By authorizing the publication of a hard text by Republican Senator Tom Cotton, the New york times has been the subject of controversy and has attracted fierce criticism from several members of its staff.
In an opinion piece published on Wednesday, Senator Cotton urged the authorities to use an old law to deploy the army in the territory. If Cotton rightly deplored the particularly violent gestures of several demonstrators (such as that of a 77-year-old former black police officer who acted as a security guard in a shop attacked by thugs), it was his “send in the troops” ( send the army) who reacted.
Cotton’s law is the Insurrection Act of 1807. While it is true that the law authorizes the president to deploy the army, Cotton seems to forget that its main purpose is to regulate the power of the executive in this subject. Above all, it must be remembered that it is the governors of the States who must act first. So far, no such request has been made.
In addition to the Insurrection Act, there is another law, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, if we are to fully understand the constitutional and legal framework for Donald Trump’s intervention power in the present context. The law of 1878 specifies that the army cannot intervene in the affairs of the civil government or in those of justice. So you see that the claims of President Trump or those of Tom Cotton are limited.
- LISTEN to Luc Laliberté’s American political chronicle on QUB radio:
What we criticize the president and Cotton for is once again encouraging an authoritarian presidency, a presidency that does not hesitate to resort to the army against its own citizens and according to its sole will. It is this attitude which is the source of accusations of fascism. This is also where the criticism of the New york times.
Advocates of the President very often argue that some of his predecessors had recourse to the military. For example, Lyndon Johnson (Detroit and Chicago, in 1967 and 1968) or George HW Bush (Los Angeles, 1992) did it to restore order, but we always forget that, in each case, we did it at the request of the governors of the states concerned.
Have any of the presidents ever sent the military without an explicit request from a governor? Yes. In recent history, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson have done this. Were these situations similar to the current context? No. If Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson could justify their interventions, it is because the affected states openly defied the federal government by refusing to submit to court rulings. I would point out that, in each case, the interventions were linked to the racial question. We refused to end segregation.
As much as I consider here that Cotton’s argument is weak, I frown at the strength of the reaction against the New york times. If you already know that I expect the President and his supporters to respect the Constitution and the legislative framework, I believe the Times made a good decision by publishing Cotton’s text.
Cotton is an elected member of the Senate. His opinion, however controversial it may be, must be read or heard. If it is so bad, let it be debated and demonstrated. This was not an editorial position, but rather the “opinions” section. No matter what critics say Times, respect for freedom of expression should be enough to support the editors of the venerable publication.
Today, the Times allows Michelle Goldberg to react to Cotton and she describes her remarks as fascist. The charge is serious. Should we also ban Goldberg? Its text is, to a certain extent, educational, and it allows the readers to push the reflection. I’m glad we’ve published it too.