Trump, Clinton and the left declare war on free speech

Tim Carney:
The First Amendment appears to be on the wrong side of history, to borrow a favorite phrase of President Obama.

The presidential front-runners in both parties are openly antagonistic towards the freedom of the press and the freedom of political speech. They're not hiding it.

Donald Trump has repeatedly promised that he would "open up" libel laws to make it easier for public figures like himself to go after journalists. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, has promised to amend the Constitution so as to curtail free speech as it pertains to politicians — specifically citing the non-profit groups that criticize her.

Against the backdrop of campus radicals across the country demanding the silencing of "hate speech," Trump's and Clinton's war on the First Amendment is cause for worry.

Trump's libel argument is a bit confusing, thanks to Trump's cluttered, inchoate speaking style. But he's expressed his desire to curb press freedom repeatedly, in many contexts.

Under current law, a journalist can be sued for libel if he maliciously lies about a public figure or reports something false, recklessly and out of malice. For non-public figures, the threshold is lower. Trump thinks this is too lenient, judging by his 2016 promises and his past behavior (he sued a reporter who reported facts contradicting Trump's claims about his own wealth).

Does Trump object to the legal requirement for malice? Or does he object to the fact that truth is a defense — that Trump can't sue a reporter who reports true but critical things?

Clinton's planned pruning of the First Amendment doesn't affect the freedom of the press. She may believe her skill at avoiding reporters and skirting open-records laws will carry her in that regard. Instead, Clinton plans to weaken the First Amendment's freedom of political speech. And she's crystal clear on why she wants to do this.

Clinton on Monday repeated her call for a constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens United, which struck down part of the 2001 McCain-Feingold campaign finance regulations. "People forget this," Clinton said Monday, "but the Citizens United case actually began with yet another right-wing attack on me."
Neither Trump or Clinton handle criticism very well.  That they would change the law and the Constitution to avoid criticism tells you something about their character and their tendency toward the kind of despotic rule you see in dictatorships and countries like Turkey.


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