No matter where you look, there is heated debate over the First Amendment. We saw it with the protests in Charlottesville. We have heard it in the disputes about free speech on college campuses. And it was most recently on display during the holy of holies, Sunday football.
If you value the First Amendment, you know that its protections of free expression must apply equally to all speech irrespective of what is said.
The problem, then, is not with the Confederate apologist in Charlottesville or the NFL athlete on the grid iron; the problem resides in the way our president has responded to these events.
As a citizen, Donald Trump has the same First Amendment rights as you and I. But in occupying the office of the president, President Trump has taken an oath to up-hold these constitutional protections for all Americans. And this is where things get tricky.
When Trump tweets support for the Charlottesville protesters from the @POTUS Twitter handle or when he stands behind a podium proudly displaying the presidential seal and criticizes the NFL players, who is talking? If it is just another citizen, expressing his opinion, that is one thing. But if it is the President of the United States, then we might be in troubled waters, constitutionally speaking.
The problem, of course, is that we do not know the answer to this question, and the one individual who could supply leadership on this issue is part of the problem and not the solution.
I’m David Gunkel, and that’s my perspective.