1 Yes, “enemy of the people” is accurate. I searched all over cable and network news this morning to find an outlet that wasn’t dominated by the breaking news that a President-to-be had an adulterous affair with a porn star 12 years ago. I couldn’t find one. The media-wide effort to undermine an elected President and his respect in the nation and the world at a time of great challenges and peril on all fronts is irresponsible, destructive, and demonstrates the collapse of journalism as a bulwark of American democracy.
Journalists don’t have to behave like this: they have chosen to, because they discern that a critical mass of citizens–bad ones–would rather see the President of the United States humiliated and weakened nationally and internationally based on his past than to permit him the same crucial advantage that every other President since George Washington has been conceded and used. That is the inherent dignity and honor of the office itself. As I wrote here before, almost every President could have been embarrassed in this way, and some far more. In the past, the public wouldn’t have tolerated it. A full year of “the resistance” and non-stop media attacks made this President uniquely vulnerable to ad hominem attacks, and the only protection left intact between sensational smears and responsible journalism were ethical standards, which is to say, with today’s journalism, nothing at all.
This is no less than a ruthless, ratings- and bias-driven attack on American institutions, and every future President, and the nation, and our democracy, and the world itself, will suffer for it. Ironically, Trump may suffer from it least of all, since no one who supported his candidacy cared about traditional standards regarding who was fit to inherit the legacy of Washington, Lincoln and the rest. Still, this concerted effort to reduce his tenure to endless character assassination does undermine him, and us.
I don’t know what the President meant when he dubbed the news media the “enemy of the people;” he does not use words with anything approaching precision or consistency. I do know what I mean by the phrase, however: an institution that exists to strengthen American democracy has been deliberately engaging in conduct designed to weaken it. That is the conduct of enemies of the people, and that is what the mainstream news media has become.
2. The next Black Lives Matter bandwagon. The news media was also playing tabloid in the Stephon Clark shooting controversy this morning, showing the dead man’s grandmother weeping, asking why he had to die, and asking why the officers couldn’t have shot him “in the arm.” We won’t see a resolution of this case for a long time, but that hasn’t stopped the NAACP, Al Sharpton, Clark’s family and the large number of police-haters on the left from concluding, before any investigation, that he was “murdered.” The family has also hired the same lawyer, Ben Crump, who represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, neither of whom were murdered, and both of whom are still referred to a murder victims on the Black Lives Matter website.
In Sacramento, California, on March 18, two officers responded to a radio call regarding a man who was breaking car windows. The uniformed officers were checking the area on foot when a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department helicopter pointed them in the direction of a possible suspect, Clark.
He was seen running through a back yard, jumping over a fence, then looking into a car parked in the driveway of what was later revealed to be his grandmother’s house. The officers approached Clark, guns drawn, and ordered him to show them his hands, a standard command. Instead Clark ran, with the officers in pursuit. They ordered Clark to stop, but he ran around the corner of the house and out of the officers’ view. Again the officers followed, then ducked back behind the house, shouting “Show me your hands! Gun!”, then “Show me your hands!” followed immediately by “Gun, gun, gun!” Both officers opened fire, emptying their guns, killing Clark.
Clark had no gun, just a cell phone. The video is inconclusive.
I know what will occur here, and you should as well. Those who either distrust the police or who want to ramp up racial tensions will assert that Clark was executed because he was black. Those who believe that most police officers perform an impossible and perilous job with good faith and dedication will argue that they must be accorded the benefit of the doubt. They will get that benefit, aided greatly by the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Graham v. Connor, which set the standards for how courts, juries and prosecutors should evaluate such incidents:
“The ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force, must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight…The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments — in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving — about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.”
Graham was a case in which police used force on a man who had not committed a crime, but whose behavior gave officers a reasonable basis to believe that he had.
Clark’s officers will either not be charged or acquitted if the are, and the verdict will be falsely and unethically attributed to racism, with the news media pushing that time-worn narrative. Again.
3. Life imitates ethics art. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is a great ethics film, and it also is serving as a different kind of inspiration. Kat Sullivan, who alleges she was raped in 1998 by a male teacher at the Emma Willard School in Troy, New York rented three billboards to call out her attacker and to push for passage of the proposed Child Victims Actin New York. She rented one billboard on a highway near Albany, one in Fairfield, Connecticut, where her alleged rapist once lived and taught, and one in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he now lives.
Sullivan was a student when was sexually abused and raped by a former teacher at the Emma Willard School in Troy, New York in the 1990s. A report commissioned by the school found that teacher Scott Sargent had been fired for sexually abusing her, but was still given letters of recommendations to teach elsewhere. The statute of limitations ran out long ago.
One of the messages that will rotate through the three billboards says “NY Pass The Child Victims Act,” proposed legislation that would give victims up to age 28 to file criminal charges and allow them to sue in civil court until age 50. The law would also create a one-year “lookback” window that would allow any case, no matter how old, to proceed in court. The statutes of limitations in New York covering the sexual abuse of children are among the most restrictive in the country.
The proper length of time for statutes of limitations to run for various crimes is too complex to examine here. They are undeniably necessary to protect the rights of the accused, even though they also allow some criminals to escape punishment, as in this case. The “lookback” window is a bad idea, though I sympathize with any victim who has been robbed of justice for supporting the concept. If statutes of limitation are valid, and they are, then deciding to suspend them for a year cannot be ethical or wise. There would be some isolated examples of justice if murder laws were suspended for a year too, but on the whole, it would be a disaster.
4. And yes, the U.N. also is as terrible as Trump says it is. Bret Stephens, the Times’ alleged conservative op-ed writer (who wants to repeal the Second Amendment), did a surprisingly excellent job visiting the taboo subject of the United Nations’ near absolute ethical void. In a column called “John Bolton Is Right About the U.N.”—saying anything positive about the new National Security Advisor is also heresy in progressive circles–he writes in part,
Confronted with the record of failure, U.N. defenders typically deflect and demand: the former, by pointing to the bad behavior of individual states as the cause of U.N. failures; the latter, by insisting that the U.N.’s core problem is a dearth of financial resources and legal authorities….Contrary to the belief that the U.N. runs on a shoestring, total expenditure for the U.N. system in 2016 was around $49 billion. That’s up 22 percent since 2010. And the abuse of the U.N. system by states such as Russia to protect clients like Bashar al-Assad is a feature of the system, not a bug.
So is the chronic mismanagement. Two years ago, Anthony Banbury, a former assistant U.N. secretary general, wrote an op-ed for The Times explaining why he resigned his job. “I was unprepared for the blur of Orwellian admonitions and Carrollian logic that govern” U.N. headquarters, he recalled:
“If you locked a team of evil geniuses in a laboratory, they could not design a bureaucracy so maddeningly complex, requiring so much effort but in the end incapable of delivering the intended result. The system is a black hole into which disappear countless tax dollars and human aspirations, never to be seen again.”
And that’s from a self-described believer in the U.N.’s ideals and mission. But the truth of the U.N. is probably worse, since fixes to the system never seem to work.
The Obama Administration’s policy was to attempt to surrender more and more American policy-making autonomy to this corrupt international body that is extolled in the U.S. based on its stated ideals rather than its depressing reality.