Dick Sciaroni: America needs leadership, not demagoguery
In his recent and somewhat belated response to my September reply to his letter on leadership (“Our assembly and petition rights have been hijacked”), Gerald Doane challenges me to find “any better legal research” than what he presented: a summary published by the Law Library of Congress.
I choose not to call Mr. Doane ignorant, as he did me, but I do assert that he mistakenly equates “legal research” with reading secondary sources, somewhat akin to a surgeon consulting the Encyclopaedia Britannica rather than an anatomy text for an operation.
The Congressional Law Library is an appropriate place to conduct legal research, but its publications that purport to summarize the law are not the primary sources of legal research. Legal research means reading cases and statutes, not a law library’s summary of the law. While courts sometimes look to such secondary sources, they do so only after reviewing applicable case law and statutes. Even then, such references to secondary sources are rarities.
My advice to Mr. Doane is simple: do the legal research yourself. Don’t cherry-pick from secondary sources, much less purport to present the law based on secondary sources.
Now to the other issue he raises, law enforcement and leadership. I oppose defunding law enforcement. The vast majority of police officers are to be admired and deserve our support, including ample funding to address the often thorny if not dangerous situations they face on a day-to-day basis.
And while I agree with Mr. Doane that property destruction and personal violence under the guise of protest is illegal, not every response of law enforcement to protest, legal or otherwise, is per se legal. One need only recall the video of an elderly man peacefully approaching police during a recent protest only to be pushed to the ground and suffering a fractured skull. Did the police act legally? Hardly.
Then there is the video of a Navy veteran and Naval Academy graduate peacefully approaching police to urge restraint. He was beaten with batons and suffered several broken bones. Legal? No again. Even here in Nevada County we need look no further than the inaction of local police who inexplicably stood by and watched anti-BLM protesters assault peaceful protesters. Was that law enforcement or an encouragement to violence? I think the latter.
I remember watching the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention only a few days after returning from Vietnam after serving a year as an artillery forward observer. I had seen a lot of combat and knew what it was to face unrelenting violence. I had seen brave American soldiers display incredible discipline in harrowing situations — situations much worse than anything the Chicago police faced.
I had seen my fellow soldiers hold only to see the Chicago police fold. What transpired on the television screen was not law enforcement. It was an undisciplined police riot. I recall my father asking my thoughts. My response was simple: The police were no better than the protesters they faced.
I wonder now if much has changed in the intervening years.
I also concur with Mr. Doane that our elected leaders should be held accountable when they violate the law. At the same time, it is not their role to confront and arrest violent protesters. That’s the job of law enforcement.
After arrests are made, it is up to our elected officials — district attorneys — to decide what actions should be taken. I cannot but wonder whether one reason charges against many protesters are often dropped is because the actions of arresting officers, even if only a handful, were themselves excessive, and thus as illegal as those of protesters.
We need leadership now just as we needed it in 1968. That means leaders who will not only enforce the law, but who will not misuse their powers of office for crass personal and political ends. The latter includes our president who praised protesters chanting racist, anti-Semitic and white supremacist slogans as “fine” people.
His remarks were those of an irresponsible demagogue. I, for one, will not forget that it was one of those “fine” people, praised as such by the president, who drove a car into a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing a young woman.
The president was wrong to incite and encourage racial and ethnic hatred after Charlottesville, and should be called out for doing so. He is no leader, only a churlish bully. America will be better and safer when he leaves office in January.
Dick Sciaroni lives in Grass Valley.
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