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Timing is everything.

On the same day that President Donald Trump was in Missoula cheering on Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte for assaulting a reporter, the administration was considering action against the Saudi Arabian government for its role in killing Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. 

But I am hardly the first person to notice this, and talk-show hosts and cable commentators have been pointing out and opining on this for more than a week. Cheering on a criminal act committed by a member of Congress is simply disgusting and tarnishes the office of the President of the United States. 

Just several days after Trump's now-famous Gianforte "tough guy" speech, I had dinner with Josef Luptak and Boris Lenko, who are back in Billings with their world-class musical talent, thanks to Bill and Marilyn Simmons. 

Luptak, whom I interviewed about life behind the Iron Curtain and the Velvet Revolution, said that the Slovakian events of the past half year have been the most turbulent since the fall of communism in his country.

In February, Slovakian investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee were murdered. Their murder-for-hire plot was exposed and authorities linked it to organized crime and traced some of the roots back to the prime minister Robert Fico. Fico and his entire cabinet were forced to resign.

Reports indicate neither Fico nor his cabinet expected the country's outrage or demonstrations. 

In a world that is growing paradoxically more hostile to journalism as information becomes more available, the death of Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova is a moment that few Americans paid attention to but offers something instructive.

In Bratislava, the Slovakian capital, more than 25,000 demonstrators turned out to peacefully protest and demand government action. Throughout Central Europe other peaceful gatherings took place to protest the killing and to put pressure on leaders for action. Instead of cheering on an assault, they were condemning a murder and demanding action. 

Slovakia — a republic not even three decades old — launched an investigation that went to the very top of its political food chain, bringing down Fico who had been in power 10 of the past 12 years as the country's prime minister.

Slovakians prized journalism so much that they took to the streets to defend it. The media there organized and reported blow-by-blow the investigation into the deaths of Kuciak and Kusnirova. Fellow journalists also finished his work so that while the assassins killed Kuciak, they couldn't kill the story.

For his part, Luptak took part in several different memorials to Kuciak, including a Sept. 20 chamber musical performance that featured several pieces dedicated to the slain couple. 

Imagine that: When a journalist who was doing his job was slain, they turn out to mourn them by music, not celebrate.

Meanwhile in the United States, when a congressman attacks a reporter and the President endorses that type of thuggish behavior, the crowds cheer. 

The contrast couldn't be more stunning. 

Americans continue to get sentimental if not teary-eyed about the Constitution and all of our freedom. But can we really love our freedoms that much if we accept that the president cheers on assaulting someone who was just exercising his First Amendment rights? Can we any longer be the standard bearer for fighting for our rights when we cheer an elected leader who was charged and convicted of assault?

Ronald Reagan, quoting John Winthrop, said that America must be a "shining city on hill," and an example to others. That's what makes Trump's words even more appalling — because we should be the ones demonstrating in the street, peacefully demanding government action when the freedoms of the First Amendment are attacked.

Instead, we were taught a lesson by a country which knows the bad things that can happen when members of the press and the practitioners of free speech are silenced. 

We cannot love the Constitution and its freedoms and cheer on an assault on someone who did nothing more than have the audacity to exercise those liberties. 

One way we can surely make America great again is by not cheering a crime, and by standing up to government when it imperils the freedoms that we cherish.

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