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Donald Trump and "opening up" libel laws

By Scott Tibbs, May 8, 2017

I am not sure if President Trump is playing a political hand in calling for "opening up" libel laws or if he is serious, but in either case he really needs to stop. He is not going to win this battle, he is damaging himself politically, and he is distracting energy from necessary aspects of his agenda.

First, Trump is not going to win this fight. We are not going to get the required number of states to approve a change to the First Amendment to amend libel laws. There will not be a convention of the states, the language will not pass Congress, and the legislatures will not approve it.

As an aside, even if Trump does seriously propose changing the text of the First Amendment to make libel cases easier for plaintiffs to win, that is not the same as "abolishing" the First Amendment. Trump's critics need to focus on what he actually says and proposes, not on their hysterical fantasies about what he says and proposes. A strong criticism can be made of Trump's call to change libel laws or change the First Amendment, but the credibility of that argument is heavily damaged if Trump's critics run beyond what he is actually doing. It is too easy to then dismiss the entire argument as "fake news."

Furthermore, this fight harms Trump politically by making him look like an ignoramus. Libel lawsuits are handled by state civil courts, not federal courts. It does not help when Trump at least appears to not understand the difference between the two, and let's be honest here: Trump is a thin-skinned crybaby. Every time he is criticized, he whines about how unfair it is and he holds a grudge. I generally support Trump's agenda, but he needs to grow up. He is the President of these United States and he needs to get over the fact that people are going to attack him.

This is a wasteful distraction. There are so many hours in the day, there is only so much time in the legislative schedule, and the clock is not only counting down to January 20, 2021, the clock is counting down rapidly to the 2018 mid-term elections. Trump needs to focus on his agenda, not on his fights with the news media. The conservative movement is still mostly behind Trump, and he has even brought on a number of #NeverTrump voters. Now is not the time for distractions and unwinnable battles. Now is the time to implement conservative reforms, especially regulatory reform (somewhere Trump has been very good) and tax reform.