WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

Criticizing presidents an American tradition

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After I read Lorraine Edwards’s letter to the editor published Feb. 5, “Disrespect for President Trump is offensive,” I felt the need to respond. Some of the things you stated were very wrong and misguided.

Your statement, “I learned many years ago in elementary, high school and college that when you are elected to the office of the president, you are given the title of president!” is incorrect. Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution states that “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.”  Nowhere in the Constitution does it state that the president is to be called “Mr. President.”  Vice President John Adams once advocated for the title “Highness” and “Protector of Their [the United States’] Liberties,” while others sought the titles “Electoral Highness” or “Excellency.”  George Washington decided that “Mr. President” was a better title because U.S. presidents are not kings or nobility.  They are elected by the people.

You also lecture George Leach in your letter by not calling Donald Trump “President Trump,” or “President Donald Trump.”  In the third paragraph of Leach’s column, “Trump and the shutdown: On-the-job training,” the first time that Trump is mentioned he is addressed as “President Trump.”  The three other times in the article that he is mentioned by name he is called “Trump.”  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this.  Unfortunately, you are not the first Trump supporter that I have encountered in the past few years who felt so deeply offended by this.  If you read any article or book about a president or one where a president is mentioned, they will be typically be mentioned a few times as “President ____.”  If they are mentioned further, especially a book entirely about that individual president, they are referred to by their last name.

Your argument does not hold water.  I did find it telling that you referred to Obama by his full name, “Barack Hussein Obama.”  You didn’t refer to Trump by his full name, “Donald John Trump.”  How offensive!  What is offensive is that Trump began his political career by pushing the birther conspiracy theory that Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.  Now that is offensive!

Finally, you make the argument that “in any other country, you [Leach] would most likely be doing hard labor, executed — publicly or privately but dead either way — or imprisoned.”  While that is not true in a democracy, it might be true in an autocracy, dictatorship or monarchy.  We live in a constitutional democracy that just so happens to have a Bill of Rights.  The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” 

Everything Leach wrote that you found so offensive is legally protected speech.  He can say whatever he wants about the president, as long as he does not threaten him with violence or death.

Our fellow Americans have been criticizing presidents since Washington.  Pick up a book and read some of the things said about Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.  Their critics did not hold back, and neither should Trump’s. 

When Obama was president, Trump was very critical about him.  Were you advocating hard labor, execution or imprisonment for his offensive comments?  I doubt that you were.  We do not elect kings in the U.S.  The president is a human being just like you and me, and he is not endowed with biblical powers from God.  Quit treating him as such and quit being so offended.

Matthew Flint

Wilson

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