10/12/2017

The Free-Speech Wars

Daniel Henninger, The Wall Street Journal

At the risk of stirring the fury of the Trumpians, let it be said that no one has mistaken Donald Trump for James Madison. But stay tuned. 

America’s fourth president was among the originators of the nation’s constitutionally protected right of free speech. President Trump will be remembered as one of the country’s foremost practitioners of that right. Less appreciated is that the Trump administration may go down as a significant defender of the First Amendment when it most needed defending.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced in a speech at the Georgetown University Law School that the Justice Department will start intervening on the side of plaintiffs in campus free-speech cases.

The department has filed its first “statement of interest,” essentially an amicus brief, in a free-speech lawsuit brought against Georgia Gwinnett College, which has created free-speech zones, or “public forum areas,” requiring a college-approved reservation. 

Two things about Mr. Sessions’ speech expose realities about the age of Trump. 

The first we will call the Sessions survival model. Mr. Sessions became one of the president’s favorite verbal speed bags when he recused himself from the Russian collusion investigation. But the president hasn’t actually done anything to stop the attorney general from proceeding with his agenda, such as this important defense of free speech. Thinner-skinned senators might note the Sessions model: Stay on target. [Subscription required.]

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