The American Constitution allows uncivil speech. It does not allow lying. But, these days, it's not just ordinary American citizens who are lying. It's their president. Lawrence Douglas writes:
What happens when the source of uncivil speech is not some fringe hate group, but the occupant of the Oval Office? And what happens when the lies target the very organs designed to ferret them out? We have never faced such questions before in our history. Which explains why, on the 241st anniversary of our independence, American democracy finds itself in peril.
We have grown accustomed to the president’s lies, as recently inventoried in the New York Times. Yet such a simple enumeration fails to get at the danger. Consider Trump’s workhorse – that the mainstream media trucks in “fake news.”
If Trump were simply implying, without substantiation or proof, that the media routinely engages in unreliable reporting, this would be bad enough. But that is not the claim. Rather, it is that CNN, to take one favorite target, willfully fabricates false news to advance a partisan agenda.
In the present situation, democracy is in clear and present danger:
Mr Trump’s lies can better be understood as libels – they state falsehoods that malign their targets. As a sitting president, Mr Trump is, of course, immune from suit (just as he might be immune from indictment for having obstructed justice). But this does not change the libelous character of his speech.
What makes these libels so toxic is not the injury they do to the reputation of the New York Times or CNN, though certainly they may serve to discredit these organizations in the eyes of some segments of the public; it is the injury they do to our democracy.
That injury to democracy is what is behind the Russia investigation -- which Trump wants to quash:
The full danger of Trump’s uncivil speech becomes clear only when viewed through the filter of his defamation of our electoral process. The 2016 presidential election revealed genuine threats to the integrity of our voting system, and we have precise, reliable knowledge about their source.
But in his alarming testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, former FBI Director James Comey revealed that while the president repeatedly asked whether the FBI had targeted him personally, he failed to express the slightest interest in the deeper issue – Russia’s criminal tampering with our electoral process.
When Trump took the Oath of Office he swore to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Of all his lies, that was the biggest.