Donald” !

  2. Vernon Clayson says:

    Trump hasn’t taken office yet, let’s wait and see what he does, he makes some rash statements but they got him elected, for a rich guy he seems to feel the pulse of us deplorables. And didn’t we learn anything from the past 8 years, Obama paid no attention to the Supreme Court and even declared the Constitution outmoded.

  3. Bruce Feher says:

    I thought the President didn’t have to follow the Constitution? (See Prez 44)

  4. deleted says:

    “Stop throwing the Constitution in my face. It’s just a G-damn piece of paper”

    -An infamous republican president

  5. Vernon Clayson says:

    Deleted, I’d not heard of this before so I looked it up, difficult to judge as there’s differing opinions. It is written a piece of paper, so are all other written and printed laws, rules and regulation,they are also all open to interpretation, and reinterpretations without end by counsel, councils, and courts at every level. Are we to ignore them until every detail of legislation is worked out, maybe but not with the IRS laws, rules, and regulations, they have each one of us coming and going in every detail.

  6. deleted says:


    This Bush quote was mostly in response to Bruce.

    But, assuming it happened as the republican operative said it did, whether it is literally true or not, was not what anyone should have taken from the remark.

    No president should ever say such a thing, it’s just wrong.

  7. Mike Coster says:

    Good column, Sir. Thanks. Mike C

  8. Steve says:

    Q: Did President Bush call the Constitution a “goddamned piece of paper”?
    A: Extremely unlikely. The Web site that reported those words has a history of quoting phony sources and retracting bogus stories.

    Typical of Patrick to go for the fake news sites and try to use them as support for his falsehoods.

  9. Barbara says:

    And now we have another example of Trump disregarding the limited powers of the executive branch of the federal government. Everyone is praising his actions in keeping Carrier in Indiana. According to the details which have been released, Trump is touting lowering of the federal tax on corporations and getting rid of regulations as reasons Carrier decided to stay in Indiana. So far so good. This would be a great deal reinforcing fair and free trade concepts.

    Unfortunately, it appears Carrier was also given several millions of dollars in tax breaks. This is where people should be questioning the deal. How about the other air conditioner companies in Indiana? How do they feel about Carrier paying less taxes than they pay? Is this establishing an equitable playing field between businesses? Not in the least. This is crony capitalism at its worst.

    Government officials should never have the power to grant special tax favors to any company or individual. Nor should it have the ability to threaten or interfere with any business decision. Reducing taxes and regulations – getting government out of the way of the free market and allowing companies to compete on a level playing field results in freedom and liberty. Trump has just taken the US down the road to more soft tyranny. Maybe he is taking his cues from Sandoval and our Republican controlled state legislators.

  10. deleted says:

    “Nor should it have the ability to threaten or interfere with any business decision.”

    So, the powers granted to the governments, by the Constitution, to regulate (or as Barbara says “interfere) with business decisions, were a mistake?

    How many other mistakes did the beloved founding fathers make when they established our beloved republic Barbara?

  11. Steve says:

    Suddenly “regulate” is equal to “favor”

    I suppose it’s just another sham plea.

  12. Take a deep breath folks…after 18 months you should recognize when Trump is jerking your chain…

  13. Barbara says:

    The first amendment protects the freedom of speech. Most people leave out the article “the”, but it is meaningful in that it denotes speech that existed prior to the enactment of the Constitution.

    Trump’s statements concerning flag burning are not centered around the Constitution itself, but reference the SCOTUS decision declaring flag burning to be constitutionally protected speech. Depending on the make-up of the Court, this decision could be overturned. Johnson vs. Texas was a 5-4 decision.

    I agree with the dissent of Justice Stevens, normally a liberal voice of the Court, and with the dissent of Chief Justice Rehnquist. From Stevens dissent,

    The case has nothing to do with “disagreeable ideas,” It involves disagreeable conduct that, in my opinion, diminishes the value of an important national asset.

    The Court is therefore quite wrong in blandly asserting that respondent was prosecuted for his expression of dissatisfaction with the policies of this country, expression situated at the core of our First Amendment values.

    Respondent was prosecuted because of the method he chose to express his dissatisfaction with those policies. Had he chosen to spraypaint — or perhaps convey with a motion picture projector — his message of dissatisfaction on the facade of the Lincoln Memorial, there would be no question about the power of the Government to prohibit his means of expression. The prohibition would be supported by the legitimate interest in preserving the quality of an important national asset. Though the asset at stake in this case is intangible, given its unique value, the same interest supports a prohibition on the desecration of the American flag. [*]

    The ideas of liberty and equality have been an irresistible force in motivating leaders like Patrick Henry, Susan B. Anthony, and Abraham Lincoln, schoolteachers like Nathan Hale and Booker T. Washington, the Philippine Scouts who fought at Bataan, and the soldiers who scaled the bluff at Omaha Beach. If those ideas are worth fighting for — and our history demonstrates that they are — it cannot be true that the flag that uniquely symbolizes their power is not itself worthy of protection from unnecessary desecration.

    From Chief Justice Rehnquist:

    The American flag, then, throughout more than 200 years of our history, has come to be the visible symbol embodying our Nation. It does not represent the views of any particular political party, and it does not represent any particular political philosophy. The flag is not simply another “idea” or “point of view” competing for recognition in the marketplace of ideas. Millions and millions of Americans regard it with an almost mystical reverence, regardless of what sort of social, political, or philosophical beliefs they may have. I cannot agree that the First Amendment invalidates the Act of Congress, and the laws of 48 of the 50 States, which make criminal the public burning of the flag.

    But the Court insists that the Texas statute prohibiting the public burning of the American flag infringes on respondent Johnson’s freedom of expression. Such freedom, of course, is not absolute. See Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47″] 249 U.S. 47 (1919). In 249 U.S. 47 (1919). In Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942), a unanimous Court said:

    Allowing the broadest scope to the language and purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment, it is well understood that the right of free speech is not absolute at all times and under all circumstances. There are certain well defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or “fighting” words — those which, by their very utterance, inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.

    Here it may equally well be said that the public burning of the American flag by Johnson was no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and at the same time it had a tendency to incite a breach of the peace. Johnson was free to make any verbal denunciation of the flag that he wished; indeed, he was [p431] free to burn the flag in private. He could publicly burn other symbols of the Government or effigies of political leaders. He did lead a march through the streets of Dallas, and conducted a rally in front of the Dallas City Hall. He engaged in a “die-in” to protest nuclear weapons. He shouted out various slogans during the march, including: “Reagan, Mondale which will it be? Either one means World War III”; “Ronald Reagan, killer of the hour, Perfect example of U.S. power”; and “red, white and blue, we spit on you, you stand for plunder, you will go under.” Brief for Respondent 3. For none of these acts was he arrested or prosecuted; it was only when he proceeded to burn publicly an American flag stolen from its rightful owner that he violated the Texas statute.

    SCOTUS decisions have upheld the conviction of a man for burning his draft card, but overturned a conviction for burning the American flag. Go figure. In this instance, I think Trump is correct. Our flag is a unique national asset and should be protected. I do not see this as being in conflict with the 1st Amendment.

    Hillsdale College has an online course on Supreme Court decisions. Below is a link to lecture 5 which specifically discusses Johnson vs. Texas.

  14. Steve says:

    IF Republicans get stuck on the flag burning train, they will get the same response Democrats did from pushing ACA over all else.

    There are far more important fish that need frying.

  15. Barbara says:

    I see no evidence of Republicans taking up this cause and trying to overturn Johnson vs. Texas. The greater issue is whether we are to be governed by lawyers or by the rule of law. Today, most people believe the Supremes have the final say on what is the “law of the land”. This belief is dangerous to the separation of powers doctrine and the sovereignty of the people.

    Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 78 wrote “The Judiciary is the ‘least dangerous’ of the federal branches because it has ‘neither Force nor Will, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm’ and the States, ‘even for the efficacy of its judgments.’ With each decision of ours that takes from the People a question properly left to them — with each decision that is unabashedly based not on law, but on the ‘reasoned judgment’ of a bare majority of this Court — we move one step closer to being reminded of our impotence.”

    Thomas Jefferson wrote two centuries ago, “To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.” He further said that if the judicial-supremacy thesis is sound, “then indeed is our constitution a complete felo de se” — a suicide pact. For judicial supremacy gives to one branch alone, continued Jefferson, “the right to prescribe rules for the government of the others, and to that one too, which is unelected by, and independent of the nation.…The constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist, and shape into any form they please.”

    Abraham Lincoln vehemently disagreed with that idea of judicial supremacy, saying that to treat unconstitutional court rulings as binding in all cases, no matter what, no matter how usurpative, no matter how anti-constitutional, would be for the American people “to resign their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.” After the Dred Scott ruling, the federal government continued to issue passports to blacks, allowed free blacks to vote, own property, etc.

    My point is that we need to keep Supreme Court decisions in their proper place. They are to be given due weight, but they are not above the Constitution itself.

  16. Steve says:

    The court is, however, the final arbiter when constitutional disagreements occur among the various political factions.

  17. Barbara says:

    History would disagree. Dred Scott was interpreted by Lincoln and the north to only apply to the parties involved directly in the case. It was not enforced against any other blacks. It also contributed to the escalation of the slavery issue and the subsequent Civil War.

    In more modern times, the political decision of the Roberts court upholding the ACA has never been widely accepted by the people. Ditto with gay marriage, abortion rights, etc. Rather than turn to succession and war, the states and the people continue to challenge these decisions and find legal means to roll them back. The loss of Democratic office holders at both the national and state level and the election of Trump all point to the people not accepting these political decisions by the Court. Many people openly stated they voted for Trump because they expect he will appoint conservative justices who will not make political decisions from the bench.

  18. Steve says:

    Yup. I said arbiter, not legislator.
    The steps to take after a SCOTUS decision are back to the Congress or state legislature. This is where law may be written on the issue at hand taking into consideration the constitutional concerns raised by the court.
    In the case of ACA, the Democrats were pushed out of the House, the Senate and numerous state legislatures.
    This cycle, they are pushed out of the Whitehouse too.
    ACA is on deck to be severely changed if not altogether replaced.

    It’s slow but steady. Just as the founders intended.

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