Thoughts: Trumpian Libel Laws, CA’s Supertrain and Parliamentary Government

Donald Trump spreadds his arms out in front of a huge crowd at his Tampa, Florida rally on July 31, 2018
Photo: Joe Tabb/123RF

Trump announced last week that he is looking into passing stronger libel laws so that people in the public eye can sue others for less egregious name-calling. Thus would a sock get shoved in the mouth of CNN. And others.

It would be another new, end run around the Constitution. But if Trump gets this, he might wish he hadn’t. If he can sue the media, the media can sue him. Both sides are in the public eye. I know he is always so careful to make sure he is scrupulously accurate at all times, so this almost never would happen, but you never know, a little slip of the tongue and a lie could pop out. What if he misreads a teleprompter and says “146% of all Mexicans are drug dealers!” Oops.

Another result with these changes in the libel laws would be a thunderous heap of lawsuits by people in the public eye suing all those fake news sites that make up stories to hurt such people, presenting them as true. There would be no more “This just in! Hillary Clinton has now been charged with murdering her best friend.” This could put an end to the fake news that got Trump elected.

What I think Trump really meant to say about proposed libel law changes is that a jacked-up new First Amendment law should only protect public figures named Trump. He could have his own name right on the top of the new law in big letters, perhaps bronze letters. Majority Leader McConnell, take note.


Nancy Pelosi at LIGALY Gala
Nancy Pelosi at the 2013 LIGALY Gala, Photo: Oliver Peterson

Why is it that Trump’s lawyers are always so much smarter than the Democrats’ lawyers? Look at what’s going on. Nancy Pelosi thinks she has a win and, whoops, Trump’s lawyers find these little loopholes in the Constitution—they’re actually not loopholes, but little wiggly codicils or changes that are right there in plain sight that let him strike down the powers of the judicial and legislative branches, and uh oh, it’s a Pelosi loss. Up goes the wall. Obama had two final years in office trying to use executive powers in this way. But his lawyers rarely found success. Trump finds these tiny things and it’s another step down the road to puffing up the executive branch and having the other two branches drag along with their mouths shut.

I think 50 years from now, when Trump is dead and buried with great pomp and circumstance after a long reign—a benevolent one, of course, considering his cleaning out all the niggly little wimps who used to oppose him—we ought to consider reorganizing on the parliamentary system.

Years ago, when new countries popped up around the globe and were eager to embrace democratic systems of government, they’d often choose systems modeled after the American Constitution. Executive, Legislative, Judicial. In recent years when new countries form, however, they more often choose the parliamentary model. A prime minister runs things, a dozen or more parties compose a legislature, coalitions form to make a government, calls for votes of support by the PM happen when matters are too close to call, and new elections and new coalitions are put together when the parliament thinks the PM is doing the wrong thing.

I’m not saying that a parliamentary system necessarily does not have the little picky laws that brilliant and eager lawyers could find to lead a prime minister to slide into a dictatorship, but I am saying that the constitutional model sure has them. Turn around once and here it goes, the police knocking at your front door or stopping you at checkpoints.


Hyperloop supertrain
Hyperloop supertrain, Photo: iStock

I just read that Trump plans to pull the agreement that is giving California $3.5 billion in federal funds for their 600-mile-an-hour magnet-and-vacuum “supertrain” intended to zip people between San Francisco and San Diego. They’ve already used $2.5 billion. Trump wants that money back. There would of course be more Federal money down the line to a total of a whopping $77 billion for this project.

Trump says that he could wall off Mexico for one-third of this price. He points to the Governor of California, who says the thing is way behind schedule and in the short term needs to be cut back to just a short trip between one berry farm and another berry farm in the California hinterlands for this $77 billion. So you can’t blame Trump, although people claim it is retribution by the President for California’s insistence in not going along with what he wants, which it probably is.

I think the wall won’t work, and I think the supertrain will end as a disaster to nowhere. And I think, with the Silicon Valley geniuses all in California, the $77 billion ought to be used to fund a massive effort to discover a chain reaction that would decarbonize the atmosphere and reverse global warming before it’s too late.

And if we design it, let’s not let the Chinese get any of it. Build a wall to keep them out. They had a wall. Now we want one. Make America Cool Again.

* * *

Finally, why does Nancy Pelosi call what Trump is doing an “end run?” People cheer a good “end run.” This is not an end run. It is an upcoming trampling.

More from Our Sister Sites