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We are all well aware of how presidential administrations in the past have fought a very public political battle of words with the media in the United States. The media is a very powerful entity with the power to sway public opinion--not just inform! To the public, these political battles between the media and the President may seem divisive--but to be fair, the media does often seem to take political sides, downplaying one party and promoting another.

How is the President--as Commander In Chief of our armed forces--legally permitted to handle his/her disagreements with the media? Is s/he also in fact fully entitled to the same free speech and free press rights as any other member of the public? Is s/he free to take swipes at the media, despite the office?

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    Are you asking if the President has limited freedom of speech as a member of the armed forces? – ThisIsNoZaku Apr 16 at 15:37
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    I don't believe he can be counted as a member of the armed forces. I'm just wondering what, if any, special, lawful provisions or restrictions there might be for his own rights because of his office. – ShieldOfSalvation Apr 16 at 15:39
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    Why on earth do you think such special provisions targeting just the president would exist... And your final question "where does it state that" is totally unclear what it refers to. – Fizz Apr 16 at 17:21
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    "Such provision" as in explicitly allowing him to berate the media? Because you begin that (long) sentence with "I believe the answer is yes"... which again is not very clear what you're answering in the affirmative, but presumably it's the title question, so you're saying he's free to berate the media, and then ask for an "it" that states that... where "that" is the positive affirmation that he is allowed to berate the media? I'm sure you've heard of the First Amendment since you were able to find the more intricate US codes. – Fizz Apr 16 at 17:53
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    Downvoted because of the bias evident in the term "left-leaning communications agencies". What you mean is news media, which in general are companies. Nor are they particularly left-leaning in general: for instance, Trump has recently been quite critical of the Wall Street Journal, which could hardly be described as "left-leaning" :-) – jamesqf Apr 16 at 18:58
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The president is not a member of the military, and not subject to military rules of order. Technically speaking, he has the same rights as any private individual in the US to publicly express personal opinions (within the boundaries of slander and libel laws). In fact, the president has a distinct role in setting US policy and making political decisions that requires him to use and convey his own judgement. Most US presidents have spent much of their administration using cultured and curated expressions of their own opinions to craft public consensus and motivate political action. The Bully Pulpit was a long presidential tradition even before Teddy Roosevelt coined the term.

That being said, the traditional expectation has been that US presidents will express themselves in a cultured and curated fashion, with the goal of building consensus rather than spreading discord. The constitution specifies the president must be 35 years old specifically because the founders felt that younger people would be too intemperate: too aggressive, too hasty, too combative, too ideological, etc. It was their impression that by 35 a person develops a certain calm, sober, critical perspective — not being given to flights of fancy or strong egoic reactions — and that the electoral process would tend to select the most high functioning of that 'mature' group. Historically this has been the case, more or less, and while past presidents may have varied greatly on intelligence, articulateness, and political leanings, all have generally managed to separate their role as president from their role as private citizen, drawing a strict line between personal matters (likes, dislikes, squabbles and friendships) and those opinions needed for giving direction to public policy.

Unfortunately, Trump has not conformed to this tradition. He does not seem to make any distinction between public and private affairs, often airing his private grievances as though they were matters of public concern, or turning matters of public concern into personal issues of his own success or the failures of others. He is notably intemperate, and reacts from the gut rather than any sober consideration of facts and contexts. He attacks the media because — unlike his predecessors — he does not try to build consensus around policy; he demands that others agree with his opinions, and punishes those who disagree as disloyal.

Breaking with traditional institutions is not a criminal offense, obviously. But that doesn't make it any less destructive to the nation as a whole.

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    Trump, quite simply, seems to be the proverbial boss from hell. Pretty much anything in the book about how to manage and motivate groups of people is reversed. I suspect (hope?) that, some time from now, people in the future will wonder how such unpresidential behavior ever kept traction rather than inviting ridicule. It doesn't really matter what side of the political divide he sits on, this would be just as bad if it was coming from the left. One thing to consider though is that mainstream channels like CNN and MSNBC are themselves getting to be Fox-like in terms of partisanship. – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica Apr 16 at 19:01
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica: Let's not overflow the equivalence between Left and Right News media, here. Without suggesting that this is intrinsic to the camps, currently Left-leaning news outlets have an editorial bias on top of a basic conformance to facts, while Right-leaning news outlets have largely discarded facts in a persistent effort to re-write reality so it conforms to partisan ideology. That effect has been growing since the mid-1990s. Reality counts, you know... – Ted Wrigley Apr 17 at 20:13
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    @Sjoerd: Without disagreeing with your point, I need to raise the issue of 'rational' vs 'irrational' promotion of change. One does not, after all, break eggs with a sledgehammer. If a large portion of the US population wants something, and cannot achieve it politically over the course of decades, do they re-evaluate their goals and seek out rational compromise, or do they try to strong-arm their way into power and impose the rules they want on the majority? somewhere in that spectrum lies the difference between democratic governance and authoritarian regimes. – Ted Wrigley Apr 17 at 20:25
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    @Sjoerd: democratic procedures like Gerrymandering, voter suppression, dark money? I mean, so far they have (mostly) avoided political assassination, so there's that. But still... At any rate, let's not have a partisan dispute. – Ted Wrigley Apr 17 at 20:48
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica: CNN is not Trump's mother; it isn't their job to interpret what Trump means when he rambles; it's their job to report what Trump says. If Trump says something that can be taken in such a damaging way then it is their job to point out how damaging it can be to say that. If Trump doesn't like it, Trump can clean up his expressions so there isn't any ambiguity. – Ted Wrigley Apr 17 at 22:44

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