Donald Trump Wrong About Watering Down Libel Laws

There is no way to describe last week’s Washington Post interview with Donald Trump without using, or at least thinking, expletives.  Though the following transcript portion is lengthy it is also telling for the lack of depth Trump exhibits when pressed on any matter–this one being his desire to loosen the libel laws in the nation.

Trump wants to sue news organizations he believes have written what he calls “hit pieces.”  As a former radio broadcaster and news reporter this matter resonates for me.  As a history buff and follower of politics and a daily consumer of the work of journalists I do not wish to see limitations placed on the free press.

Before we venture into Trump’s tortured reasoning and chaotic sentence structure during the Post interview let me place this matter into some larger context.

Right now there is a high bar–and for good reason–about how high public officials need to jump to prove libel.  That is a result from a court case I first learned of in high school civics.  A case I was nerdy enough then to find so interesting I wrote a paper on it and still have it in my collection of childhood mementoes.

From 1964, the famed New York Times Co. v. Sullivan case underscored that a public figure has to prove an offending statement was made with “actual malice, that is with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”   It is a high standard, a tough standard, and mostly an impossible standard to meet.    And for good reason.   

To simply not like what a reporter says or writes, or to make a frivolous claim about the intent of a journalist would severely limit the working press corps in this nation.    Whether Trump knows or not–and I strongly suggest he does not know–this matter of libel law is clear, workable, and agreed to by justices from both ends of the political spectrum.

RYAN: Would you expand, for example, prior restraints against publications?

TRUMP: No, I would just say this. All I want is fairness. So unfair. I have stories and you have no recourse, you have no recourse whatsoever because the laws are really impotent.

MARCUS: So in a better world would you be able to sue me?

TRUMP: In a better world — no — in a better world I would be able to get a retraction or a correction. Not even a retraction, a correction.

RYAN: Well, now, you’ve been a plaintiff in libel suits so you know a little bit of the elements …

TRUMP: I had one basic big libel suit, it was a very bad system, it was New Jersey. I had a great judge, the first one, and I was going to win it. And then I had another good judge, the second one, and then they kept switching judges. And the third one was a bad judge. That’s what happened. But, uh…

RYAN: But there’s standards like malice is required. Would you weaken that? Would you require less than malice for news organizations?

TRUMP: I would make it so that when someone writes incorrectly, yeah, I think I would get a little bit away from malice without having to get too totally away. Look, I think many of the stories about me are written badly. I don’t know if it’s malice because the people don’t know me. When Charles writes about me or when Ruth writes about me, you know, we’ve never really met. And I get these stories and they’re so angry and I actually say, I actually say, “How could they write?” – and many stories I must tell you, many stories are written that with a brief phone call could be corrected before they’re written. Nobody calls me.

STEPHEN STROMBERG, EDITORIAL WRITER: How are you defining “incorrect?” It seems like you’re defining it as fairness or your view of fairness rather than accuracy.

TRUMP: Fairness, fairness is, you know, part of the word. But you know, I’ve had stories that are written that are absolutely incorrect. I’ll tell you now and the word “intent”, as you know, is an important word, as you know, in libel. I’ll give you an example. Some of the media, not all of it, but some of it, is very, very strong on – you know I get these massive crowds of people, and we’ll get protesters. And these protesters are honestly, they’re very bad people. In many cases, they’re professionals. Highly trained professionals. And I will rent an arena for 20,000 seats and they will come in – because there’s really no way – how you going to be able to tell – somebody said “oh you shouldn’t let ‘em in” – how you gonna know, you know? They walk in. [Inaudible] So we had an incident this weekend, which was amazing in Tucson, Arizona where a man, a protestor, wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit, another one dragging an American flag, was walking out of the arena, and an African American man who was a supporter was sitting there listening to the speech and we had to stop because they were so loud – they’re so loud, these people, I don’t know what they do, they’re trained voices or something. And they’re walking up and you saw it, because it was all over television, and the African American man became incensed I think the guy said something to him like you know what, like “screw you,” okay? Or worse. I think, because he looked over to him and said something to him and the guy just had it. Now, they were together, these two. The one wearing a Ku Klux Klan, the other dragging a flag or something, but the African American man, who I think was an Air Force person, I just read he had a pretty stellar life so far. And he just became incensed. So when I saw the television yesterday early in the morning I saw the Ku Klux Klan, I saw exactly what happened. By the time it got on to the national shows that was for the most part taken out. They just had this African American smacking, you know, fighting. And it didn’t make sense, you know, why, why. But if you saw it in the morning it made a lot more sense. We don’t condone violence at all but it’s very, very unfair reporting and we, you know…

RYAN: Mr. Trump, you’ve mentioned many times during the campaign, in fact including this morning, instances you feel where the press has been biased or unfair or outright false in their reporting, and you’ve mentioned that you want to “open up” the libel laws. You’ve said that several times.

TRUMP: I might not have to, based on Gawker. Right?


TRUMP: That was an amazing—

RYAN: My question is not so much why you feel they should be open but how. What presidential powers and executive actions would you take to open up the libel laws?

TRUMP: Okay, look, I’ve had stories written about me – by your newspaper and by others – that are so false, that are written with such hatred – I’m not a bad person. I’m just doing my thing – I’m, you know, running, I want to do something that’s good. It’s not an easy thing to do. I had a nice life until I did this, you know. This is a very difficult thing to do. In fact I’ve always heard that if you’re a very successful person you can’t run for office. And I can understand that. You’ll do a hundred deals, and you’ll do one bad one or two bad ones — that’s all they read about are the bad ones. They don’t read about the one hundred and fifty great ones that you had. And even some of the ones they write that are good, they make them sound bad. You know, so I’ve always heard that. I’ve heard that if you’re successful – very successful – you just can’t run for—

RYAN: But how would you fix that? You’ve said that you would open up the libel laws.

TRUMP: What I would do, what I would do is I’d – well right now the libel laws, I mean I must tell you that the Hulk Hogan thing was a tremendous shock to me because – not only the amount and the fact that he had the victory — because for the most part I think libel laws almost don’t exist in this country, you know, based on, based on everything I’ve seen and watched and everything else, and I just think that if a paper writes something wrong — media, when I say paper I’m talking about media. I think that they can do a retraction if they’re wrong. They should at least try to get it right. And if they don’t do a retraction, they should, they should you know have a form of a trial. I don’t want to impede free press, by the way. The last thing I would want to do is that. But I mean I can only speak for – I probably get more – do I, I mean, you would know, do I get more publicity than any human being on the earth? Okay? I mean, [Editor’s note: Trump points at Ruth Marcus] she kills me, this one – that’s okay, nice woman.

HIATT: But just – given the Supreme Court rulings on libel — Sullivan v. New York Times — how would you change the law?

TRUMP: I would just loosen them up.

RUTH MARCUS: What does that mean?


TRUMP: I’d have to get my lawyers in to tell you, but I would loosen them up. I would loosen them up. If The Washington Post writes badly about me – and they do, they don’t write good – I mean, I don’t think I get – I read some of the stories coming up here, and I said to my staff, I said, “Why are we even wasting our time? The hatred is so enormous.” I don’t know why. I mean, I do a good job. I have thousands of employees. I work hard.

I’m not looking for bad for our country. I’m a very rational person, I’m a very sane person. I’m not looking for bad. But I read articles by you, and others. And, you know, we’ve never – we don’t know each other, and the level of hatred is so incredible, I actually said, “Why am I – why am I doing this? Why am I even here?” And I don’t expect anything to happen–

RYAN: Would that be the standard then? If there is an article that you feel has hatred, or is bad, would that be the basis for libel?

TRUMP: No, if it’s wrong. If it’s wrong.

RYAN: Wrong whether there’s malice or not?

TRUMP: I mean, The Washington Post never calls me. I never had a call, “Why – why did you do this?” or “Why did you do that?” It’s just, you know, like I’m this horrible human being. And I’m not. You know, the one thing we have in common I think we all love the country. Now, maybe we come at it from different sides, but nobody ever calls me. I mean, Bob Costa calls about a political story – he called because we’re meeting senators in a little while and congressmen, supporters – but nobody ever calls.

RYAN: The reason I keep asking this is because you’ve  said three times you’ve said we are going to open up the libel laws and when we ask you what you mean you say hatred, or bad–

TRUMP: I want to make it more fair from the side where I am, because things are said that are libelous, things are said about me that are so egregious and so wrong, and right now according to the libel laws I can do almost nothing about it because I’m a well-known person you know, etc., etc.

Hats Off To A Republican Senator

I like it when folks do the proper thing.  I like it best when the political party that I find so distressing has a member who is noteworthy for making me proud.   The New York Times explains.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) “faced a barrage of criticism from conservative groups on Friday after he broke with his party’s leadership by saying he favored holding hearings on President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court”.  

“A founder of the Tea Party Patriots, Jenny Beth Martin, threatened to encourage a primary challenge against Mr. Moran, saying that grass-roots conservatives were ‘furious’ with his stance. The reaction from that group and others made it clear that they will tolerate no concessions in the court battle, even as Democrats characterize Republicans’ actions as an unprecedented dereliction of their constitutional obligation.”

Yet Moran did not back down: “I would rather have you complaining to me that I voted wrong on nominating somebody than saying I’m not doing my job.”

This is exactly what I have been urging and hoping for from the senate.  Let us hope Moran is but the first of many who see the light before voters makes them feel the heat.

This Will Aid Donald Trump’s Riots

The Akron Beacon Journal reports that more than 5,000 people signed a petition to allow guns at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Georgia Needs To Feel More Heat Over Anti-Gay Legislation

UPDATE……Gov. Nathan Deal announced he will veto this bill that would have curtailed the rights of Georgia’s LGBT community.


Nip it, nip it in the bud.

That is sage advice regarding many matters that come before unenlightened members of state legislatures nationwide.  This year that advice should have been employed in Georgia.

Instead the conservative forces in the Georgia legislature made a dreadful decision and in so doing have placed Governor Nathan Neal in the midst of a controversy.  At the heart of the matter is the need for Neal to make sure the discriminatory language in a recently passed bill with its wretched intent of misguided and bigoted language under the guise of religious liberty is vetoed.  The governor has until may 3rd to act.

The bill is pure hate and solely designed to undermine the Supreme Court ruling allowing for same sex marriage.   The bill would protect faith-based institutions from providing services for same sex couples.  They can use taxpayer money through grants and contracts to deny services based on their religious views.  Faith based groups could also adopt discriminatory hiring and firing practices for people who have different beliefs.   We simply can not allow any of that to happen.

But what the bill really does is violate our national values and principles of inclusion along with the ability of all people to live and work free from those who seek to undermine them in the name of their religion.

I am sincerely delighted with the national backlash this matter has received.

As the days progress the number of major companies and national organizations have escalated their ire with Georgia. There is no way for the governor to truly support the best interests of his state other than to veto this dreadful price of conservative hate.

We have seen Walt Disney Co., Netflix, Weinstein Co., Amblin Partners and other entertainment industry firms firmly state they would cease production in Georgia if the legislation is signed. They’ve joined other companies and institutions, including Atlanta-based heavyweights Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines and Emory University, which have come out to oppose the bill.  Sports organization have let it be known they are opposed to hate, as well.  A future Super Bowl game hangs in the balance.

Make no mistake about how this ends.   The national interests have Georgia right where we want them to be when it comes to being dependent on the economic might we provide to them.  If Georgia is not aware how to treat people fairly the rest of us who know will assist that southern state in how it must operate.  After all Georgia is the third largest place for television production in the country. In recent years the state has offered hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks to producers and studios, and has grown accustomed to celebrities and big budget films.   They are not about to lose all that over a bunch of three-thumbed twits not liking how gay people have civil rights for marriage.

Social issues like this are decided when liberals and progressives take a stand.  Threatening to pull funds worth hundreds of millions of dollars is the best way to send a message to those who still need reminding of what is not be allowed in America.

Donald Trump Is “Completely Uneducated About Any Part Of The World”

There is just no way to make an orange-skinned buffoon look smart.

Donald Trump had a horrible week.  The reason was of his own making.  His utter lack of any substance when it comes to international affairs was plain for all to see following interviews with the editors of the Washington Post and The New York Times.   The dangers he poses to the nation is no longer in question.

Meet The Press cut to the core when Andrea Mitchell laid it all out in a very concise fashion as to how Trump lacks intellect.


Exactly. And he (Trump)  cannot stick to a subject. It is remarkable. And when he doesn’t know something, he just changes the subject, and makes it all about himself.


On national security, it’s very noticeable, especially to your ears and mine.


Absolutely. And this was a week where he could have gone after President Obama, arguably. There’s a lot happening, and the president has some vulnerabilities, so does Hillary Clinton. But instead, he’s all over the lot. And then, The New York Times, DavidSanger and Maggie Haberman do an interview with him, a 90-minute interview, and it’s in today’s paper and online.

And the transcript, if you read the transcript online, he would cancel defense treaties with Japan and South Korea against North Korea. He doesn’t mind, he would be okay if Japan and South Korea go nuclear. American policy for decades since World War II has been trying to keep nukes out of that arena. He would stop importing oil from Saudi Arabia if they don’t pay more for their defense.

We need oil. We are not energy independent. We rely on oil still for our daily needs. He is completely all over the lot. On Iran, he complains that Iran isn’t buying our planes. It had to be pointed out to him that Iran is still under sanctions and cannot buy American planes. He thinks North Korea and Iran are the biggest trading partners, when North Korea’s biggest trading partner is China. He is completely uneducated about any part of the world.

Donald Trump’s World View Under Attack

Sunday’s Face The Nation was not kind to the ramblings that Donald Trump made last week about international affairs.

JOHN DICKERSON: Jeffrey, I want to switch now to you. Donald Trump gave two interviews this week, one to “The Washington Post” editorial board and then in two sets of interviews with “The New York Times,” particularly on foreign policy. On “The New York Times” conversation, what did you glean from his foreign policy world view?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG: I gleaned that he has no understanding of the post war international order that was created by the United States, that he has no understanding of why we maintain alliances with such treaty partners as Japan and South Korea, Britain, NATO and the importance of maintaining those stable relationships of democracies shows that he has no understanding of nuclear doctrine. I mean other than that, it was cool. It was really remarkable to imagine that someone who shows so little interest in understanding why the world is organized the way it is organized is this close to the presidency of the world’s only super power.

SUAN PAGE: You know it’s interesting, you look at the four candidates who you think might possibly be nominated like Clinton and Sanders or Trump and Cruz, and there’s only one who’s in the mainstream of either Republican or Democratic foreign policy thought, and that’s — and that’s Clinton.

BEN DOMENECH: (a conservative) Right.

Donald Trump Proves He Is Not A Long-Term Thinker

I have never been a delegate to a national convention, or worked as a staffer in a presidential campaign.  I have, however, followed politics for decades.  I read a great deal and probably amass more (useless?) information then I will ever need.  Which is more than one can say for Donald Trump.

The news this weekend on so many fronts concerning the Republican’s self-created and self-generated political nightmare is simply hard to image actually happening.  Yet it all is playing out to an American electorate that is simply stunned.  Every day there is another reason to understand why the GOP will implode at the ballot box this fall.  I wonder if the right-wingers understand what they did to their party over the past seven years as they ramped up the anti-Obama fever in order to score midterm election victories.

Apart from the misogynist rants from Trump these past days came the following nugget reported in The Hill.

Trump has blasted media reports that Ted Cruz will pick up extra delegates in Louisiana weeks after that state’s primary.   The billionaire tweeted  “Welcome to the Republican Party. What’s going on in the Republican Party is a disgrace.”

Simply not true. 

Let it be known this liberal blogger only stands with the GOP when they are correct.  And when it comes to the delegate selection process they are not out of line.

There is no one to blame other than the orange-skinned wing-nut for not knowing the rules of the road when it comes to allocating delegates or making sure a candidate has clear-cut allies when the final list of convention delegates are made.  Cruz did his homework as did his staff and now are playing by the rules everyone else had the same access to from the start of this process.

Had Trump not been so wrapped up in Megyn Kelly’s supposed menstrual cycles he might have known some of the ways he is about to be tortured at the national convention.

Cruz has the skills and the team to cherry pick delegates and make the second ballot at the convention—should it get to that point–the night Trump’s hair turns white.

Is Bernie Sanders The Modern Day Gene McCarthy?

I have long wondered, but never able to fully answer, whether Gene McCarthy truly regretted what happened in 1968.   The anti-war champion and great appealer to the youth of the nation never was able to get over the charm and idealism that Robert Kennedy brought to the race for the Democratic nomination.  Following the horror in June 1968 McCarthy was never able to convey any human compassion in a credible way to the nation.  Once it was clear Hubert Humphrey was the nominee there was seemingly no way for McCarthy to understand his duty to the party.  It would be very late–too late–before McCarthy would allow his tepid support to show.

History shows what happened when a failed candidate and his youthful, but short-sighted followers, failed to support the eventual nominee.  Richard Nixon won the White House, expanded the Vietnam War, undermined the Constitution with all the crimes that fall under the term Watergate, faced articles of impeachment, and resigned.

The election in 1968 was very close.  Most scholars have written how the strong support of McCarthy towards Humphrey along with the energy and votes of his followers would have allowed the Democratic nominee to prevail.   But petty politics not only destroyed the election that year, but did long-term damage to our nation.

I mention all this as news reports show Bernie Sanders plans an aggressive push in New York for the upcoming primary.  Looking to model the contest like that from Michigan he hopes for a win.   I understand the desire of a candidate to pursue a dream   But the Sanders’ team wants to do Clinton damage in her home state.  That may sound good to his fans but it sounds dreadful for those of us who think long-term.

As has been noted before on this blog Hillary Clinton needs to pivot–now–to two tasks in this election.

One is bringing various elements of the party together for the fall campaign.  With Donald Trump as the likely GOP nominee that task will be much  easier than it might have been had a reasonable Republican contender made it to the top.  There is no need to elongate or burden Clinton with a fight from Sanders that has no realistic math to show a delegate win at the convention.  But that is exactly what is happening.

The second thing Clinton should be doing is taking the fight to the GOP nominee.  Needing to fight Sanders wastes money, resources, and time.   The outcome is not in doubt.    Let us look at the delegate count.  After Sanders’ three wins on Saturday, Clinton holds a delegate lead of 1,243 to 975.  But wait!!   That advantage expands to 1,712 to 1,004 once the superdelegates are included.

Clinton should not need to further engage with a primary opponent who is now only fighting for a legacy notation in the history books.

Let us hope that historians will not need to look back and ask if Sanders regretted what he did in 2016 which allowed for a dangerous Republican to win the White House.