This Essay argues that the national discussion spurred by President Trump's treatment of the press has fallen short of capturing the true seriousness of the situation. The authors argue that in order to fully understand the critical juncture at which American press freedom now stands, we must expand the discussion beyond talk of a rogue president's aberrant attacks on the press and consider the increasingly fragile edifice on which the American free press sits. The kind of press we value and need in the United States is supported by a number of legal and nonlegal pillars. Each of these supports has weakened substantially in recent years, leaving the one remaining pillar of tradition and custom to bear more of the weight. Contrary to widespread belief, our concern should not be that Trump might be taking the first step toward crippling the power of the free press, but rather that he might be taking the final step in a process that has long been underway.
One of Justice Clarence Thomas’s most remarked upon characteristics is his reluctance to ask questions during oral argument. Observers have criticized him for his silence, with some suggesting that it reflects disrespect for his colleagues and the advocates appearing before the Supreme Court. Others defend his silence, noting, for instance, that historically oral argument played a much less significant role and that Thomas’s written opinions speak for themselves. What has been overlooked in this debate, however, is the fact that Justice Thomas is very talented at asking questions. Indeed, in many ways, he is a model questioner. Drawing on the most comprehensive collection of Thomas’s oral argument questions ever compiled, we urge the Justice to ask more questions for a new reason: he is good at it.