As I See It Opinion

Trump Takes Aim at 1st Amendment

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 06:  Donald Trump attends the 2015 Hank's Yanks Golf Classic at Trump Golf Links Ferry Point on July 6, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)
Written by Richard Hack

As most of you know by now, I’m a writer by trade. It’s all I really know. (That, and how to make an incredible cherry crumb pie—but that’s a different story.) For years, I’ve written much of this newspaper every week. In addition, there are 27 non-fiction books out there in the marketplace with my name on the line reserved for the author. All of which is to say I know how to get the written word on the printed page.

For this talent, I’ve also been sued many times. It comes with the territory, I suppose, in a country where anyone can sue anybody for anything—and usually do. That said, I’ve also never lost a case, or for that matter, even had to step foot into court.

But if Donald Trump has his way, it’s going to get a whole lot easier to slam someone with a lawsuit—1st Amendment of the Constitution be damned. The Donald, he would have us believe, has been slandered by the press, of all people. That’s what he says.

What he actually means is that he thinks he’s been libeled by the press, every time that journalists, including myself, say anything that he finds offensive. (Which, let’s face it, is just about every single article he reads.)

Freedom of speech may seem like a right that even the LGBT community is free to enjoy. (We have so few actual rights that we hold on to the ones we’re sure about like dear life itself.) Unfortunately, under Uncle Don, we are jammed in the same pot as the rest of the soiled voters who are not allowed to bring up negative things to say about the Republican candidate.

Interestingly enough, not even Trump followers have the freedom to show unbridled support for their candidate. At any Trump rally, according to his press advisories, there cannot be “homemade signs, banners, professional cameras with a detachable lens, tripods, monopods, selfie sticks, back packs or large bags.”

The attempts to eliminate banners and signs have been repeatedly enforced at campaign stops, in blatant denial of 1st Amendment rights of free speech.

The professional camera bans do likewise, as media crews have been limited photo access in preference to Trump’s own camera crew—presumably to allow the candidate to review pictures released to the media.

Then there are the media organizations who have had their press passes revoked completely, like the Washington Post and the Des Moines Register. Donald didn’t like the way they were painting his policies, and called them “crazy.” Imagine that.

If elected President, you would think that the head of the free world would be open game for quotes and pics.  Not so, according to Trump, who feels that he should have complete control on not only which words are included from his speeches, but which pics are taken when out in public.

This stomping on rights business seems to be a Republican thing. If you’re old enough, you may remember that Dick Nixon, who ruled supreme from 1969 until he resigned from the Presidency in 1974, had an “enemies list” for whom he made life a living hell—just because they wrote negative comments about his presidency.

George W. Bush and Dick Chaney upgraded the bending of Free Speech by creating “Free Speech Zones” around events. Disagree with their policies, and protestors were moved a mile away from the action so that “free press” would have ready access only to those who favored the President and Vice President.

This week, Trump made it clear that he intended to press for laws which would make it easier to sue reporters for writing negative critiques. It would be funny if he wasn’t actually serious in his intent. Almost as funny as his idea to build a wall across the entire Mexican border, and toss millions of legal Muslims out of the country solely on the basis of their religion—something else protected by the 1st Amendment.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789 that “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

Unfortunately, just like the Bill of Rights, Donald Trump hasn’t read that either.