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Speak and Press
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Speak and Press

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

President Trump’s 70 minute plus news conference yesterday affirmed once again what is becoming more and more evident about the Trump relationship to the Constitution; it appears to get in his way. Yesterday it was the First Amendment with which Trump demonstrated he has serious issues. He appears only to respect freedom of speech when he is the speaker and freedom of the press only from those media venues which agree with him. Trump also seems to have issues with freedom of religion and even freedom of assembly. (To date it should be noted that he is an enthusiastic supporter of the Second Amendment’s “right to bear arms”.)

In shorter pressers, Trump only recognizes media outlets that are conservative or his sycophants. When he does go national in recognizing questioners, he consistently “disses” the reporter and launches ad hominin attacks against either the questioner or the news outlet. In replying to questions it is clear he is unprepared or unwilling to even address most issues. He has an agenda—which many other Presidents have employed in these settings—which he exploits to its fullest. It is clear that a free and independent press is a terrible burden which Trump appears to resent, despite his caustic humor. The President persists in attacking the media for its misreporting and inaccuracies while refusing to accept any possible responsibility or mishandling by him or the White House.  The President assumes that he can continue to lie about events and eventually the press will stop calling him on it; something that totally contradicts the essence of the role of a free press.

Similarly in regard to speech, the President does not comprehend the need to accept any responsibility for the remarks of his staff or officials. The explanations for any and all Government mis-speaks or errors belong in the hands of those representing the news and not on those making it.  The directed insulting of a veteran African American reporter and a young ultra-Orthodox Jewish reporter were further evidence that Trump does not respect diversity or difference. He clearly believes that he can continue to insult and embarrass people—even those in the media—as he bluster along on his merry way with no accountability.

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Meanwhile also on Thursday as well, U.S. Ambassador to Israel designate David Friedman, who was Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer, approached his confirmation hearing in full mea culpa mode. He gave virtually every possible apology he could for his outrageous slurs and attacks on President Obama, Members of Congress who had supported the Iran deal, and fellow Jews who—among other things—opposed the Jewish settlements which he had championed. In stark contrast to his client, Friedman admitted that his remarks could not be rationalized or excused away for which he apologized.

In Trump’s case he already is the President while Friedman needs approval from the Senate. Despite opposition from some Democrats and some groups in the Jewish community who will not forgive him for his insults plus the likely opposition from Republican Senator Rand Paul, Friedman should be approved. What will be interesting to learn is how—if at all—Friedman himself responds to Arab leaders in Israel and how is treated by the Palestinians once he assumes his post. There will be much to swallow here on both sides if his tour in Israel will be successful.  

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