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Having now reviewed everything I can find on what the President actually said at the protest in D.C., I can state with confidence that he did not cross a line into legally actionable speech. The bar set for classifying speech as criminal is pretty high, and the President did not even come close to meeting it.
Try to set aside what you think about President Trump. That’s a stretch goal for a lot of us, but let’s stretch: consider, for just a moment, that there might be an issue here that’s bigger than the President himself, and that could have repercussions that go far beyond January of 2021.
Those who call for the President’s removal from office are asking that punitive action be taken — in fact, that the most punitive action which can be taken, in the case of the Chief Executive, be taken — for his exercise of constitutionally protected speech.
Let that sink in. If the most powerful man in the United States can receive the highest punishment which Congress can mete out for the non-crime of speaking in a way that offends many people, then what protection does anyone have to speak freely? What does it mean to set a precedent that a sitting President can be removed from office for constitutionally protected speech?
During the Kavanaugh hearings, I argued that it was critical that the Senate confirm the nominee following the vague and unsubstantiated allegations made by Ms. Ford. A failure to do so would diminish the Senate’s authority by signaling that any future nominee could be derailed by nothing more than an unverifiable claim of past misbehavior.
Something even greater than that is at stake here. If we remove the sitting President, a man who received, barely two months ago, the support of more than seventy million Americans, that decision should be rooted in the most profound and solid Constitutional reasoning. Anything less elevates virtue signaling above the Constitution, and both endorses and enshrines the left’s view that the right not to be offended transcends freedom of speech and the rule of law.
If this disregard for law and the Constitution were coming only from the left, from people who already held neither law nor the Constitution in high esteem, I could almost overlook it as merely more of the unprincipled toxicity of the progressive movement. But some on the right are falling for this too — as evidenced by Ricochet’s own misguided rush-to-judgment piece a few days ago.
It’s time to put one’s feelings about the President aside, and to take a hard-headed look at the law and the Constitutional principles that are at stake. Everyone’s right to free expression is in the dock right now. That serves a left that has already embraced censorship and controlled speech. We on the right must do better.Published in