Several issues have come to the fore in recent weeks which exemplify the hysteria-like atmosphere that has taken hold of our public debate.
Regular readers of The Jewish Press know that we have some definite views about the challenges to the Trump agenda. Yet we acknowledge that it is too simplistic to suggest that the other side’s take, while in our view in error, is devoid of all merit. Yet those in the left of center are increasingly acting as if anyone opposing their point of view is complicit in bringing about the imminent fall of our republic.
Take, for example, the breathless protests over President Trump’s suspension of CNN’s Jim Acosta’s pass to attend White House Press conferences. Yes, there has been recurrent bad blood between the president and both Mr. Acosta and CNN. Last week, Mr. Acosta refused to end his questioning when Mr. Trump sought to call on another reporter. He continued speaking and refused to hand over to a White House intern the portable microphone that is passed in turn to each reporter posing a question. He also appeared to push away the intern’s hand.
We rather thought Mr. Acosta was over the top in his belligerence and rudeness to the president in his own house. After all, a president can’t be disabled from dealing with disruptions at his own press conferences. Didn’t Mr. Acosta understand this? Didn’t CNN? Yet, we also appreciated the context: the continuing dispute between the president and both Mr. Acosta and CNN which he regularly accuses of manufacturing “fake news.”
However, from the get-go, an array of First Amendment authorities, including the renowned Floyd Abrams, were trotted out to gravely intone that America’s tradition of free speech and press had just been put in mortal danger. Indeed, this past Tuesday, CNN and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal law suit against the White House claiming just that, adding that Mr. Trump’s summary action ran roughshod over Mr. Acosta’s and CNN’s First Amendment rights. Of course, a commitment from Mr. Acosta that he would follow the rules of decorum – now that’s a thought – would have doubtless gotten him his pass back.
Parenthetically, we note that at a June 25, 2015 White House reception, President Obama ordered the ejection of one invitee who persistently disrupted his presentation about broadening LGBT rights, claiming it did not go far enough. The audience applauded the president’s response to the heckler.
And then there was President Trump’s designation last week of Matthew Whitaker to serve as acting attorney general, replacing Jefferson Sessions who resigned from the position at the request of Mr. Trump. The appointment was greeted with jeers from the Democratic establishment. One argument they made was that Mr. Whitaker, who would oversee Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian “collusion” and obstruction of justice on the part of the president, was unqualified because he has been a frequent critic of Mr. Mueller’s probe and a proponent of restricting its authority – in other words, that he would have a conflict of interest.
And there are also nuts and bolts legal arguments being offered against Whitaker, that he does not have the credentials to serve in the role of an acting attorney general, having never been confirmed as a senior DOJ official.
Yet, despite the earnest hue and cry that “the fix was in,” there are good and credible answers. Can it really be contended that there cannot be honest, unfavorable opinion about Mr. Mueller’s work, only biased ones? And didn’t the Inspector General of the Department of Justice recently opine, to the delight of the Democratic establishment, that FBI officials were quite capable of separating their personal, very negative views of President Trump from their official duties involving investigating him?
Moreover, because Mr. Sessions had recused himself from anything having to do with the Russian investigation, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has been overseeing the Mueller probe. But Mr. Rosenstein was the author of the memo outlining the basis for firing former FBI director James Comey – one of the central issues being addressed by Mueller’s team – and thus a key witness. Why has no one drawn attention to Rosenstein’s conflict there? Any thought of a Whitaker conflict of interest surely pales into significance when compared to Mr. Rosenstein’s role.
Unseemly hype has also characterized the immigration issue, namely regarding birthright citizenship – generally understood as children born in the U.S. to alien parents not legally present here – and Hondurans traveling in caravans en route to illegally entering the United States. Indeed, Mr. Trump is constantly being condemned by accusations that he is a racist intent on usurping powers he does not possess to thwart the efforts of those wishing to come to this country. Yet consider that the grant of presidential power over immigration into the U.S. is in as absolute terms as one can imagine. Thus, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 provides,
Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens as immigrants or non-immigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem appropriate.
So the presumption, perhaps rebuttable, must at least be that President Trump is empowered to deny birthright citizenship status to the offspring of illegal aliens and to deny entry to those traveling here in caravans. So from where does all the anger directed at him come?
To be sure, there are arguments to be made that presidential power over birthright citizenship is trumped by the Fourteenth Amendment, particularly the aspect respecting birthright citizenship. But while we disagree with the Left on this that does not mean that we would heatedly dismiss their arguments out of hand.
Unfortunately, the “resistance” mentality continues to grip those who oppose President Trump politically with the result that their opposition provides more heat than light.