A little less than a year from now, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz each hopes to lay a hand on the Bible and take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.Each man serves in the U.S. Senate and based on their statements in the last few days about free speech campaign rallies and protests, each is unqualified to take that oath.
The Constitution guarantees the right of each citizen to peacefully assemble, the right to give voice to your opinions, and freedom of association. It also gives each citizen who meets the qualifications the right to run for the office of President.
That’s where Cruz and Rubio fail the test.
Let me take a moment to prove this point. Senators talk a lot. They give speeches. Sometimes they vote on the important issues of the day. They very rarely get a chance to actually apply the Constitution in a practical way. This week they had such a test and they both flunked.
Donald Trump is running for President and I have endorsed him so I have a dog in this fight. Trump engages in the kind of free speech the founders had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment. He curses, he calls names and his utterances drive opponents on both sides of the aisle crazy. I love it. This kind of political speech isn’t new, despite what young reporters might say about it.
Trump also holds political rallies of the kind most politicians and office seekers can only dream. Going all the way back to last summer when he announced for President, Trump draws crowds that number in the tens of thousands.
Friday night, Donald Trump planned to speak to a rally in Chicago. More than ten thousand American citizens took time on a Friday night to travel, in some cases a long distance, to sit in the stands and hear him. It’s the kind of investment I wish more Americans would make in our self government. At the same time, more thousands of citizens (it pains me to call them Americans, but they are) conspired through social media to disenfranchise the Trump rally from their civil rights: their Constitutional rights. These thugs didn’t have a message of their own. The only association they had was a desire to deny their fellow citizen, Donald Trump, his right to speak. They also wanted to deny a right to assemble and to associate to the thousands who had gathered to hear Trump.
The result was chaos. Five people, all anti Constitution protesters were arrested. Two police were hurt. As thousands of hooligans flooded the arena, forcing Trump to cancel the rally, thousands who were already inside to hear Trump were trapped. Others ran a gauntlet to escape. Some found themselves trapped in garages by the crowds of thugs who flooded the streets. Some were confronted and terrorized.
Rubio and Cruz had a chance to speak out for a Constitutional rights and the rule of law. They went the opposite direction for political reasons that carry a personal benefit.
“When you have a campaign that disrespects the voters, when you have a campaign that affirmatively encourages violence, when you have campaign that is facing allegations of physical violence against members of the press, you create an environment that only encourages this sort of nasty discourse.” – Ted Cruz
Rubio: “I think we also have to look at the rhetoric coming from the front-runner in the presidential campaign,” Rubio told reporters in Largo, Florida. “This is a man who, in rallies, has told his supporters to basically beat up the people who are in the crowd and he will pay their legal fees. Someone who has basically encouraged people in the audience to rough up anyone who stands up and says something he doesn’t like.” – Marco Rubio
Let’s talk about a few facts instead of the apparently uninformed views of Cruz and Rubio.
1) It’s illegal to threaten someone with IMMINENT physical harm – Trump hasn’t done that.
2) It’s illegal in every state to incite to riot – An example would be to stand at the edge of a parking lot brawl and shout “hit him again” (or in Ferguson, MO to tell an angry crowd “burn this bitch down”). Trump hasn’t done that.
3) It’s illegal to threaten the lives of the President, Vice President, several other government office holders and major presidential candidates (I’m no lawyer but I figure Trump qualifies for that description) – Trump hasn’t done that, but he’s had it done to him.
What is legal is what Trump has said: “I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell ya.”
That’s not illegal. If you think it is, find a cop or a lawyer or a judge who says so. I haven’t found one yet.
Hell, if it was illegal, famed American conservative writer William F Buckley would have gone to jail for what he said to Gore Vidal on an ABC TV national broadcast during the ’68 political convention:
(New Yorker) BUCKLEY (snarling, teeth bared): Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your Goddamned face and you’ll stay plastered.”
I’ll bet at least one person you know, maybe you, has said “do that again and I’ll punch you,” or words to that effect. That’s American political free speech; it’s been around since Washington and Jefferson and it’s protected by the Constitution.
Cruz and Rubio could have stepped up to the plate: preserve, protect and defend the United States Constitution. They could have decried the activities of protesters who denied civil rights to fellow citizens with their uncivil activities Friday night. They didn’t. They could have defended the free speech rights of their fellow Presidential candidate. They didn’t.
What they did was grab an opportunity to bash Trump because he’s winning and they’re losing.
A lot of reporters who apparently don’t know the law, the Constitution or history have voiced the opinions that Trump’s sometimes challenging free speech justifies conspiring to shut down free assembly and free speech by the means we saw Friday in Chicago. Consider that if that logic was true, it would be legal for Pro Life Americans to block access to abortion clinics and threaten and women away from such places.
The courts have decided otherwise, ruling that access cannot be blocked.
If Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio hope to someday take that oath, they might want to demonstrate to Americans that they support its practical application.