The early projection: Donald Trump is the end of satire.
Not that as president he would ban it, although in his fantasies he shuts down “Saturday Night Live.” It’s that based on his early proclivities, Trump is beyond lampooning.
Whatever scene a humorist might conjure, he lives it. He is his own work of fiction.
Presidential? Oh my; with smart phone in hand, he is a running joke. Consider the laughable data he mined from a sophomoric web site to assert that Hillary Clinton’s 2.3 million-vote plurality comes from illegal votes.
Granted, the man may turn out to be FDR. Based on his material, however, as of now Trump is Kanye West without rhythm.
So is this what we face: Late at night, when Trump should be doing something constructive on behalf of the republic, he paces his quarters, armpits ablaze, sleeveless like Brando on stage, rat-tat-tatting out dubious mind-blorts into the wee Twitter hours.
With fake news and a never-ending stream of bad information, with fact-checkers hospitalized for exhaustion, President Trump finally may answer the question, “Can anyone break the Internet?
Just another night: Trump tweets his thoughts about flag-burning. Flag-burners should be jailed and their citizenship revoked, he says.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that flag-burning is protected symbolic speech. (Arson is a crime; inciting a riot is a crime; theft is a crime. Symbolism is not a crime.) Not only that, but the court elevated such an act above free-speech quandaries like obscenity, for one reason alone: Flag desecration is a commentary on the government.
The proposition that a nation based on freedom of thought would dictate how people could comport themselves around a government symbol should repel anyone who embraces American principles.
The type of authoritarian patriotism Trump craves was embraced by India’s highest court recently when it ordered movie theaters to play the national anthem before each show, with the audience required to stand.
More on inconvenient speech: In the campaign, Trump said that as president he would “open up the libel laws” to allow public figures to sue the press. So doing, Trump showed that he didn’t have a clue about press law or what his threat would mean.
In the landmark New York Times vs. Sullivan ruling of 1964, the Supreme Court told people like Trump who seek to run the country, or a state, or a city, or a school district, that the bar would be set purposefully high for defamation claims. The low bar that existed before the Sullivan ruling chilled discussions of public policy.
Oh, in case Trump also doesn’t know about the court’s ruling in Hustler Magazine vs. Falwell (1988), he also can’t sue for being spoofed. Opinion is protected speech.
So much to learn about the Constitution, Mr. President.
The New York Times ruminated the other day on the dilemma of treating every tweet from Trump as news. This is more than a media problem. For a president-elect to use social media as a nightstand scratch pad is childish and dangerous.
How about an Etch-a-Sketch, Mr. Trump? It can be erased.
Here’s wishing that at some point the president-elect realizes it’s in the interests of the nation to give more than a moment’s thought to the sharing whatever notion crosses his mind.
Right now, undoubtedly, seasoned aides offer reassurance about all the legal and ethical vagaries:
“Your elitist, know-it-all critics assert that at every turn you are giving out bad information. No problem, Sir. The nifty thing about this First Amendment is that it protects even that.”
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado.