Saturday, December 16, 2017
Politics

Sue Carlton: The president, the players and the one about free speech

Here is the remarkable thing about the president's recent and ongoing harangue against professional football players who kneel during the national anthem instead of standing, a form of peaceful protest:

There may be no person in the free world who has benefitted more from the right to say what he wants — no matter how controversial, no matter how offensive — than Donald Trump.

Illegal immigrants?

Women in all their glorious grabbable-ness?

Critics?

Politicians who oppose him?

We are well aware — and in colorful terms — of his freewheeling feelings on these subjects. This is a man who made a potty joke worthy of an 11-year-old boy about the woman he was running against. And got crude by innuendo about a female newscaster. And got elected anyway. In fact, got himself celebrated in certain corners as a Man of the People who Tells It Like It Is.

That's free speech for you.

But apparently not for NFL players who go down on one knee instead of standing for the Star-Spangled Banner in a show of solidarity and protest against racial inequity. On this subject, the president used his own free speech rights to refer to such people with a term we'd rather not print in a family newspaper. He said they should be fired.

Free speech for me, but not for you!

Surely, like the rest of us, the president remembers learning in history class about how nonviolent dissent has pushed this country forward and shaped the America we are.

Surely he remembers images of lunch counter sit-ins, of war protests and political rallies. You don't have to agree with their point. You can be fiercely opposed to their cause. But surely he's heard the one about not liking what someone has to say and defending to the death their right to say it.

Trump called not standing "a total disrespect of everything that we stand for." But isn't the right to peacefully disagree at least part of what the troops he so strongly supports are fighting for?

The president has the right to express how he feels, even if what he feels is that other people don't have a right to express how they feel.

But is picking this particular fight right now what you want from a president who has things like health care, North Korea and Russia meddling in our elections to think about? Is this fanning the flames in hopes of distracting us?

Here's another question: Could he have said he disagreed with what the players were doing but respected that other opinions exist? The answer is: Only if he actually did.

Sometimes, pushback can surprise you. A whole lot of players, not to mention coaches, staffers and some very rich owners, made a public show of arm-in-arm solidarity against the president's words against peaceful dissent.

Free speech meant that much.

And you might think about checking your President Everyman credentials when Dale Earnhardt Jr. — the wildly popular NASCAR driver — steps up on Twitter about the right of all Americans to peacefully protest. He even threw in a quote from President John F. Kennedy, the one that says those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

There's some free speech worth listening to.

Contact Sue Carlton at [email protected]

Comments
With Rubio, Corker back on board, GOP speeds ahead with tax plan

With Rubio, Corker back on board, GOP speeds ahead with tax plan

WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers on Friday secured enough votes to pass the most sweeping tax overhaul in decades, putting them on the cusp of their first significant legislative victory this year as party leaders geared up to pass a $1.5 trillion t...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

Experts chart path for Hillsborough to grow smarter before sprawl takes over

TAMPA — Nearly 600,000 more people will live in Hillsborough County by 2040, and if elected officials and county planners don’t take bold steps now, the population boom will turn the county into the soulless sprawl of Anywhere, U.S.A.That’s the messa...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Highlights of GOP compromise bill to overhaul tax code

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress have blended separate tax bills passed by the House and Senate into compromise legislation that seeks to achieve a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s tax code. GOP leaders are looking toward passage of the final pa...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

Tillerson retreats on offer of unconditional N. Korea talks

WASHINGTON — America’s top diplomat stepped back Friday from his offer of unconditional talks with North Korea, telling world powers that the nuclear-armed nation must earn the right to negotiate with the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillers...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

Judge signals release of ex-Trump chair Paul Manafort to Florida home under curfew and GPS monitoring

A federal judge Friday said a bail package has been put together that would release former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort from home confinement in his condominium in Virginia and allow him to reside at his house in Palm Beach Gardens, but unde...
Updated: 6 hours ago
The meta-soap opera of Omarosa Manigault’s White House exit

The meta-soap opera of Omarosa Manigault’s White House exit

WASHINGTON — As the spooling drama of Omarosa Manigault Newman’s White House departure spun into its 36th hour, Washington began asking itself: "Does it actually matter whether Omarosa quit or was fired?"Dumbest story ever," tweeted John Harwood, the...
Published: 12/15/17
Know your candidates: Florida State House | District 58

Know your candidates: Florida State House | District 58

A hard-fought Republican primary ended with the nomination of Lawrence McClure in October during a whirlwind special election cycle to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who is stepping down for health reasons. The GOP winner faces face three less wel...
Updated: 9 hours ago
House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he’s not leaving Congress soon

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday he’s not leaving Congress anytime soon, trying to squelch rumors that he will walk away in triumph after the Republicans’ treasured tax bill is approved. Politico and the Huffington Post published re...
Published: 12/14/17
Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

Pence to delay Mideast trip as tax deal nears vote

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence is delaying his weekend departure for the Middle East as Congress nears completion of a tax overhaul, his office announced Thursday. White House officials said Pence now plans to leave for Egypt on Tuesday so he...
Published: 12/14/17
Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

Senator: Comey’s remarks on Clinton probe heavily edited

WASHINGTON — A draft statement former FBI director James Comey prepared in anticipation of concluding the Hillary Clinton email case without criminal charges was heavily edited to change the "tone and substance" of the remarks, a Republican senator s...
Published: 12/14/17