I’m enjoying the latest episode of Pod Save America, on which Katie Couric talks about what the media is doing right — and wrong — under the Trump administration.
Kara Swisher has posted a draft of the letter:
Since the country’s birth, America has been the land of opportunity — welcoming newcomers and giving them the chance to build families, careers and businesses in the United States. We are a nation made stronger by immigrants. As entrepreneurs and business leaders, our ability to grow our companies and create jobs depends on the contributions of immigrants from all backgrounds.
All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into that work — the joyous work of citizenship. Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.
I’ll be right there with you every step of the way.
And when the arc of progress seems slow, remember: America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We the People.’ ‘We shall overcome.’
Yes, we can.
I don’t know what’s going to happen. I fear that we will be unable to insure our son because he was diagnosed with a brain tumor as an infant. I fear that I am going to be in a position where I have to choose between my company and my family.
That — in no way — is something that I should fear as an American citizen, an entrepreneur or a father.
The space agency’s next major exploration program could last the better part of half a century, too. So we ought to choose wisely. The Moon is closer and offers potential utility as a refueling station in space. Mars harbors more intrigue in the search for life and represents the Solar System’s best bet for a second home. But we’re going nowhere without a final choice—followed by investment and commitment. Absent this from the Trump administration and Congress, NASA will continue to find itself adrift.
In 2004, Bush announced his desire to return to the moon, while the Obama Administration scrapped that and set NASA’s sights on Mars. If this GOP administration flips this again, we may end up going nowhere fast.
It’s easy forget NASA is part of the federal government until something like this comes up.
Donald Trump is not a man who should be president. This is not an ideological judgment. This is not something I would say about Mitt Romney or Marco Rubio. This is not a disagreement over Donald Trump’s tax plan or his climate policies. This is about Trump’s character, his temperament, his impulsiveness, his basic decency.
While Obama didn’t speak directly about the Apple/FBI case in his appearance at SXSW, I sure don’t like his comments. Michael Shear at The New York Times:
“If, technologically, it is possible to make an impenetrable device or system, where the encryption is so strong that there is no key, there is no door at all, then how do we apprehend the child pornographer?” Mr. Obama said. “How do we disrupt a terrorist plot?”
If the government has no way into a smartphone, he added, “then everyone is walking around with a Swiss bank account in your pocket.”
The argument of “bad things may happen so we need less security” is a scary one. John Gruber writes:
Our phones are either insecure, making life easier for law enforcement — or, our phones are secure, making life more difficult for law enforcement, rendering some potential evidence unobtainable. We don’t ban matches to prevent people from burning evidence. We don’t mandate weak locks to make it easier for the police to crack safes.
Hadas Gold at Politico, quoting Donald Trump:
“One of the things I’m going to do if I win, and I hope we do and we’re certainly leading. I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money. We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when The New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when The Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.”
While shield laws are designed to give reporters the right to refuse to give up their sources, journalists aren’t immune to being charged with libel.
Trump says that big newspapers are allowed to do what they want because they are “completely protected,” but that’s just not true. Proving libel, however, is difficult. According to the Associated Press Stylebook, a plaintiff must be able to prove these five things:
- A defamatory statement was made.
- The defamatory statement is a matter of fact, not opinion.
- The defamatory statement is false.
- The defamatory statement is about (“of and concerning”) the plaintiff.
- The defamatory statement was published with the requisite degree of “fault.”
The “actual malice” clause is often cited in libel cases, but the term is a little tricky. The thought is that if a reporter or organization published something with the knowledge that it was indeed false, it was done so with “actual malice.”
Trump claims that these newspapers are publishing “false articles,” but if the articles are factual, and merely contain content that he finds displeasing, it’s not libel.
Reporters are allowed to comment with opinion. Again, from the AP Stylebook:
The right of fair comment has been summarized as follows: “Everyone has a right to comment on matters of public interest and concern, provided they do so fairly and with an honest purpose. Such comments or criticism are not libelous, however severe in their terms, unless they are written maliciously. Thus it has been held that books, prints, pictures and statuary publicly exhibited, and the architecture of public buildings, and actors and exhibitors are all the legitimate subjects of newspapers’ criticism, and such criticism fairly and honestly made is not libelous, however strong the terms of censure may be.” (Hoeppner v. Dunkirk Pr. Co., 1930.)
Accurate reporting, no matter how distasteful it may feel to certain people, is a critical part of our democracy. The fact that a leading Presidential candidate wants to upset the balance is worrisome.
However, as with a lot of his comment, Trump is speaking to something that a President can’t actually control. Not only is Congress the branch of government in charge of laws, there are no federal libel laws. Libel is defined differently, state-to-state.
Loosening these laws is a troubling thought. Donald Trump can surely outgun just about any media organization on the planet when it comes to funding legal fights. The implication that he’d try to bend legislation for personal gain shouldn’t be surprising at this point, but it is terrifying.