Today Donald Trump sent out this tweet:
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016
It er, expectedly sent the media into a frenzy.
The Supreme Court has twice affirmed the right to desecrate the American flag as a form of free speech — a historically contentious issue — in cases before the high court in 1989 and 1990.
In the 1989 case “Texas v. Johnson,” the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that flag burning was a form of “symbolic speech” protected by the First Amendment. The ruling came after an appeal from Gregory Johnson, who had been convicted by a Texas court of violating a state law that prohibited the “desecration of a venerated object” such as the US flag.
The following year, in “United states v. Eichman,” the top court again affirmed the right to burn the flag when it ruled 5-4 that the Flag Protection Act of 1989 — passed by Congress in response to the Johnson decision — was unconstitutional.
It’s not immediately clear what prompted Trump’s tweet Tuesday morning, though the national discussion of respect for the flag has been restarted in part following a flag burning November 10 on the campus of Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, as part of a post-election protest. The university then decided to stop flying the American flag at the campus, which also infuriated some members of the community.
The president-elect’s tweet is a direct conflict with free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that flag-burning is protected by the First Amendment.
The president-elect came under immediate fire for his comments. Mother Jones called it “a terrifying sign of how he may crack down on dissent during his administration, even if it means trampling the Constitution in the process.”
CNN’s Chris Cuomo lectured Trump transition communications director Jason Miller Tuesday morning, citing Supreme Court cases that ruled flag burning to be protected under the Constitution.
“These things matter Jason, they just do. When things are vetted by the Supreme Court and it’s seen as constitutional, you gotta respect that. You just have to respect that,” he said.
“When the President-elect says something, we gotta listen,” pressed Cuomo. “When [Trump] says that something should be illegal that’s a protected Constitutional right — I’m not saying I like it, but that’s a big part of the First Amendment in this country, a frustrating, maddening part of it — is that you gotta respect people’s ability to say what you don’t like.” The CNN New Day anchor continued, “It is a protected Constitutional right — can we agree on that?”
He knows all that. Once again, he showed his mastery of the press. His proposal was a carbon copy of something Hillary Clinton co-sponsored in 2005:
One final thing on popularity of anti-flag-burning laws. Hillary Clinton SPONSORED one in 2005 that featured a one-year prison sentence.
— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) November 29, 2016
Now where have I heard the idea of a one-year prison sentence for flag burning before? pic.twitter.com/l8Vw4iTs9p
— Joe Colangelo (@Itsjoeco) November 29, 2016
Trump threw out the bait, the press swallowed it whole. he knows full well that this has no chance of surviving. He was once again making clear the contempt he deals with from the Fourth Estate. If this is any indication, the next four years are going to be great fun.