Patterico's Pontifications

6/23/2020

Trump: Burn the American Flag, Go to Jail For One Year. Oh, Yeah, And Free Speech Or Something…

Filed under: General — Dana @ 3:17 pm



[guest post by Dana]

At the Tulsa rally this past weekend, the President of the United States suggested that there should be consequences for anyone who burns the American flag:

“We ought to come up with legislation that if you burn the American flag, you go to jail for one year. One year,” Trump said, claiming that he’s “a big believer in freedom of speech,” but calling flag burning “desecration.”

Trump cited an incident at a protest in Portland as the inspiration for his proposal. “Two days ago, leftist protesters in Portland, Oregon ripped down a statue of George Washington and wrapped in an American flag, and set the American flag on fire,” Trump said to raucous boos from the crowd. “Democrat, all Democrat. Everything I tell you is Democrat,” he added.

As we know, burning the American flag constitutes symbolic speech which is protected by the First Amendment. (Texas v. Johnnson, 1989).

Geoffrey R. Stone and Eugene Volokh lay out the basic concept of symbolic speech here :

“The Supreme Court has interpreted ‘speech’ and ‘press’ broadly as covering not only talking, writing, and printing, but also broadcasting, using the Internet, and other forms of expression. The freedom of speech also applies to symbolic expression, such as displaying flags, burning flags, wearing armbands, burning crosses, and the like,” said Stone and Volokh.

“The Supreme Court has held that restrictions on speech because of its content—that is, when the government targets the speaker’s message—generally violate the First Amendment. Laws that prohibit people from criticizing a war, opposing abortion, or advocating high taxes are examples of unconstitutional content-based restrictions. Such laws are thought to be especially problematic because they distort public debate and contradict a basic principle of self-governance: that the government cannot be trusted to decide what ideas or information ‘the people’ should be allowed to hear.”

This is nothing new for Trump. Back in November 2016, President-elect Trump suggested that those who burn the American flag should lose their citizenship:

Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!

Last year, I wrote about two Republican congressmen who introduced a Constitutional amendment to ban the burning of the American flag (which Trump enthusiastically endorsed), saying:

Given that efforts to add an amendment have failed before, and given that each chamber of Congress would have to pass the measure with a two-thirds majority, and three-fourths of the state legislatures would have to vote to approve the amendment for any change to the Constitution to be made, it’s unlikely to go anywhere. But really, is the push for such an amendment a good idea? Clearly some GOP lawmakers think it is. However, consider that this makes the GOP as a whole vulnerable to criticism of being anti-speech, or at the very least, the Party that attacks [and attempts to shut down] speech.

In closing, I’ll leave you with Beldar’s observation about symbolism and the American flag:

A flag, be it the American flag or any other, has no more objective intrinsic value than any other similarly sized piece of cloth. What makes any flag meaningful is the symbolism that people project onto the flag.

There likewise is no objective intrinsic value to burning a flag, no more than any other piece of cloth, the only value in the act being, again, the symbolism that people project onto that act.

Symbols and symbolism are indeed powerful for reasons that aren’t objectively rational. They speak loudly but metaphorically. Allowing government to regulate symbols and symbolism based on its content is as pernicious an idea as allowing government to regulate spoken or printed speech based on its content.

Every argument that a special rule should be made for the U.S. flag because of its special significance is merely a restatement of the observation that it is especially imbued with symbolism. Demonstrations using it, whether reverently or disdainfully, are intended to take advantage of that imbued symbolism to make intensify one’s argument, whether it’s an argument of reverence for the U.S. and its government or an argument that’s disdainful. But there is an asymmetry; ultimately, on close and prolonged observation of the symbolism and that which is behind it, the reverent people are celebrating a symbol that also stands for the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and especially including its guarantees of free speech. And by contrast, the disdainful people — the Bill Ayers with their arguments made in both words and symbolic conduct — are always, always undercut on the merits by the fact that those folks very ability to show disdain for the flag is as protected as my speech celebrating it.

–Dana

The More Trump Goes After Biden’s Mental And Physical State, The More We Doubt His Own

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:39 am



[guest post by Dana]

As the campaign heats up, Trump has adopted a strategy of attacking Joe Biden’s mental and physical capabilities. Not only is Trump going after Biden, he has also “instructed his advisers to attack Biden over his mental acuity” as well. Yet, as Trump punches back at videos which show him having difficulty in walking down a ramp, and holding a bottle (and cup) of water, his efforts only bring up questions about his own faculties. Anyway, I have no trouble believing this actually happened because it lines up with who we know Trump to be. It absolutely reflects what we’ve already seen and heard with our own eyes and ears:

The early June meeting in the Cabinet Room was intended as a general update on President Trump’s reelection campaign, but the president had other topics on his mind.

Trump had taken a cognitive screening test as part of his 2018 physical, and now, more than two years later, he brought up the 10-minute exam. He waxed on about how he’d dazzled the proctors with his stellar performance, according to two people familiar with his comments. He walked the room of about two dozen White House and reelection officials through some of the questions he said he’d aced, such as being able to repeat five words in order.

…Trump said he thought presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden would never be able to pass it and suggested challenging him to take the test, said the people familiar with Trump’s comments, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share private details.

At Saturday’s rally in Tulsa, the president actually took 14 minutes defending both his slow walk down the ramp at West Point and his ability to lift a glass of water. He then backed up the latter defense by…lifting a glass of water and taking a sip. Other than firing up his base with righteous indignation and subsequent huzzahs for their persecuted hero, this really isn’t helping Trump the way he thinks it is. Because Biden is holed up in his basement due to Covid-19 concerns, his lack of in-person appearances all but guarantees him protection from his usual foot-in-mouth public gaffes and stumbles. All he has to do is shut-up and wait for Trump to step in it and do the work for him. And in this, Trump delivers.

–Dana

After Deadly Shootings, Seattle Mayor Decides Police Need To Return to East Precinct

Filed under: General — Dana @ 8:32 am



[guest post by Dana]

What it took for Seattle’s Mayor Durkan to finally take action in Seattle’s hot spot:

Early Saturday, one man was killed and another person was critically wounded in a shooting at 10th and Pine. 19-year-old Renton High student Lorenzo Anderson died in an incident that has become a flashpoint of controversy with police restricting their presence in the area following the emptying of the East Precinct headquarters and Seattle Fire’s limited abilities to respond without police presence…Despite the effort, Sunday night brought another shooting on the edge of Cal Anderson that sent a 17-year-old to the hospital…In addition to the weekend shootings, Seattle Police are also investigating a sex assault at the camp reported Thursday.

Better late than never, eh?

What she finally realized:

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan says the Seattle Police Department needs to return to the East Precinct to be able to respond to calls from the community.

During a news conference Monday, the mayor said SPD will return to the precinct, peacefully and in the near future.

“We have to make sure that any resident, any business, or any visitor that calls for help gets the help they need,” Durkan said.

As for the CHOP, Durkan said it wouldn’t be wise for police officers to clear out the area. Instead, the city is working with community leaders and organizers to help reduce the number of people in the area and clean up the streets, buildings, and remove barriers.

Durkan recognized that the majority of people in the CHOP are peaceful and spreading an important message, but said the situation is very different at night. The circumstances are also increasingly difficult for businesses and residents, she added.

The mayor believes individuals and organizations can continue to gather peacefully in Capitol Hill and elsewhere in the city, but the disorder and the impact of violence in Capitol Hill is at odds with the message of justice and equity.

Police Chief Best listed off the criminal acts repotedly happening inside the CHOP:

The chief said several criminal acts have been reported in the days since her officers left the precinct building. She said the incidents included shootings, rape, assaults, burglary and property destruction.

“I’m not making this up,” Best said. “These things happened. Our officers need to get back into the East Precinct.”

At Saturday’s Tulsa rally, Trump singled out Seattle:

“But how about Seattle?” Trump asked, with the crowd responding by booing the city.

“So, they take over a big chunk of a city called Seattle. We are not talking about some little place. We’re talking about Seattle. Have you ever been to Seattle?” Trump said. “They took over a big chunk. And the governor who is radical left — all of these places I talk about are Democrat. You know that. Every one of them.”

Trump said he offered assistance in the matter but was turned down and appeared to dismiss the situation.

“Any time you want, we’ll come in. We’ll straighten it out in one hour or less. Now I may be wrong, but it’s probably better for us to just to watch that disaster,” Trump said. The president went on to say he asked lawmakers about the situation and that they encouraged him to not act.

“Congressman, what do you think? I can straighten it out fast. Can we just go in?” Trump said. “‘No, sir, let it simmer for a little while. Let people see what radical-left Democrats will do to our country.’”

And speaking of “autonomous zones,” Trump warned this morning that it’s not an option in D.C.:

–Dana


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