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Commentary

Lt. Governor Calley shows he has no real grasp on how our government works

Jack Lessenberry

Like most people, I haven’t paid a lot of attention to Brian Calley, Michigan’s lieutenant governor. Generally speaking, there’s a quiet understanding that lieutenant governors are standby equipment whose job is to stay out of the limelight.

They break ties on important legislation before the Senate, represent the governor at all sorts of second-tier functions, and preside over the state when the governor is off on trade missions. Calley, who is 39 but looks younger, is even more invisible than most.

Pretty much his only noticeable contribution over the last five years has been to successfully push insurance companies to cover children’s autism spectrum disorder expenses; Calley has a daughter with autism. There has been speculation that Calley himself may run for governor in two years, though many think he’d have a hard time winning the nomination.

Unfortunately, on Thursday the lieutenant governor gave an interview to the Gongwer news service which suggests he has no real grasp of the fundamental premise of American government.

Calley set out to defend Donald Trump, who next month will officially become the Republican Party’s nominee for President.

That in itself is somewhat controversial, since many responsible Republicans, including Michigan’s governor and both surviving former GOP presidents are neither endorsing nor defending Trump.

The national media were running intensive investigations of them before Calley was 15 years old.

Calley, however, is all in. Early in the interview, he made the hilarious assertion that the national media has “not been subjecting Hillary Clinton to the same type of scrutiny” as they have been Donald Trump.

There probably have never been two more investigated candidates for any office than Bill and Hillary Clinton. The national media were running intensive investigations of them before Calley was 15 years old.

That’s just politics, however, and whining about the media picking on his candidate could be chalked up as traditional hyperbole.

Except for something else our lieutenant governor said:

“The next president will decide whether our Bill of Rights remains as it has been understood to be all this time,” Calley told a reporter.

Well, sorry, but an answer like that should cause you to flunk high school civics.

The President, whoever he or she is, doesn’t decide what the Bill of Rights means. That’s would make this country a dictatorship.

The Bill of Rights is just that – permanent guaranteed rights subject to legal interpretation only by the United States Supreme Court.

That’s the nature of constitutional government.

Now, there is something different about Donald Trump, something pointed out by National Public Radio’s Bob Garfield. He is not a traditional candidate in that he proudly flaunts his ignorance of how government works.

Various analyses have shown that the vast majority of his statements are lies.

He has demonstrated his contempt for the First Amendment by banning some news organizations from his rallies, and threatening to “open up the libel laws” so he could sue people he doesn’t like.

... journalism is more than stenography, and essential for preserving democracy.

Garfield, the co-host of NPR’s program On the Media, has argued that failing to expose the nature of this candidate and his campaign is serious journalistic malpractice.

That was the view of Edward R. Murrow, who refused to go along with merely presenting the lies and smears of Senator Joe McCarthy as unchallenged fact. He knew that journalism is more than stenography, and essential for preserving democracy.

That’s something our lieutenant governor needs to learn.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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