Living Large In Carson City: Oh, The First Amendment Says What? Edition

Image result for felix frankfurter official supreme court photo

Freedom of the press is not an end in itself but a means to the end of achieving a free society.

Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter

Donald Trump and his minions are at it again. It’s not enough to cozy up to one of the world’s most notorious dictators in the person of Vlad Putin. Or continuously spout lie after lie after lie. Or alienate some of America’s most loyal allies as he did at the G7 then later at the NATO summit. Or allow himself to be used like a sock puppet by that spunky little guy with a funny haircut in North Korea. Or belittle Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as a witch hunt, the FBI, the CIA . . . hell the entire intelligence gathering community. Now, he and his staff have ratcheted up the pressure on the media.

Of course, in the near past since Trump first began running for office and the last two years of his despotic reign, Trump has been anything but cozy with the Fourth Estate. From the very beginning, the corporate media (anyone who disagrees with his line of thinking except for Fox News) was dubbed by Trump as “Fake News” singling out CNN, MSNBC and others. In a natural progression (of sorts), the media in Trump’s Orwellian world has become “The Enemy of the American People”, “Our Country’s Biggest Enemy, or simply “the enemy”. He frequently calls media professionals “scum”, “disgusting” and other names meant to denigrate the professional qualifications of journalists.

Trump for his part is a master propagandist. He knows that repetition is a powerful tool when used to further his agenda. His use of the above pejoratives were never meant to be a one off comment, but a pattern that he beats like a tired horse every time he addresses his base. One might wonder if the are a particularly dense lot, which on some levels they have to be, and his repetitive media bashing is simply meant to ensure all of the wrong people get his message loud and clear. There are, however, disturbing outcomes of his negative attacks on journalists and the outlets they work for in real time.

Joel Simon is executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. He was quoted in the Colombia Journalism Review stating,

“When [Trump] belittles, attacks, and undermines journalists, that creates a new norm that has global repercussions as well as local ones. His rhetoric normalizes press freedom abuses at the state and local levels.”

Political commentator, author, and professor, Robert Reich, served under three presidents including Gearld Ford, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. An article on his website,, titled Trump’s Attack on the Freedom of the Press spells out how Trump undermines the media to his own despotic ends. Below is Reich’s abbreviated list of the “tools” despots use to sway public opinion.

Historically, tyrants have tried to control the press using 4 techniques that, worryingly, Donald Trump is already using.

1. Berate the media and turn the public against it.

2. Limit media access.

3. Threaten the media.

4. Bypass the media and communicate with the public directly.

The word “media” comes from “intermediate” between the powerful and the public. The media hold the powerful accountable by correcting their misstatements, asking them hard questions, and reporting on what they do. Apparently Trump wants to eliminate such intermediaries.

On one hand it would be easy to simply write off Trump’s disparaging of the media as a crass act of a petty, little bully man who cannot stand criticism and strikes out like a spoiled brat to save face when threatened. However, Trump’s rants have consequences in the real world. Late last month,  Jarrod W. Ramos entered the Capital Gazette in Annapolis with a shotgun and gunned down five journalists as they sat at their desks. We may never know if Ramos felt emboldened to take drastic steps to assuage his caustic feelings about numerous run-ins he had with the newspaper, but the climate of hate spewed out by Trump would not have helped.

This week, Trump staffers, Bill Shine, White House communications director, and press secretary, Sarah Sanders, climbed on the bandwagon and called CNN White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, on the carpet for questions she tried to ask Trump at an earlier meeting on the Hill. Tagging her questions as “inappropriate”, she was banned from a later press conference in the White House Rose Garden as retribution for her doing her job. To their credit, all of the major news outlets, including Fox News, condemned the act as a grave misstep that could not be condoned. CNN tweeted,

Statement regarding CNN press access at today’s White House event. We demand better.

Maybe Trump has lived in his rarefied  little world so long that he is out of touch with the foundation this country was built upon. When one lives in a gilded mansion, it can skew one’s view of the real world. Or he may simply not understand the importance of the press for a free and robust national discourse. Fortunately, our Founding Fathers had the insight to know that jackasses will rear their ugly little heads regardless of the fact that they can be easily proven to be jackasses. Here is their thoughts on the topic:

The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prevents Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, the right to peaceably assemble, or to petition for a governmental …

Whether Trump “gets it” is on a matter that time will tell.

Living Large In Carson City: The World According to Donald Trump Edition


The constitutional crisis is here

Eugene Robinson

Stop waiting for the constitutional crisis that President Trump is sure to provoke. It’s here.

A constitutional crisis is brought about in a number of ways. It can happen when the federal and local governments come to an impasse on a topic with no constitutional solution that addresses the issue can be found. Additionally, it can happen when different people or groups within the society hold unresolvable stances not covered explicitly by the constitution, or most commonly, when two branches of the government are at odds over the power one branch holds over another.

In this case, of course, the current constitutional crisis is pretty clear cut. Does Trump have the power to use the Attorney General’s office as his personal tool to circumvent history, law, and of course, the constitution? The secession of the southern states that precipitated the Civil War is a classic example.

Yesterday, American’s found out that Donald Trump made good on his demand that he would force Assistant Attorney Rob Rosenstein and Christopher Wray to turn over sensitive documents, normally held in private to protect national interests and the people who would be vulnerable if said documents saw the light of day.

When American’s think about the presidency of Donald Trump, it is hard not to note the lies, graft, greed, ineptitude and total disregard for the laws and mores that are the basis for American society. Sure, Trump is beset by a growing probe that has the potential for bringing him down along with a cast of misfits, his family and close advisors, but no one should be fooled in thinking there is any substance to his claims about a “witch hunt” or the “deep state” or “the swamp” being at fault. Donald Trump is between a rock and a hard place of his own making. This is a fact he may never be able to comprehend and certainly not accept.

Robinson noted,

Trump’s power play is a gross misuse of his presidential authority and a dangerous departure from long-standing norms. Strongmen such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin use their justice systems to punish enemies and deflect attention from their own crimes. Presidents of the United States do not — or did not, until Sunday’s tweet:

“I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes — and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

Trump’s demand is the equivalent of an angry child stomping their foot and demanding that their parents do their will or else. The one thing that a sane human being can take away from this is that something has the Orange One frightened and running scared. There seems to be little doubt Mueller is closing in, and a reckoning is coming regardless of what Trump and his cronies do or think. Never has there been a time in recent history for the American people to grow a backbone and stand up to Trump the bully and demand that truth and justice be served.

As of yesterday, this is no longer a partisan issue. This constitutional crisis affects everyone from the Republican Party (who have been shamefully reluctant to confront the president), the Democrats, liberals, conservatives, evangelicals, and yes, even the infamous “basket of deplorables” that have done so much to enable the president to bring America to the untenable situation we find ourselves in today. Speaking of the “basket of deplorables”, how can his base, in good conscience, support a man whose life, career and worldview is so antithetical to the American way of life and governance – to say nothing about the damage he is doing to the constitution and the office of the presidency?

Fear is a funny thing. It affects us all in different ways. Yet, here we see a third of the country so frightened of losing their privileged status that they are willing to support and defend someone who has not only lied to the other two-thirds of the country, but in the end, to them as well. The real question is how they will react if and when Trump is brought down on criminal charges and forced out of office. If that occurs, the current constitutional crisis will look tame compared to the confrontation that will come about if that comes to fruition.

Thomas Jefferson was if nothing else prescient and no fool when it comes to the folly of his fellow human beings. He saw firsthand the corrupt nature of those who would wrest control of government from the masses to concentrate their efforts to the benefit of the few. He once said,

(I)n questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.

The American people should not kid themselves. The hounds are literally at the gate and little good can come from allowing Trump to make a mockery of the constitution and the American way of life with little regard for the consequences of his actions. It is time to face reality. Trump and his ilk are not like the vast majority of Americans. They are a self-centered, opportunistic and a threatening force that must be confronted and defeated. Without action, far worse is on the horizon. Forgive me for this, but as the popular television series, Game of Thrones, would say:

Winter is coming.