Editorial cartoon (12/3/2017)

I've got my longtime reader Cliff Voegeli to thank for this ditty:

"The Supreme Court has ruled that there cannot be a Nativity Scene on Capitol Hill this Christmas season.

"This isn't for any religious reason. They simply have not been able to find Three Wise Men in the Nation's Capitol.

"A search for a virgin continues. There was no problem, however, finding enough asses to fill the stable."

Even Donald Trump might have to agree this isn't fake news!

Speaking of which, we Americans need to be watching this guy Trump very carefully. His unthinking and uninformed comments on everything from race to a free press are dangerously eating away at the foundation of our democracy.

Trump, who either never took a course in American history or is just too dense to understand it, apparently believes that the press is supposed to be a public relations organ for the president of the United States and, by extension, every other elected official.

It wasn't for nothing that the Founding Fathers declared that a free press is off limits to elected officials — that it can't be truly free if it is subjected to the political whims of officeholders or threatened with retribution when it reports news and writes opinions that criticize those officials.

That, after all, is what allows a government of, by and for the people to function, as does the rest of the First Amendment's protections of religion, speech and the right to peaceably assemble to air grievances.

That has never meant that politicians can't take steps to "punish" media that have been critical of them. Scott Walker's administration and Republican legislators don't typically do any favors for The Capital Times, but will go out of their way to give story breaks to media outlets they deem favorable. And it's vice versa when the shoe is on the other foot.

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That's fair game.

But what isn't fair game is Trump's outright threats against news outlets he doesn't like — CNN, The New York Times and any other medium that has reported unflattering news about him. CNN's overseas correspondents, for instance, fear that Trump's hostile comments and threats will embolden politicians in unfriendly countries to arrest them for poking around in places those politicians don't want them to poke. If the president of the United States says they're "fake" and deserving of punishment, then what's to stop them?

But this president doesn't have the smarts to think that far. He's comfortable with shooting off his mouth — but we need to be uncomfortable over where this all will eventually end.

It could be much worse than not having a nativity scene.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel

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Dave is editor emeritus of The Capital Times.