There I was yesterday, all set to spoon out a dollop of praise for Trump, who reportedly plans to sign a newly passed congressional resolution condemning white supremacists … but then, something else happened. Something else always happens.
What happened was, Trump’s propaganda minister stepped in it with both feet. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in her latest act of self-humiliation, declared from the podium that attacking Dear Leader on Twitter is “a fireable offense.”
Jeez. It has long been my understanding, based on centuries of First Amendment law, that robust and often rude speech is constitutionally protected, that everything is fair game short of yelling “fire” in a theater — but I freely acknowledge that my reading of American values does not comport with the Trump authoritarian mindset.
In a series of Tuesday tweets, a black ESPN host, Jemele Hill, had shared her opinion that “Trump is a white supremacist,” that he is a “bigot,” that he is “the most ignorant, offensive president of my lifetime. His rise is a direct result of white supremacy.” When Sanders was asked about Hill yesterday, she could easily have shrugged that people in America have a right to say what they want. But since the rules are different in Trumplandia, Sanders replied: “That’s one of the most outrageous comments that anyone could make, and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN.”
Whether we agree with Hill’s tweets is beside the point (though her description of Trump as an “ignorant, offensive president” is like saying the sky is blue). The point is that a White House apparatchik has no business demanding that a critic in the private sector oughta be axed for being mean to Trump on the Internet. Sanders’ demand was the antithesis of freedom. We’re not a Russian colony ruled by Putin’s values, despite the Trump regime’s energetic efforts.
As Adam Serwer, a senior editor at The Atlantic magazine, tweeted yesterday, “Free speech means folks like (Hill) should be able to criticize POTUS without the WH coming for their jobs.”
But David French, a lawyer for conservative causes, said it best (because this is not an issue of left or right; it’s an American issue): “Public officials should not be calling for the termination of private critics, period … That’s not the role of the president or anyone in his office. His role is to protect the Constitution and model its values … Snowflake Republicans are no better than snowflake progressives. Respect free speech. It’s not that hard.”
The Obama White House certainly never thought it was hard.
I seem to recall that a persistent Obama critic trash-tweeted, over a span of five years, that the president was a Kenyan-born Muslim — and did so, without a shred of evidence, while being paid by NBC to host a reality TV show. I don’t seem to recall that Obama’s flacks ever cared a whit.
“I think that Donald Trump’s tweets about President Obama are the most outrageous comments anyone could make and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by NBC!” said nobody in the White House ever. Their First Amendment instincts were a tad more finely honed than those of the current crowd.
Instead of demanding that a critic be fired, instead of baring their dangerously anti-democratic leanings, Trump’s minions would be well advised to simply heed Harry Truman, who famously said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
Actually, these people couldn’t find their own kitchen even with a blueprint.
The latest news is that Trump can’t seem to make up his mind whether he has done a deal with Democratic leaders to protect the immigrant “Dreamers” who came to America as children. One Associated Press headline: “Trump says deal is nearing on young immigrants.” Another AP headline: “Trump denies deal with Dems on young immigrants.”
Yet it appears (maybe for the moment, maybe longer) that he’s leaning toward a Dreamer deal without requiring big bucks for his border wall. He said this morning, “The wall will come later. Right now we’re renovating large sections of wall … We want very, very powerful border security.”
His right-wing fans, who pledged their fealty because they thought he shared their hatred of the Dreamers and their love for a wall … they’re been reading all these tea leaves, and they’re not happy. In fact, they’ve gone batcrazy.
Steve Bannon’s Breitbart site is calling him “Amnesty Don.” Radio shock-jockstress Laura Ingraham is calling it “The Art of the Steal.” Immigrant-hating congressman Steve King says, “Trump base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair.” Performance artist Ann Coulter tweets, “At this point, who DOESN’T want Trump impeached?”
Careful, gang. This White House might view your opinions as a fireable offense.