“If by the liberty of the press were understood merely the liberty of discussing the propriety of public measures and political opinions, let us have as much of it as you please: But if it means the liberty of affronting, calumniating and defaming one another, I, for my part, own myself willing to part with my share of it.” —Benjamin Franklin (1789)
IN TODAY’S EDITION
- Sandmann sues The Washington Post for $250 million in libel damages.
- A record number of Americans say government’s a problem. Why?
- Daily Features: More Analysis, Columnists, Headlines, Opinion in Brief, Short Cuts, Memes, and Cartoons.
The family of Covington Catholic School student Nicholas Sandmann is suing The Washington Post to the tune of $250 million for its libelous and McCarthy-like vilification of Sandmann and his fellow Covington classmates as racist bullies in its reporting on the infamous incident with Native American activist and serial liar Nathan Phillips. The suit pointedly calls out the Post’s biased motive: “The Post ignored basic journalist standards because it wanted to advance its well-known and easily documented, biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump by impugning individuals perceived to be supporters of the President.” In other words, Sandmann’s team is alleging not just bad journalism on the part of the Post but a willful disregard for the truth in order to promote a biased narrative.
According to Sandmann’s legal team, the libel suit was raised against the Post because it “was one of the first, if not the first, mainstream media outlet to expand coverage of the January 18 incident from social media to mainstream media.”
It’s unlikely that Sandmann will see all $250 million, though he has a strong case, especially given the fact that prior to this media-created fiasco, he was simply a high-school kid minding his own business. He was not a public figure, and therefore the standard for proving that the Post engaged in libelous reporting does not require evidence of “actual malice” on the part of the Post, only a false statement of fact made negligently. Given this standard, we’re betting the Post negotiates some sort of settlement before this lawsuit ever reaches a courtroom.
Speaking of the courts and libel, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas made headlines Tuesday when he suggested that the Court should revisit the 1964 ruling in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. The landmark First Amendment case effectively made it significantly more difficult for public figures to win libel suits.
Thomas criticized the ruling and subsequent ones as “policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law.” He explained, “If the Constitution does not require public figures to satisfy an actual-malice standard in state-law defamation suits, then neither should we.” Thomas further noted, “The constitutional libel rules adopted by this Court in New York Times and its progeny broke sharply from the common law of libel, and there are sound reasons to question whether the First and Fourteenth Amendments displaced this body of common law.”
Leftmedia outlets may cringe that Thomas wants to “end the First Amendment as we know it,” but in this era of an activist, propagandist media perpetuating hate-crime hoaxes and other fake news galore, it’s worth pondering how to rein in the gross abuse of the First Amendment.
If there’s one thing we can say is unequivocal about government shutdowns, it’s that they draw the ire and attention of voters. This is clearly evident in Gallup polling, which for decades has surveyed Americans on their perception of urgent issues. Today, “Thirty-five percent of Americans name the government, poor leadership or politicians as the greatest problem facing the U.S.,” Gallup reported this week.
The data present several interesting takeaways. For starters, shutdowns put an unwelcome spotlight on leadership chasms — the definition of “leadership” being somewhat ambiguous. Gallup says the 35% figure “is the highest percentage Gallup has recorded for this concern, edging out the previous high of 33% during the 2013 federal government shutdown.” Furthermore, “The current percentage of Americans naming government as the most important problem is nearly twice as high as the 18% recorded in November. That increase likely reflects public frustration with the government shutdown that occurred from late December through most of January.”
Shutdowns happen because one party, wisely or not, stands its ground by refusing to compromise on last-minute spending negotiations. This inevitably results in questions over aptitude for one or both party leaders.
Case in point: “An analysis of the verbatim responses to the question from the latest survey finds that 11% of Americans specifically cite ‘Donald Trump’ as the most important problem, while 5% name ‘the Democrats’ or ‘liberals’ and 1% ‘Congress.’ About half of those who say the government is the most important problem — 18% of U.S. adults — blame both parties or cite ‘gridlock,’ ‘lack of cooperation’ or the shutdown more generally. The latter figure has grown from 6% in December and 12% in January.”
The second takeaway is more pernicious. Gallup says, “Americans have become more likely to name the government and/or leadership as the country’s greatest problem over the past decade. From 2001 through 2009, yearly averages of this measure were consistently below 10%, but mentions of government as the foremost challenge have become more pervasive in the decade since. In 2010 to 2016, average mentions of the government as the biggest problem ranged from 12% to 19%.”
As tempting as it may be to think so, this trend doesn’t seem to originate from a desire to reverse our ever-expanding government. Quite the contrary, in fact. As one analyst points out, if desire for limited government and fiscal conservatism were truly the catalysts for these concerns, the record high would have been set when Ronald Reagan was entering office or when the Tea Party was set into motion. But it only hit a record, ironically, during a partial government shutdown.
And as Gallup critically reveals, “While Democrats were more likely than Republicans to name government and leadership as the top problem facing the nation in the year leading up to the latest poll, both party groups are now about as likely to name government as the top U.S. problem.” Reread this part again: “Democrats were more likely than Republicans to name government and leadership as the top problem facing the nation.” Many of these are socialism-supporting obstructionists. Reining in government is hardly on their mind.
Sadly, many Americans are concerned about government and leadership for entirely the wrong reasons, because their idea of how government should operate and what “leadership” actually means are contorted. This poll reflects the inverted environment that polarization and cultural decay create.
ON OUR WEBSITE TODAY
- Featured Analysis: Smollett Is the Latest in a Long List of Leftist Hate-Hoaxes — The sheer number of anti-Trump hoaxes in just two years is staggering. Here’s a small sampling.
- Alexander: Liberty v. Socialism: Trump on Foreign and Domestic Socialists — Trump’s address on socialism to Americans of Venezuelan descent is enlightening.
- Leftmedia Whines Over Dems Exposed as Extreme Leftists — An NYT “reporter” complains that Republicans are calling Democrats what they are.
- Video: National Emergency to Stop Armed Invasion — Democrats, and 16 states attorneys general, say it’s unconstitutional. What next?
BEST OF RIGHT OPINION
For more of today’s columns, visit Right Opinion.
TOP HEADLINE SUMMARY
- It’s about time to rein in civil asset forfeiture: “The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled unanimously that states must adhere to the Constitution’s ban on excessive fines, a decision that will likely limit the ability of states to impose certain fees and seize property. In delivering the opinion of the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the Eighth Amendment guards against abuses of government’s punitive or criminal law-enforcement authority, and that it extends to fines.” (The Hill)
- With Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein soon departing, Transportation Department Deputy Secretary Jeff Rosen has been nominated to replace him, USA Today reports. “The nomination of Jeffrey Rosen … had been rumored since Attorney General William Barr took office earlier this month.” In fact, “Rosen worked for more than 30 years at the same law firm, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, where Barr served as of counsel before his nomination as attorney general.”
- Biting the bullet: “The federal government announced its intention Tuesday to cancel nearly $1 billion in pending funding for the state’s long-planned, high-speed train. In a letter to California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Brian P. Kelly on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation outlined the government’s reasons for pulling funding. The state has not come up with its own promised funding, will miss a 2022 completion target and has recently reconfigured the project outside the bounds of a federal pact for funding, railroad chief Ronald L. Batory wrote. The federal department will ‘de-obligate’ $928,620,000 in promised cash, but California will be given a chance to argue its case, Batory said in the letter. He also said the Trump administration is ‘exploring all available legal options’ to recover $2.5 billion in past federal grants for the project.” (NBC News)
- According to Townhall, “President Trump signed the Space Policy Directive 4 on Tuesday to try and get his Space Force off the ground flying. The measure would create the Space Force as an armed service within the Air Force, a slightly different approach than his original plan.” Instead of being an entity that’s “separate but equal,” the Space Force now will at least initially be under the Air Force canopy, though “turning it into the 6th branch of the armed services is still Trump’s long-term goal.” The program is still awaiting Congress’s consent.
- “The FBI is working with the U.S. Postal Service to determine whether Empire actor Jussie Smollett sent himself a threatening letter in the days before the "hate crime” he is now under investigation for allegedly staging… The two Nigerian brothers who told Chicago Police last week that Smollett paid them to stage a racially motivated attack on him have also told the authorities that Smollett sent himself the threatening letter that arrived on the Empire set on January 22, just seven days before they claim they conducted the hoax attack.“ (National Review)
- "An extensive New York Times story published Tuesday purports to take you ‘inside’ President Trump’s ‘Two-Year War on the Investigations Encircling Him.’ But save yourself the precious time and read Trump’s tweets instead,” says the Washington Examiner. The news out of the lengthy piece is an allegation that Trump late last year asked then-acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker if it was possible to appoint U.S. Attorney General for Southern New York Geoffrey Berman, a White House ally, to lead the district’s investigation into Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty in November to charges of perjury, tax evasion, and campaign finance violations. The Times reported that Whitaker ‘knew he could not put Mr. Berman in charge, since Mr. Berman had already recused himself from the investigation’ and admitted that ‘there is no evidence that he took any direct steps to intervene in the Manhattan investigation.’ That’s the extent of news in the story.“
- Humor: It’s 2019, and gay people are still being forced to attack themselves in the streets (The Babylon Bee)
- Policy: Independent Women’s Forum president Carrie Lukas lays out the reasons for why Elizabeth Warren’s child-care plan "would heavily subsidize parents’ least favorite care option — day care — while doing nothing to make all the others more affordable.”
- Policy: Investor’s Business Daily says, “Now that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has said he’ll leave the Justice Department in mid-March, it’s time to take stock of the damage Rosenstein and others in the Deep State did by quietly plotting to remove President Trump from office. This bureaucratic coup attempt has no parallel in modern U.S. history.”
For more of today’s editors’ choice headlines, visit In Our Sights.
OPINION IN BRIEF
Hans von Spakovsky: “You’d have to be detached from reality to deny that we now face a crisis at the border. Among the tens of thousands of people entering our country illegally are dangerous criminals, drug smugglers, sex traffickers and human smugglers. In the last fiscal year alone, fentanyl smuggling has increased 73 percent. The drug is now the leading cause of overdose deaths in the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimates that criminal organizations make $2.5 billion annually from human smuggling. In the 2018 fiscal year, the Border Patrol stopped 17,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records and apprehended 6,000 members of MS-13 and other violent gangs. As the president mentioned in his State of the Union address, DHS has arrested more than a quarter-million illegal immigrants in the last two years. They were accused or convicted of over 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes and 4,000 murders. The president has correctly pointed out that migrant caravans — something not seen before — are overwhelming our border security system. Last year, 60,000 unaccompanied children and 161,000 families arrived at the border. President Trump’s emergency proclamation sums up the situation this way: the southern border has become the site of ‘large-scale unlawful migration’ and is ‘a major entry point for criminals, gang members, and illicit narcotics.’ That’s not a political statement. It’s a statement of fact.”
Food for thought: “Any fair observer of his personality knows that Trump is arrogant, condescending, petulant, and harbors an intense hostility towards anyone who dislikes or disagrees with him. Any fair observer of our mainstream press knows that those attributes are also perfect descriptions of their institution as well. … Trump and the media that hates him are two peas in a pod.” —Peter Heck
Re: The Left: “It is worth remembering that almost 3,000 people were shot in the City of Chicago last year — women, small children — sometimes alone and sometimes in groups. Many hundreds of them died, and not a single one received anything like the attention the media has lavished on a relatively minor assault alleged by [Jussie] Smollett. On the other hand, none of Chicago’s 3,000 shootings were even half as useful as Smollett’s story.” —Tucker Carlson
Friendly fire: “I think the Green New Deal would be a loser. … There’s not a lot in there I disagree with… But there’s an argument that you don’t destabilize a society by doing too much change at once.” —former Rep. Barney Frank
The BIG Lie: “This lie that’s being put out, that somehow being green and responsible with the environment means you have to hurt the economy, [is] a lie.” —Cory Booker
The BIG Lie II: “I am not a Democratic socialist.” —Kamala Harris
Class warfare: “There is plenty of money in this world, plenty of money in this country. But it’s in the wrong hands.” —New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
And last… “It makes little sense to argue that two presidents were justified in using emergency authority to reprogram funds to build and maintain U.S. facilities in foreign nations in order to protect their security, as they did 18 separate times between 2001 and 2014, but that the current president has no authority to use the same funds to secure actual American soil from foreign invasion.” —Sean Davis
For more of today’s memes, visit the Memesters Union.
For more of today’s cartoons, visit the Cartoons archive.
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Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
Nate Jackson, Managing Editor
Mark Alexander, Publisher