Mike Barnicle was conducting a humdrum conversation about the shutdown with Dem Sen. Sherrod Brown on Wednesday's Morning Joe when—out of the blue— Barnicle went off on this bizarre tangent:
"Let me ask you: do you think that Donald J. Trump presents a clear and present danger to our democracy?"
Brown seemed understandably taken aback by Barnicle's question out of left field. His first response was, "I don't know if I'd say that exactly." A bit later, after going through a laundry list of his own policy positions, Brown claimed that "having somebody with the incredible skills of Nancy Pelosi in the House I think keeps him from being the danger that he would be if she weren't there, moderating and tempering him."
Barnicle's invocation of "clear and present danger" suggests that he has no clue as to the meaning of the doctrine. It has nothing to do with the tenure of a President. Rather, it is the standard established over the years in a series of Supreme Court as to the extraordinary circumstances under which the First Amendment freedoms of speech, press, and assembly may be limited.
Ultimately, the Court established in the 1969 case of Brandenburg v. Ohio that "the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action."
Barnicle never explained how this doctrine could possibly apply to President Trump, and surely it does not. It seems more likely that Barnicle was looking for some high falutin' language to suggest that Trump is a bad guy, and that Congress should do something about it, like impeach him.
If Barnicle was ever a valuable contributor to Morning Joe, that time has long passed. His absurd attempt at making a pertinent or provocative point fell painfully flat. It really is time for Barnicle to be put out to pasture. Morning Joe would be a much livelier and interesting place if Barnicle were replaced with a Trump-friendly conservative—not with the sort of Trump-hating "MSNBC Republicans" that the show favors.
A transcript is below:
7:04 am ET
MIKE BARNICLE: There's a lot more going on with this presidency than just the shutdown. You say that if you give him the $5.6 billion he'll just do this over and over again. But there's also NATO, there's also the Mueller investigation. So, let me ask you, do you think that Donald J. Trump presents a clear and present danger to our democracy?
SHERROD BROWN: I think more and more people are concerned what he means around the world. I don't know if I'd say that exactly . . . But having somebody with the incredible skills of Nancy Pelosi in the house, I think keeps him from being the danger that he could, that he would be without, if she weren't there moderating and tempering him.