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 …”
“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