Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
 
Presidential freedom of speech

Back in 1990 president George H.W. Bush said that he hated broccoli, a statement that led to outrage by the California broccoli industry. Since then the joke has become a staple of every political sitcom: A politician makes a remark that would be considered completely harmless by most people, only to then face a huge backlash, forcing all sorts of funny spin-doctoring. The popular impression is that as a politician you just can't say anything! Obama even got into trouble for saying he liked broccoli.

In that sense the Trump administration is certainly an improvement on presidential freedom of speech. A president should have the same right to an opinion on everyday stuff like broccoli as anybody else, regardless of special interest groups trying to censor him. And as long as he is consistent the president should also be able to say what he thinks about politics, even if much of it is necessarily going to be divisive. Trump, after being elected on a protectionist, anti-globalisation platform can hardly be blamed for now saying (and enacting in the case of the TPP) protectionist stuff against globalisation. I don't think "you can't say that, it would upset somebody" is a viable demand towards politicians. The idea to please every single special interest group out there in order to maximize votes is flawed from the outset, and doesn't lead to anywhere good.

Having said that, words have consequences, even for presidents. Being a straight talker usually isn't helpful in diplomacy. A president should have the right to defend his country against foreign interests in word and deed, but sometimes you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. And if you want to hurt another country, you better consider first how that country might hurt you back. Sometimes you just need to pick your fights, instead of fighting in all directions simultaneously. Why insult Europe needlessly if you are already in a fight with the developing countries that benefited most from globalisation?

And while I do think that the president should have the freedom of speech to say what he thinks (which is much better than forcing him to lie), a president also needs a skin thick enough to deal with the freedom of speech of others. Persecuting others for disagreeing with him is not a good presidential trait. It makes him look like the spoiled brat dictator of Trumpistan instead of the most powerful statesman of the world. Without the use of a Stalinist system of tyranny a politician can never get 99.8% approval rating. And the cost of silencing dissenting voices is far, far higher than the benefit, as every dictator sooner or later learned. Freedom of speech is not just for presidents, it is for everybody.

Comments:
I don't think Trump would get nearly as much backlash against him talking his mind if he wouldn't lie most of the time.
 
@Tobold

The idea to please every single special interest group out there in order to maximize votes is flawed from the outset, and doesn't lead to anywhere good.

But how do you weigh that against the ability to govern when he ran a very specific platform which netted him the presidency? He told everyone what he would do if elected president, so it defies logic that the special interest groups(which includes the liberal agenda) would be able to cry foul now that he is, in fact, doing the very things he promised he would do.
 
Trump is at war with US media culture. Once they have admitted defeat, it will be time for him to re-think his attitude.
 
Once they have admitted defeat...

Turkey has jailed 81 journalists on "anti-state" charges, and the Turkish media haven't admitted defeat yet, nor have they stopped criticizing Erdogan. What makes you think that Trump will do any better, and how many US journalists would he have to imprison to arrive there?
 
I have to agree with bryksom when he says Trump wouldn't get nearly as much backlash if he wasn't spouting lies so often.

A lot of Trump's viewpoints aren't actually that radical when you look at the republican party as a whole. He isn't the first Republican to talk about travel bans/restrictions from certain counties. He isn't the first Republican to talk about large scale deportation. He isn't the first Republican to talk about dismantling government agencies. He is definitely not the first politician to spout complete lies and untruths.

In fact in some ways (certain social issues) he actually leans left of mainstream Republicans.

The reason why Trump is such a big deal to the left is because no one has ever been as bold in what they do as he is.

For me personally it's sad that the general population in this country is so ignorant of politics and seem so loathe actually educating themselves on issues. Even people who want to follow politics tend to seek out "news" that confirms their bias.

It doesn't help that news organizations have gone from focusing on reporting news to 24/7 marathons trying to garner ratings and views.

I don't blame people for questioning the credibility of CNN/MSNBC/etc when every event is covered with insane shit like "KiLLer STORM 2017!!! How to keep your family safe!!".
Fox news reports blatant lies but it's hard to have the moral high ground when your own coverage is exaggerated headlines and not much better then click bait YouTube trash.
 
What I also don't understand is the hypocracy of it all. There once was a president who was almost impeached because he didn't want to admit to adultery and rather lied. Something very personal that should be between him, his wife and sidechick in the first place.

And then you have the most televised candidate ever, who sometimes contradicts himself in the same program, whose lies are very easy to check because he is on TV the whole fucking time. But of course it's alternative facts so no harm no foul amirite.
 
The way I see it it just comes down to what side of the story people want to believe.

Bill Clinton cheating on his wife was a big deal to the right because he wasn't their guy.

Trump is their guy now so things like his tax returns are his personal items that no one else should care about. And him talking about sexually harassing woman is just locker room talk.

People will jump through mental hoops to stick to their predetermined bias.
 
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