It’s America’s birthday. Hot dogs and fireworks. Burgers and beer. Gatherings. A lightness is in the air from Key West to Presque Isle, from Pasadena to Juneau. We have good reason (our freedom) for that lifting of spirits.
Let’s celebrate, but let’s also be serious for a moment.
This writer wants to elevate the First Amendment. Here is the Wikipedia history version and copy of the original text: wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution. And here is the explanatory part about freedom of the press:
“Freedom of the press in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. This amendment is generally understood to prevent the government from interfering with the distribution of information and opinions. Nevertheless, freedom of the press is subject to certain restrictions, such as defamation law.”
Dear readers. When the Clinton White House dodged the press inquiry about scandal we were angry. When the Nixon White House did the same we were enraged. The issue of a robust, inquisitive press is not partisan. It is only made partisan when a political force resorts to muzzling the press because it cannot take the heat from inquiries. When that occurs, that White House has taken aim at the very foundation of our freedoms.
As a commentator and as a professional in the financial markets, I find this course the worst offense of the Trump administration. Please understand that this commentary is not about who won the election. I would equally criticize a D or an R on this issue.
This is about what happened after and what is happening when a White House resorts to conflicting tweets and mixed messages while dodging and quashing and any inquiry. The dodging and muzzling is the issue.
This ill-advised behavior is not an issue of monetary policy or relative market pricing or valuations or price-earnings ratios. This is now an attack on you and me and our right to a free press and an accountable government. Markets and commerce succeed when they operate with freedom and that includes freedom of the press.
Our country’s greatness has endured, in part, because of freedom of the press and the freedom to assemble peaceably and to speak out. We have a duty to be truthful and an obligation to separate opinion from facts. And we also have protection under our constitutional framework if we articulate facts accurately.
When a White House doesn’t allow video of a press conference or audio of a press secretary’s statement, that White House crosses the line that separates us as the descendants of Jefferson and Madison and Adams (both of them) from those who would oppress opponents. Our American freedom allows opponents to speak. It invites them. But it stands against those who would oppress. That is a tenet of our origin from Benjamin Franklin to present.
Free press invites debate and disclosure, and in these we find the light of truth. We may not like what we learn, but we do like our ability to seek the truth. That ability is what makes our form of government better than any other.
This is a very sobering July 4th. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, Whig or Tory, Federalist or Democratic Republican, please think about how the First Amendment in all its aspects is such a profound source of our freedom as Americans. Raise a glass to it. Pledge to defend it no matter what your political persuasion is.
Without freedom of the press and a government accountable to the people, we are doomed.
Happy birthday, America.