Jay Bookman

Opinion columnist and blogger with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, specializing in foreign relations, environmental and technology-related issues

Opinion: Free speech for me, not for thee


I saw this tweet last night from Fox News, based on President Trump's campaign-style speech in Pensacola, and I was struck by the tension, even conflict, between the two assertions that Fox chose to highlight.

"Our rights come from our creator, and no earthly force can ever take those rights away, and they never will," Trump told the crowd. That's a fine if boilerplate sentiment, borrowed by Trump's speechwriter from Thomas Jefferson's assertion in the Declaration of Independence that all men "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights."

Foremost among those "unalienable rights" are the freedoms of speech and conscience, which is why they are listed first in the Bill of Rights. And while Trump assures us that "no earthly force" can ever take those rights away, he also insists strenuously that NFL owners can and should do exactly that. In Trump's mind, owners ought to force athletes to stand, against their conscience, and he is more than willing to use the bully pulpit of the presidency to ensure that conformity is enforced.

Trump doesn't do nuance, and I get that. But this is not a nuanced contradiction. You cannot, or at least should not, embrace free speech in the abstract and then try to strip it away when you witness it in real life. Particularly when you're the president.


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About the Author

Jay Bookman writes about government and politics, with an occasional foray into other aspects of life as time, space and opportunity allow.