DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer or Constitutional Scholar by any means. I am just a logically thinking American who has a desire to speak out.
The legal concept of equal protection under the law to most Americans means that ALL citizens of the United States are governed by the same set of rules, regulations and laws as set forth in the Constitution by which “We the People” go about and conduct our daily lives.
However, this is not true when it comes to members of Congress. Our elected representatives in Congress, in an effort to create an environment where a supposed open debate can be conducted, they have consciously exempted themselves from any rule, regulation or law which might bring charges against them personally of libel and/or slander. In general, this gives them the right to say just about anything against a political opponent without fear of political and/or criminal retribution. Unfortunately, this now has expanded to outside of The Halls of Congress.
Article 1, Section 6 of the U. S. Constitution. In general, the issue addressed by this section concerns what is known as the “Speech or Debate Clause”. This controversial provision affords immunity from arrest to members of the Senate or House of Representatives (and their staff members) for things said or done during a speech or debate in Congress, attendance in Congress, or going to or from Congress (except for the most serious of charges like treason or some felonies).
While I do not agree totally with the content of the clause, I do see the assumed need for it to encourage open and truthful debate; the reason for which I believe it was intended. But, in today’s immediate and constant world of “news” with Twitter, YouTube and The Internet, to hide behind these platforms to defame another, is just wrong. For me, here is the problem. When such a privilege is taken out of context and intentionally or seditiously used outside of the guidelines as set forth in Article 1, Section 6, such as on social media and through mass media outlets, it does become to me, an extraneous abuse of power. When it is used to repeat or highlight the unproven or otherwise untruthful words of witnesses in congressional fact finding hearings to defame the reputation or life of another, whether it is a political opponent or common citizen, it should be considered libelous and criminal under the law.
The framers of our constitution wanted open and heated debate. Now however, we have stooped to the level, that if a politician wants to insinuate that the President of the United States is being less than candid about discussions with other foreign leaders, all they have to do is go through the media and various platforms declaring a presumed association, that the foreign leader is also being less than candid. Is that the image we want to present to the world? Can we now, through mere association call The President of Ukraine a Liar? I am embarrassed to say, that is exactly what has happened.
In view of recent events surrounding the impeachment inquiry of President Trump, I believe now more than ever, that it is time to call upon our elected officials to reevaluate the content of the Speech and Debate Clause, and to either change or eliminate this unequal protection under the law for themselves. I call upon them to conduct the people’s business with the same level of moral and personal responsibility the laws of the country require of us, the everyday American. And that ALL citizens of the United States, political leaders not excluded, live their lives with dignity and respect for all Americans.