Even if Donald Trump somehow got to the age of 70 without having a working understanding of the Constitution, world events or public policy, you would think in running for the presidency he would have picked something up. Nope. Though access to experts, long flights during which he might read (!) and visits to historic sites might have helped educate him, he remains willfully ignorant even in the final weeks. (Did we mention it is about 14 days and 9 hours until voting starts?)
In an interview with the local CBS TV affiliate in Miami, Trump demonstrated what a complete ignoramus he is when it comes to basic precepts of American democracy.
He extolled at some length in the interview, as he often does on the trail, that Hillary Clinton has “committed so many crimes” that she “should not be allowed to run for president.” We’ll set aside how a Republicans could possibly be losing to her, but what the heck is he talking about?! Not allowed to run by whom? Who says she has committed crimes? Trump acts as investigator, judge and jury and then decrees Clinton shall not run. What political system does he imagine we live in? It’s at times like this — when his glaring ignorance and penchant for authoritarianism are displayed — that you have to chuckle at conservatives justifying their vote for him “because of the Supreme Court.” Who needs a court when Trump runs the executive branch, right?
Trump’s recitation on libel laws is equally bizarre. He announced that he prefers the English system where you can sue simply if something is false. He then said,”I’m a big believer, tremendous believer, of the freedom of the press. Nobody believes it stronger than me.” (No, really. He said that). But he said if the media make a big mistake they should have to apologize if they made the misstatement on purpose. Thunk. Maybe he could rent “Absence of Malice” — which explains that is the system we have right now. In fact, Trump may be keen to find out the media is liable for defaming a public figure even if they are merely reckless. His constitutional buffoonery is remarkable.
It’s worse than that, of course. Not only does Trump want to change the law — does he realize he would need a constitutional amendment? — but he seems not to understand that the First Amendment protects him, too. When he said Clinton has “committed so many crimes,” he was protected from suit by the same standard that protects the New York Times. Clinton cannot sue him because he calls the Clinton Foundation a “criminal enterprise” both because it is likely to be interpreted as a figure of speech and, yup, because of the First Amendment. She’s a public figure; he has reasonable grounds for believing his statement to be true.
The same First Amendment comes into play when Trump says the women who have come forward to complain about sexual assault are “liars” or in cahoots with the Clinton campaign. Here, it gets interesting. He surely knows if he did assault any of them, and if he did the “liar” accusation is a purposeful one. It’s defamation.
Trump seems to have learned very little in the way of American history, civics and law. And yet he is “allowed” to run for president. What a country, right?