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September 08, 2006

Why Does The DNC Fear Free Speech?

Teri McAuliffe does not write the executives of the network demanding that they have access to the scripts and that kind of access. It just doesn't happen in America. Why don't you just let the information flow? Democracy is so important. Let the ideas out there. Let the American public decide if they want to watch a movie about Reagan or not. We don't really need the right wing telling us what we can and cannot watch on television.

These words, spoken by a liberal pundit during the debate over CBS's controversial The Reagans in 2003, literally reek with irony today.

The Reagan miniseries drew fire from conservatives due to its fictionalized and inaccurate content. Scared off by the furor, CBS eventually diverted the series, sans corrections, to its Showtime cable affiliate. That half-forgotten brouhaha brings to mind today's uproar over ABC's The Path to 9/11, but there are important differences in the ways liberals and conservatives responded to the broadcasting of a message they not only saw as factually inaccurate, but politically explosive. And what is perhaps more disturbing, there is an important difference in the way the mainstream media responded to this more modern controversy. For in a puzzling reversal of their avowed championship of freedom of expression, the press appear to be eagerly aiding and abetting the Democrat Party's open, shameless, and inexcusable attempts to strong arm a major television network into censoring the content of a fictionalized docudrama carrying an open disclaimer.

godfather.jpg Whatever happened to the old saying, "I disagree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"? That sentiment, we would have thought, was one the media, not to mention Hollywood, would leap to defend. After all was this not the line of argument used to defend Michael Moore's factually challenged Unfairenheit 911? What, we idly wonder, would Harry Reid, the aptly-named Dick Durbin, and Chuck Schumer have said if Republican leaders threatened Mr. Moore with government censorship, simply on account of a few "factual inaccuracies"?

The Communications Act of 1934 provides your network with a free broadcast license predicated on the fundamental understanding of your principle obligation to act as a trustee of the public airwaves in serving the public interest. Nowhere is this public interest obligation more apparent than in the duty of broadcasters to serve the civic needs of a democracy by promoting an open and accurate discussion of political ideas and events.

Disney and ABC claim this program to be based on the 9/11 Commission Report and are using that assertion as part of the promotional campaign for it. The 9/11 Commission is the most respected American authority on the 9/11 attacks, and association with it carries a special responsibility. Indeed, the very events themselves on 9/11, so tragic as they were, demand extreme care by any who attempt to use those events as part of an entertainment or educational program. To quote Steve McPhereson, president of ABC Entertainment, “When you take on the responsibility of telling the story behind such an important event, it is absolutely critical that you get it right.”

Unfortunately, it appears Disney and ABC got it totally wrong.

"Wrong", as the defenders of fake, but accurate, emotional truths have long argued, is a largely subjective matter anyway, isn't it? History is a blank slate, utterly dependent on one's point of view, and as so many in academia have maintained, attempts to influence or censor the histoical record or interpretation of such are unbearably wrongheaded and totalitarian in nature... that is, unless they are in the service of some larger good. Such as, say the 2006 election cycle. Liberals are fond of scolding, "We are all entitled to our own opinions, but we are not entitled to our own facts". Good enough. A few facts, then.

Sadly, DNC intimidation of free speech is nothing new. During the 2004 Presidential campaign, DNC lawyers tried to intimidate small TV and radio stations all over America into refusing to run the Swift vet ads. Fortunately the lies in their threat letter were so transparent that only one station had refused to run the ads at the time I wrote about the issue.

Not content with silencing Vietnam veterans, the Kerry campaign then tried to prevent highly decorated prisoners of war from the Vietnam era from telling their story. Apparently, Kerry's patented "I'll fight for you" campaign slogan, translated, really meant, "I'll fight to silence you if you oppose me, my band of brothers":

FCC Chairman Michael Powell said Thursday the federal agency would not stop Sinclair from showing the film.

"Don't look to us to block the airing of a program," Powell told reporters. "I don't know of any precedent in which the commission could do that."

On Tuesday, the Democratic National Committee filed a complaint with the FEC contending that airing the film should be considered an illegal in-kind contribution to the Bush campaign.

Eighteen senators, all Democrats, wrote to Powell this week and asked him to investigate the matter.

But this is not the only instance of Democrat attempts to censor conservative speech. The party that pretends to favor tolerance, diversity, and freedom of speech in fact supports none of these things when it comes to their political opponents:

In 1980, talk shows of any kind numbered fewer than 100 nationwide.

All that changed in the '80s, when Ronald Reagan's free-market-minded FCC stopped enforcing the Fairness Doctrine and then dumped it entirely in 1987. Because cable and satellite television and FM radio had vastly expanded the number of television and radio stations, "the new technological abundance," in regulatory theorist Peter Huber's phrase, had robbed the doctrine of any plausible "scarcity" rationale.

That the doctrine was also "chilling to free speech," as FCC head Mark Fowler argued, became crystal clear after it was gone: AM radio exploded with political talk shows. From under 5 percent of all programming, "informational" programming expanded to over 20 percent of the AM mix just seven years after the Fairness Doctrine's demise. Today, more than 1,400 stations feature the talk format exclusively -- and the vast majority broadcast conservative voices, because that's what draws the listeners, desperate for an alternative to the liberal mainstream press.

Small wonder, then, that House Democrats proposed two bills in 2005 to bring the Fairness Doctrine back -- and as a law, rather than a mere agency regulation. New York Democratic representative Louise Slaughter, who introduced the first of the two bills, says that right-ruled radio is a grave threat to American freedoms, "a waste of good broadcast time, and a waste of our airwaves." People "may hear whatever they please and whatever they choose," she tells PBS' Bill Moyers, in a statement as incoherent as it is illiberal. "And of course they have the right to turn it off. But that's not good enough either. The fact is that they need the responsibility of the people who are licensed to use our airwaves judiciously and responsibly to call them to account if they don't." In other words, people can't be trusted with freedom but need the supervision of a paternalist government.

Slaughter doesn't want to re-regulate only radio. When asked by Moyers if she was also proposing the new Fairness Doctrine for Fox News or MSNBC, Slaughter responded: "You bet. . . . Fairness isn't going to hurt anybody." If there's anything liberals hate more than talk radio it's Fox News, which has dominated cable news by appealing to conservative viewers fed up with the networks' liberal bias. New York Democratic representative Maurice Hinchey, sponsor of the second Fairness Doctrine bill, went so far as to host a special Capitol Hill screening of "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," a "documentary" hit job.

It's amazing. Liberals have always talked a good game when it comes to having the freedom to speak our minds, or having the freedom to choose. These rights are supposed to be guaranteed by the Constitution, which is the highest law of the land. No law, neither those made by Congress nor regulations made by agencies like the FCC shall supercede those rights given to us by the Constitution. Yet Democrats like Louise Slaughter and Harry Reid want to narrowly circumscribe what their fellow Americans see and hear to a DNC-approved message. They want to return to the days when there were only 100 talk radio stations in America. They don't want even a whiff of protest when Michael Moore spreads outright lies about an historical event like 9/11, even from private citizens yet they can, with a straight face, threaten ABC with letters signed by the Democrat leadership in Congress?

Where is the mainstream media in all of this? Where are the newspaper editors of America? Where are all those hand-wringing actors who are so quick to bleat about Chill Winds emanating from the White House? Can they not feel the artic blast sweeping down on them from the dank corridors of Capitol Hill?

Where are the spurious Hitler and McCarthy analogies when we really need them? Where are the liberal champions of the First Amendment? Where are the folks who should be saying, on principle, "I disagree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it?"

And regarding the "official record" of 9/11, which it was perfectly acceptable for Michael Moore to distort but now must be not be sullied with anything less than complete perfection (in a fictionalized docudrama, no less), certain things must be said.

Reid's letter to ABC is nothing less than laughable. He begins with the ludicrous statement that:

Even Thomas Kean, who serves as a paid consultant to the miniseries, has admitted that scenes in the film are fictionalized

Well dang. Slap us around and call us Susie. If ever we saw a complaint deserving of Congressional interference, this would be it. We rather thought that fictionalized accounts, clearly labelled as such, generally contained [brace yourselves for a shock, dear readers] elements of fiction. Like Rep. Slaughter, Senator Reid clearly believes the American public is either too stupid or too credulous to figure this out from ABC's disclaimer. He wants to protect you from your own idiocy.

But regarding the central point of controversy, ABC has done no more than what is Hollywood's normal practice for shows of this type: it has taken a confusing series of events and simplified it for easier viewing. Admittedly some factual accuracy is sacrificed in the process, but this is hardly unprecedented. United 93 also contained a number of factual inaccuracies. The interesting thing is that in essence, the jist of ABC's representation of the attempt on Osama's life meshes quite nicely with both the 9/11 commission report and coverage in the New York Times. From the 9/11 commission report:

Impressions vary as to who actually decided not to proceed with the operation. Clarke told us that the CSG saw the plan as flawed. He was said to have described it to an NSC colleague as "half-assed" and predicted that the principles would not approve it. "Jeff" thought the decision had been made at the cabinet level. Pavitt thought that it was Berger's doing, though on Tenet's advice. Tenet told us that given the recommendations of his chief operations officers, he alone had decided to "turn off" the operation. He had simply informed Berger, who had not pushed back. Berger's recollection was similar. He said the plan was never presented to the White House for a decision.

Via Patterico, who saves me the trouble of typing out the text, more on the confusion and indecision reigning at the Clinton White House:

Briefing papers prepared by the Counterterrorist Center acknowledged that hitches might develop. People might be killed, and Bin Ladin’s supporters might retaliate, perhaps taking U.S. citizens in Kandahar hostage. But the briefing papers also noted that there was risk in not acting. “Sooner or later,” they said, “Bin Ladin will attack U.S. interests, perhaps using WMD [weapons of mass destruction].”

And via Newsbusters:

Regarding the scene, it was never clear to my officers or myself who canceled the operation. It is true that Clarke was bad-mouthing it. What I don’t think people know, however, is that the Agency had thoroughly reviewed the plan and had approved its execution at the highest level — that is, at the level of DCI Tenet and his immediate subordinates. (NB: At Tenet’s direction, JSOC commanders at Fort Bragg also reviewed the plan. They approved it, said they could not do better, and built two sand-table mock-ups of the bin Laden’s compound for us to use in preparing the operation.) My officers and I were told that the plan had been sent to Clarke and the NSC for approval. The next thing we knew, the Chief of CT at CIA told us that the plan had been canceled because civilians might get killed, there was not a hundred percent chance that we would get bin Laden, and that if bin Laden was killed in the capture effort the CIA might get accused of assassination. The implication to us at the time was that the NSC canceled the operation, but Tenet later claimed he did it himself. I don’t know what the full truth is on this issue.

To underscore the importance of this, let's just keep in mind that this is the same Richard Clarke who blithely urged Bill Clinton not to "bother" attending those long, boring CIA briefings. There was such a pronounced chill between the Oval Office and the CIA that when single-engine Cessna airplane crashed on the south lawn of the White House in 1994, a few unkind souls snarked that it must have been the director of the CIA, hoping for an appointment with the President.

In fact, these accounts that the DNC so desperately wants to suppress mesh neatly with another I posted earlier, also from the 9/11 commission report:

Senior NSC staff members told us they believed the president’s intent was clear: he wanted Bin Ladin dead. On successive occasions, President Clinton issued authorities instructing the CIA to use its proxies to capture or assault Bin Ladin and his lieutenants in operations in which they might be killed. The instructions, except in one defined contingency, were to capture Bin Ladin if possible. Senior legal advisers in the Clinton administration agreed that, under the law of armed conflict, killing a person who posed an imminent threat to the United States was an act of self-defense, not an assassination. As former National Security Adviser Berger explained, if we wanted to kill Bin Ladin with cruise missiles, why would we not want to kill him with covert action? Clarke’s recollection is the same.

But if the policymakers believed their intent was clear, every CIA official interviewed on this topic by the Commission, from DCI Tenet to the official who actually briefed the agents in the field, told us they heard a different message. What the United States would let the military do is quite different, Tenet said, from the rules that govern covert action by the CIA. CIA senior managers, operators, and lawyers uniformly said that they read the relevant authorities signed by President Clinton as instructing them to try to capture Bin Ladin, except in the defined contingency. They believed that the only acceptable context for killing Bin Ladin was a credible capture operation.

“We always talked about how much easier it would have been to kill him,” a former chief of the UBL Station said. Working-level CIA officers said they were frustrated by what they saw as the policy restraints of having to instruct their assets to mount a capture operation. When Northern Alliance leader Massoud was briefed on the carefully worded instructions for him, the briefer recalls that Massoud laughed and said, “You Americans are crazy. You guys never change.”

The 9/11 Commission Report is a public record document. Anyone with access to a computer or a public library can read it. The only question in our minds is this: why is it that the media have given the DNC a pass on their open and notorious attempts to chill freedom of expression in America? They are antithetical to everything the press purport to stand for; that is, if their professed principles really mean anything.

We are starting to wonder, however, if they really do. Every newspaper editor and liberal pundit in this country should be up in arms about Harry Reid's strong arm tactics. For five years now, comics, actors, and mostly ridiculous pundits like Keith Olbermann have warned American about the face of censorship and fascism in our midst. They tell us this looming danger comes from the Bush administration, from the overbearing pressure of having men like Don Rumsfeld say they are intellectually and morally confused.

Looking at the overwhelming non-response to real government censorship in their midst, I'd say Don Rumsfeld has just been proved absolutely, 100% right. They are intellectually and morally confused. They wouldn't know fascism, or censorship, if it touched them with a ten foot pole. Censorship occurs, not when private citizens (or even government officials) exercise their constitutional right to disapprove of what you say, or oppose your ideas with ideas of their own. It does not occur when private citizens threaten to vote with their dollars because they don't like the message or the product you are selling them. They have that right, and you don't have the right to cram your views down their unwilling throats. Liberals boycott, conservatives boycott, moderates even boycott. Get over it. That isn't censorship because it doesn't involve government.

Censorship occurs when government officials threaten government action to influence or cut off the exercise of free speech.

Senator Harry Reid, Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Senator Charles Schumer, and Senator Byron Dorgan have just done exactly that.

And whether or not you approve their political sentiments, you should not approve the naked use of political power to force Hollywood to change a fictionalized account. Because next time, it could happen to you.

Others blogging:

Scott reveals the mailed fist behind the DNC glove:

Top Senate Democrats, outraged over inaccuracies in the upcoming ABC mini-series The Path to 9/11, today said that in addition to yanking the network’s broadcast license, if the show airs Democrats might also withhold from ABC News the daily distribution of Democrat talking points.

A spokesman for Disney-owned ABC News said that while the network could weather the revocation of its broadcast license, thanks to the proliferation of cable and satellite TV, the loss of the Democrat talking points would force the news division to hire dozens of new reporters to fill the void in its newscasts.


The Wild Thang

Mary Katherine, who not only has contact info for ABC, but has this to say (speaking of...ahem... those all-important principles):

What the threat really means, from the free speech champions at AmericaBlog.
The Senate Democratic leadership just threatened Disney's broadcast license. Not the use of the word "trustee" at the beginning of the letter and "trust" at the end. This is nothing less than an implicit threat that if Disney tries to meddle in the US elections on behalf of the Republicans, they will pay a very serious price when the Democrats get back in power, or even before.

I was kind of expecting him to condemn the action after that first sentence, because it seems so obvious that a condemnation should come after, "The Senate Democratic leadership just threatened Disney's broadcast license."

But no, this is just hardball, nutroots style. It's to be applauded. Take note-- this is the new Democratic Party. They pick Senate candidates and they tell the Majority Leader what to say.

Un.be.lievable. Hands off Mikey Moore (and let's all remind ourselves that there was no government censorship of Sir Michael, Patron Saint of Blowharditude). But don't touch our guys. That Chill Wind, apparently, only blows one way.

First Amendment rights for me, but not for thee.

Register to vote, people.

Posted by Cassandra at September 8, 2006 05:53 AM


I had a sort of nagging at the back of my mind when the first positive reviews came out, praising it for the honesty. I guess it is Clinton's definition of what 'is' is.

When Moore's POS hit the fan, the Left screamed frantically at the Right and others on the Left who denounced Moore's use of literary agency.
As if somehow, he told the truth despite his stated agenda to make Bush look bad.

This documentary does nothing of the kind. It looks at what happened and when. It says nothing against Clinton or Bush, but shows with the benefit of hindsight what we need to do prevent another one.

And that is a bad thing?

Where can we write to ABC telling them to not back down? I was considering reinstalling my satellite account just to watch this, but if Clinton and others are going to be mean spirited poopy heads about it, I would just as soon get my news from the net.

Posted by: Cricket at September 8, 2006 08:29 AM

I've always felt the hollowness in having a pet cat. (Bear with me.) Why? Because as I am holding it on my lap petting it, listening to it purr warmly, I am thinking "the only thing that is keeping this cat from torturing me and eating me for lunch is that he can't. I'm too big."

The Democratic Party demonstrates here, beyond all argument, that the only thing preventing them from simply cancelling the Bill of Rights is that they can't. Quite.

Posted by: Tim Smith at September 8, 2006 08:33 AM

Honestly, as we're now in the McCain-Feingold period, I'd have to say that the whole political class is the enemy of free speech.

It is political speech that was the type of speech the Founders most wanted to protect. These are disgraceful times for our Congress, and especially for its leadership.

Posted by: Grim at September 8, 2006 08:59 AM

Grim, unless you want to come up with a whole slew of examples of the Republican congressional leadership sponsoring actual government censorship, I'm afraid I have to part company with you there.

Venality in both parties, absolutely. Asshattery? No argument from me. But I'm afraid I see a one-sidedness here that, frankly, appalls me.

Still want to hold to that "tradition" argument? Because I'm afraid it's starting to look a tad threadbare. It's this kind of thing that moved me, after 25 years of unaligned voting, to hold my nose and join the Republican party.

This has to be opposed.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 8, 2006 09:08 AM

And by the way, Tim's point is well taken. I wouldn't put it past the RNC to try some of this stuff if the media weren't dominated by liberals. Human nature is human nature.

But facts are also facts, and I've been listening to 20 years of having McCarthyism shoved in my face. What about this? It was the liberal Pew Charitable Trust we have to thank for ramming McCain Feingold down our throats. People really need to wake up and smell the coffee.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 8, 2006 09:12 AM

I agree with Cricket about the desire to contact someone. ABC supposedly received 25,000 letters and emails about the unfairness of telling the truth about Bill Clinton. 25,000 isn't many, when compared to the numbers that Michelle Malkin can sic on miscreants when she publishes contact info. Unfortunately, she's distracted by Miller Brewing Company right now.

At abc.com, I found this comment form. I say we start there. My cursory glance through the website did not immediately provide phone numbers.

Posted by: MathMom at September 8, 2006 09:14 AM

Thanks! I just noticed - Mary Katherine's post (in the update) has ABC contact info too!

Posted by: Cassandra at September 8, 2006 09:18 AM

What gets me about this "in kind" crap from the McCain/Feingold Incumbent Protection Act (which is why McCain will never get my vote) is that this ABC miniseries doesn't spare the Bush admin's faults in this regard either.

What the Senate Don Corelones and Bubba want people to forget that there was 8 years of not taking Islamic fascism seriously priot to 9/11.

This is unconscionable.

Posted by: Darleen at September 8, 2006 09:43 AM

"Grim, unless you want to come up with a whole slew of examples of the Republican congressional leadership sponsoring actual government censorship, I'm afraid I have to part company with you there."

Well, golly Cass, I think McCain-Feingold was sponsored by a Republican (a near Presidential nominee at that, and may be yet) and signed by a Republican President. The FCC has also been pretty active chilling speech with threat of fines ever since Super Bowl Boobie-Gate

Aside: I agree Boobie-Gate was a big deal, but only b/c of its context, not the content -- if they want to have a Boobie Super Bowl, fine - just tell me before I invite my Sunday School class over to watch on the big screen.

I agree that on balance the Left is much more anti-speech than the Right these days, but Grim's point about the both sides of the political class fighting free speech has evidence to back it up.

Posted by: KJ at September 8, 2006 09:56 AM

Hmmm. Mary Katharine's link to ABC doesn't work for me.

Posted by: MathMom at September 8, 2006 09:58 AM

"...unless you want to come up with a whole slew of examples of the Republican congressional leadership sponsoring actual government censorship..."

Let's do it the other way: here's the complete list of Republicans who opposed McCain-Feingold: Roscoe Bartlett (Md.), Chris Chocoa (Ind.) Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Vito Fossella (N.Y.), Trent Franks (Ariz.), Scott Garrett (N.J.), Louie Gohmert (Tex.), Jeb Hensnarling (Tex.), Ernest Istook (Okla.), Walter Jones (N.C.), Steve King (Iowa), Connie Mack (Fla.), Cathy McMorris (Wash.), Randy Naugebauer (Tex.), Ron Paul (Tex.), Mike Pence (Ind.), John Shadegg (Ariz.), Lyle Westmoreland (Ga.).

Every other one joined in actual government censorship -- not just threats of it, but actual censorship by force of law, with fines and prison terms of up to five years as punishment for violations.

Now, I agree that this letter is an insult and a disgrace. No doubt about it.

I don't think it compares, however, to the genuine assault on freedom that comes from passing a law directly and actually censoring free political speech. I don't think the threats encoded in the letter compare with the threat of being declared a felon under Federal law, and sent to Leavenworth.

It's a bad enough thing, this letter, that I'd gladly see anyone who signed on to the project hurled out of Congress. The other thing is worse, but that doesn't mean this isn't bad.

Still, from my perspective, the letter is not on the same order of an assault at McCain-Feingold. And that was a purely bipartisan effort, with the backing of both parties in Congress, the President, and now even the Supreme Court.

You want to ask me how my party affiliation stands up to it? What I want to know is how your Hamiltonian respect for authority stands up to that? It looks to me like the forces of authority have lined up in favor of shutting you up in order to protect themselves as a class. How am I to retain respect for the President, for the Court, for the Congress? For either party?

Posted by: Grim at September 8, 2006 10:05 AM

The difference is that McCain Feingold has (inexplicably I know) been upheld by the Supreme Court.

I don't understand it, but it is the law. And that is one bipartisan effort that wasn't directed specifically at silencing one's political opponents.

Come on KJ - you know what point I was making. There is a difference between saying you oppose government censorship and will defend the freedom to speak even hateful or wrong things and then deliberately going after your political opponents specifically with the full power of the federal government behind you every chance you get.

There is a difference between projecting what you yourself are doing onto your opponents, WHO IN POINT OF FACT AREN'T DOING IT.

Especially when asshats of all stripes believe it.

I stood up when conservatives made such a fuss over Moore and said get a life, you can't censor him (and there were fools who wanted to - there are always fools, but I don't recall any actual censorship). I want to see the other side stand up for what is right. Or Left. Or whatever. I detest Moore and everything he stands for, but I defended his absolute right to be an asshat.

It seems a lot of people on the right, are all for defending the Bill of Rights except when it might benefit their own party when they seem to go all overscrupulous all of a sudden and turn into lukewarm David Brooks commandoes. But rules are rules no matter who it benefits, or harms.

And as for my Hamiltonian respect for authority, the Supreme Court upheld McCain-F. I'm not quite sure what you want me to do about it. I am not a legal scholar. I haven't even read it. My private opinion is that it sucks, but I'm not 100% sure I'm right, to be honest.

That is part and parcel of representative govt. Unless we want to read up on every word of every law and become experts, we have to accept some slop. I don't happen to think McCain unacceptably limits my freedom, frankly. I think much of the outrage over it is overblown and stupid.

You won't like that, but it's true. I hope it is overturned some day, but there are other dangers to free speech in a democratic society, direct and indirect, and people simply aren't smart enough to see them, if you want my unvarnished opinion.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 8, 2006 10:12 AM

It looks to me like the forces of authority have lined up in favor of shutting you up in order to protect themselves as a class.

True. On the otter heiny, I'd say, Grim, that if my political attention span is so short that my becoming informed enough to vote depends on my getting info (in the Internet age, of all things) in the immediate time span just before an election, and McCain-F is going to completely shut me off from my ONLY information source, maybe I am such an idiot I deserve the government I'm about to get.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 8, 2006 10:15 AM

The defense from nuance -- 'we have to understand every word of the law, and the reasons for the various precedents and rulings, before we challenge this particular law' -- is a Hamiltonian one indeed. Here is the Jeffersonian response:

No amount of nuance can excuse a direct violation of the basic, founding principle. These clauses in the First Amendment were designed for a particular purpose: to prevent the government from punishing those who want to appeal for changes in the government.

There's nothing wrong with having a nuanced reading of the law, so long as you don't nuance yourself into heading South when the compass points North. At the point where you have, you don't have to be an expert in the nuances to see the error.

Posted by: Grim at September 8, 2006 11:13 AM

One comment Cass. The Constitution requires all members of the Federal Govt to uphold the Constitution. That means that McCain and Bush should not, in fact must not, pass whatever they want and say, if the Supreme Court screws up and upholds it, "see, I was right - it is OK." Besides, even Constituional law can be attacked as bad public policy. While the questions are different, there is not denying that free speech (even if constitutionally restrained) has suffered b/c of Bush and McCain.

If Bush and McCain really respected free political speech, they would not have passed/signed McCain-Feingold. That they did tells me either they don't understand the First Amendment, or they abdicated their authority for political reasons with misplaced hopes that the Court would bail them out (I think the latter is true).

I hold them both accountable. The 4 liberal one moderate opinion upholding McCain-Feingold doesn't make it OK. I will honor the law, but that law is subject to change, either through new legislation or one replaced justice. I didn't give the Supreme Court my mind on the Consitution and certainly not on public policy. The law can be changed -- either legislatively or through proper court opinions.

The point being the same. The Republicans and the Democrats actually joined together to limit free political speech.

You say they didn't do it to silence their oponents. I disagree. Their opponents in this law were not Reps or Dems though. They were challengers to incumbents. The law is an incumbency protection act. It was passed to silence ALL their critics who would take their jobs.

Posted by: KJ at September 8, 2006 11:18 AM

I would agree with that Grim. The question is, did you head out into the street with a pitchfork over McCain? No. Neither did I. But according to some of Jefferson's more inflammatory quotes, you should have.

Pfffttt. Nonsense.

It was passed by a solid bipartisan consensus. It was subsequently ratified by SCOTUS. I don't like it, but I have no reason to believe (other than my subjective feelings of dislike and the heated rhetoric of my libertarian friends, whom I notice also bear no pitchforks) that it is unconstitutional.

Hmmmm. What to do? What to do?

When the whole bloggers thing over McC-F blew up these same folks were ardently talking of civil disobedience. I notice none of them had "time" to read the suggested revisions, or follow the issue in detail like I did. No.

They just wanted to talk smack about how they would break the law if their first amendment rights were trampled on. How the hell would they know?

And more accurately, if these "rights" are so fricking important, why wouldn't they participate in the process instead of fomenting disrespect for the law?

This is why I shrink from things you defend, like jury nullification. All to often they are the lazy man's way out. People won't do their duty, then they want a quick "out" by disobeying the law when they're caught not paying attention. But all to often that becomes not an exercise in principled dissent but an excuse for doing whatever the hell they wanted to.

I have no doubt some people, like you, are capable of such principled dissent, Grim. But by and large I'm not seeing that kind of restraint and discipline in the general mass of citizens. Jefferson was profoundly naive about human nature, and most of his comments reveal that naivety. But then his background was a privileged one, and Hamilton's wasn't

And that makes all the difference, doesn't it?

Posted by: Cassandra at September 8, 2006 11:26 AM

And I am not trying to be insulting here. My remarks are general ones. It's just that I watch people do this kind of crap all the time. They argue that they should be able to break the rules because rules aren't perfect.

But the rules themselves were made because people are far less perfect, and almost all laws contain exceptions. If people keep setting themselves above the law, we get anarchy.

I don't say you can never do that, but in general I am suspicious of folks who keep arguing, "but I can set my conscience about this or that or the other rule".

Do I think that too? Absolutely.

The difference is that I am just as suspicious of my own motivations. And people who aren't scare the shit out of me.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 8, 2006 11:30 AM

In general I think we do better to preserve and uphold the system, even if it works slowly and imperfectly, than to take shortcuts and circumvent it when we get impatient. There has to be some objective standard here, not just individuals all saying, "I can substitute my individual opinion/conscience whenever the heck I want to". Otherwise you have unaccountable Charles Manson saying "today I'd like to murder someone because I find society's mores arbitrarily confining". Where does that end?

If we don't like McCain, fine. Why aren't we lobbying to impeach the judges who upheld it?

*crickets chirping*

And why aren't we campaigning to oust the legislators who voted for it?

*more crickets*

I submit this isn't that big a deal to most folks, really.

It irritates us. It is inconvenient.

End of story.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 8, 2006 11:37 AM

Meanwhile, something that truly SHOULD outrage you (the Fairness Doctrine legislation) generates a huge, barbaric....


That is a bigger danger to free expression in America than 100000 McCain Feingold acts.

Why aren't you guys upset about that, huh?

If talk radio and Faux News went away, it would be titanic. This should really, really bother you. This ain't limiting a few people a few weeks before an election. This is 24/7, all the time.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 8, 2006 11:42 AM

I set my sights differently from you on the point of what's more threatening. As for the question of impeaching the judges -- Congress first. They do the impeachments, after all.

Posted by: Grim at September 8, 2006 12:18 PM

Yes, I know you do, and that is your right.

But your reasoning continues to elude me, Grim, as does KJ's sometimes. But then no doubt I confuse the heck out of you guys.

I have blogged more about McCain F and 527's than most folks, yet all I hear is blah blah Bush didn't veto. I never hear about SCOTUS upheld. That's nine folks, well versed in constitutional law, who looked at this issue. WTF? It often seems to me that you all are looking for one man to blame because that is easier. I'm not so sure it is that simple an issue, however. I'm really not. If it is, we as citizens are not doing our jobs.

Judges have life terms and especially if they make decisions of Constitutional reach, their decisions last for decades and cannot be overturned. Therefore, they are far more dangerous. The impact of any individual legislator, on the other hand, is small.

McCain Feingold applies only to a very narrow time window and only to certain kinds of paid speech. The things I'm talking about apply all the time, and to the dissemination of news. The scope is potentially far, far more broad.

You can certainly disagree with me. It is just that I find it very difficult to understand your reasoning, that's all.

Anyway, that's neither here nor there.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 8, 2006 12:31 PM

You just did hear me complaining about SCOTUS. To whit: "Still, from my perspective, the letter is not on the same order of an assault at McCain-Feingold. And that was a purely bipartisan effort, with the backing of both parties in Congress, the President, and now even the Supreme Court."

I'm not looking for any one person to blame: McCain, Feingold, Bush, whoever. I want them all, either to change course or get gone.

Indeed, this is the whole reason I think McC/F is worse than the letter you are on about today. Now, that's bad, I agree -- it's got to be stopped, yes.

But it's an opposition faction making what are, for now, idle threats. McC/F is the law. The political class -- including the SCOTUS -- is prepared to endorse it and stand by it.

It directly contradicts the most important principle at work in the First Amendment.

It's precisely the bipartisan agreement, and the fact that the whole political class is standing behind it, that makes it a bigger threat. With the Fairness Doctrine, the whole political process stands between the Democrats and what they say they want to do.

With McC/F, the whole political process has been run. And it's failed.

That is what alarms me, and ought to alarm you.

There is nothing left to do about it, except that we the People should protest, defy the law, and cast the villians out of Congress -- or intimidate them into complying with the principle of the First Amendment.

I'm not, here, advocating violence of any sort. I am advocating defiance of the law, because it is a law that is invalid under the First Amendment. I'm advocating defiance of the SCOTUS, because they are wrong -- as they have been wrong before.

It's not time for pitchforks, not real ones. But the institutions have all failed us. In the case of Fairness, there's much to do to prevent the bad thing from happening. In the case of McC/F, it's down to us. The politicians and the lawyers have failed their duty. We must do ours.

Posted by: Grim at September 8, 2006 12:47 PM

But Grim dear (she said sweetly) I don't see this as being as bad as Kelo, as bad as the horrible, horrible overexpansion of Commerce Clause jurisprudence that has virtually eliminated federalism.

That's what I'm trying to say. And yet we sit here. And this is insidious - it is part of a pattern of behaviour that is ongoing - open projection of censorship that is believed by (I'd say) half of the voting public while under the sheets the dems are actually using the power of Congress trying to strong arm people. That's what really alarms me.

That's how we lose our freedoms. That's how the Commerce Clause was perverted, and Kelo happened (ask the man on the street who did that and he'll tell you it was conservatives! what a lie).

This is why I am alarmed. Control of the news cycle (NOT MCCAIN FEINGOLD) is the single most important issue of our time, I think. Not that we, as conservatives should control it, for that is wrong.

But that it should not BE controlled by a political party as it clearly is, and has been for so many years.

Paid political speech? Pppppptttt. Who believes political ads anyway? It's important, but I'm not going to burn the barn down when there are so many other issues hanging fire.

News? Talk radio? Information? When the President of the US can't get an hour to talk to the nation and can only get his words out through a hostile media filter that we've seen is all too willing to distort them...

Posted by: Cassandra at September 8, 2006 01:00 PM

If I could step out of Character and admit something publically.

I have to agree in parts with Mr. Grim and hopefully instigate Cassandra becuase she is sexy when she is angry.

The Congress and the Senate deserve their 24% approval rate. It doesn't take much to figure out that both parties in the seat of power are opportunistic and self serving schmucks.

Not that I have made any profound discovery that I could take credit for - Oh no - that's just not me - but this has been going on in our Government for years.

Ocassionally, you get a self affirmed "do gooder" bent on saving the coutry - propping up the poor and destitute. Unfortunately - he or she get "asphyxiated" by the ever present stench of do nothing politicians and their "over labiated" egos .

Examine these theoritical comments...

"Pardon me while I smooch my public Service", Nancy Pelosi

" I don't care how old I am,... I ain't moving ot of here for anyone, My country needs me...Where am I again?", Strom Thurmond

"I am not a crook" Richard Nixon

" Mary Jo, I will be right back" Ted Kennedy

" What money - I have done nothing wrong any democrat would do?" Tom Delay

" I did not have sex with that woman" Bill Clinton

" I did not have sex with that man " Hillary Clinton

" Just tell them anything...they are just gonna stare at my hair?" John Kerry

" Just let em in...as a matter of fact give them socialy security.. we must defend the borders of America!!" John McCain

"Billy is a Peanut farmer" Jimmy Carter

If you ever want to have a depressing roller coaster ride - do an in depth study of what exactly goes on in the shallow halls of justice.

Ever wonder why problems never seem to get fixed?

Ever notice that the same politicians are talking about the same problems , election after election?

Ever wonder why I bother to write this nonsense?

Call it lethargy...call it bullshit... call it "bend over this Budweiser is for you"...

Call it the pablum that propagates from the infantile minds of " elected officials grabbing at the public teats of individual freedom"

Yes, by the way those are the public teats they are coveting...

Well I am telling you now my friends ....this big boob, even partially exposed can no longer be forced to nurse the scores and scores
of negligent, indecent, greedy, lifetime employed, milk sucking, and swindling" politicans.

People's best interest at heart? Unlikely?
I hate to burden you folks but they are not our best friends...

My plan for the future?

Vote every stinking one of them out of office.

Republican, Democrat and the leftovers.

Give back America to the people that live here.

Get the politicans back on the short little yellow bus bus they rode in on...

Elected officials?

Ah yes, America's pestillence problem.

I have three things to do today clean the guest bathroom [out of state relatives], write my pubkic officials and google for pictures of "Suri Cruise".....


Posted by: Dr. Harden Stuhl at September 8, 2006 01:15 PM

How much is spd paying you?

Posted by: Cassandra at September 8, 2006 01:22 PM

Actually, belay that last - I didn't pay attention to the "Cassandra is sexy when she is angry" :D It couldn't have been spd.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 8, 2006 01:23 PM

I also misspelled Public..

That is what happens when you try to transcribe to a laptop while holding a medical clipboard and a patients albuterol drip.

Seriously - though - I love it when you get your dander up...Get em...


Posted by: Dr. Harden Stuhl at September 8, 2006 01:30 PM

I think this is the most recent nonsense that has the Good Doctor in an outrage. :)

(I got this from The Corner, by the way, but it is about the shenanigans of someone in the California State Legistlature. It is to laugh)

WHEREAS, The mean-spirited International Astronomical Union decided on August 24, 2006, to disrespect Pluto by stripping Pluto of its planetary status and reclassifying it as a lowly dwarf planet; and . . .
WHEREAS, Downgrading Pluto's status will cause psychological harm to some Californians who question their place in the universe and worry about the instability of universal constants. . .
Resolved by the Assembly of the State of California, That the Assembly hereby condemns the International Astronomical Union’s decision to strip Pluto of its planetary status for its tremendous impact on the people of California and the state’s long term fiscal health.

So there you have it, changing Pluto's status is going to have a long term effect on the State of California's fiscal health.

These people are morons. Really. And I just don't mean that as hyperbole, either.

When does the revolution start?

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at September 8, 2006 01:36 PM

California State Legistlature?

Boy - that is a perfect example.....don't get me started...

I am sure they want to save Pluto so they repopulate it with all the tax enabled - pre operative transgenders - they have created. May as well hedge future votes, after all most California legislators are from Pluto.

Posted by: Dr. Harden Stuhl at September 8, 2006 02:03 PM

The President can't make Congress pass laws he wants. That much is true. But I think it is very appropriate to hold a President, the ONE person with veto power, responsible for signing legislation that is an unconstitutional (or not, who really cares) restraint of political speech. If Congress can override it, fine. Make them prove it.

Justice Thomas thought M-F was unconstitutional. I can't believe with that opinion, Cass, that you don't have any reason to believe differently than the court's ruling.

But, if you want another reason, I'll play Sesame Street. (1) First Amendment: "Congress shall pass no law abridging the freedom of speech." (2) History: The first amendment was, more than anything, about protecting political speech. (3) M-F: You can't advertise political speech close to an election.

Hmmmmm. Which one of these things doesn't belong?

As for the other sins out there, like the fairness doctrine or Kelo, I agree that it is a problem. Actually, I was upset about Kelo and would be very upset with the return of the fairness doctrine, but it hasn't returned yet. The fairness doctrine is also unconstitutional, but it hasn't been ruled such by a court. So what. I would hold Bush or anyone else to blame if they allowed its return, though I realize that unlike M-F, that is truely a left wing proposition. But could Bush sign the law as a compromise? Sure he could.

[The talk is that if the Dems take control after November, they will likely pass Bush's immigration reform bill. Isn't that typical. The Left likes another Bush program that is to the left of the typical conservative Republican position.]

That's why I elect certain politicians. I expect them to keep certain civil liberties for me. I expect them to exercise their own discretion on constitutional issues as they are required to do. They don't get to pass it off to the Court. It would be much better for the Court to never strike a law b/c our President and Congress never passed an unconstitutional one. Problem is, they often don't seem to care about that. Only keeping their jobs.

Posted by: KJ at September 8, 2006 04:22 PM

Well KJ, I do not want to turn this into a referendum on McCain Feingold, which I am heartily sick of.

I have to say this: I am 47 years old and in all the time I have been alive I have NEVER ONCE been persuaded, nor had my vote changed by, a political AD.

And I really do NOT think the Founding Fathers, when they wrote the 1st Amendment, had their knickers in a twist about the prospect of PAID political speech.

*I* think they were worried about news, opinion writing, the free flow of information and art and culture - the things that keep a society ALIVE. Political advertising, in the grand scheme of things, is a flyspeck on the wall of history. It is what prostitution is to sex - a poor substitute for the real thing.

Intelligent people don't make decisions based on it. They know it is biased. And like fireflies, it has a short half-life. We can talk all year, and statistics show people almost never change their minds just before an election. I think you guys are focused like a laser beam on exactly the wrong thing.

But I fully realize that I haven't really been out in the real world and probably don't know what I'm talking about.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 8, 2006 04:34 PM

And you are right KJ. But I haven't read Justice Thomas' opinion on McCain.

That was so far off my radar scope it isn't funny. I'm sure I should read it, but I haven't. I don't even know how the Court voted, to be honest. Which says something. But then most people can't even name all the justices.


Posted by: Cassandra at September 8, 2006 04:37 PM

I'll humbly add that M-F actually doesn't work. It stopped what it tried to stop about as well as those levees stopped Katrina.

Posted by: Tim Smith at September 8, 2006 04:49 PM

Actually, most California legislators are from Uranus. They are busy trying to pass California's version of Kyoto, which Green Ahnold supports (puke!) They did not have time to fix our ailing levee and flood control systems. One needs a good sense of humor to live here.

I would agree that America is long overdue for some some Supreme Court Justice removals and limitations on its jurisdiction, curtailment of legislation from the bench. All that is missing is the majority to do it. Nothing will change here until we elect other than gutless wankers.

For all the joke material California provides, it did remove Rose Bird and two of her lackeys from the California Supreme Court. It did toss Goobernor Gray Doofus out of office.

Posted by: Mark at September 8, 2006 05:39 PM

From the OU law web site on the topic:


"The Federalist Papers were a series of articles written under the pen name of Publius by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. Madison, widely recognized as the Father of the Constitution, would later go on to become President of the United States. Jay would become the first Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. Hamilton would serve in the Cabinet and become a major force in setting economic policy for the US.

The entire purpose of The Federalist Papers was to gain popular support for the then-proposed Constitution. Some would call it the most significant public-relations campaign in history; it is, in fact, studied in many public relations classes as a prime example of how to conduct a successful campaign."

In other words, The Federalist Papers were paid political speech. This wasn't intended to be a M-F debate. I was just suporting Grim's argument that Republicans in Congress and the White House don't have all that much to brag about on the free speech front, though they can say that on average they are better than many Democrats. But that is like bragging that one is prettier than billy goat.

That is all.

Posted by: KJ at September 8, 2006 11:39 PM

I gotta go with the Clintons on this one! After all, what's the point of having Sandy Berger steal and destroy inciminatiing Clinton documents from the National Archive if they are going to allow a left wing media outlet to tell the real truth.
Remember the Clinton deposition tape which the left-wing media said would show Clinton losing his temper? The tape came out; he didn't lose his temper but the fact that he didn't became the story and the fact that he lied became a secondary issue.
Beware of leftist media diverting attention to help the, well, other leftists!

Posted by: Marrty at September 9, 2006 12:20 PM

Path to 9/11 is not the only inaccurate and misleading docudrama.
The movie United 93 is described as "meticulously researched" and "based on fact", but there is not any indication that the German passenger Christian Adams was indeed a coward and appeaser and tried to stop the American heroes from storming the cockpit as the movie shows. The Guardian's film critic writes: "The film United 93 finds old Europe literally standing in the way of US derring-do. The only trouble is, it didn't happen that way."
Perhaps you are interested in my take on this in the Atlantic Review: German 9/11 Victim Defamed in "United 93" Movie.

Posted by: A friend from Europe at September 10, 2006 12:42 PM

Thank you .

I think this is so important.

I am not a total cultural or historical relativist, but I really think the idea that we can have only one "government approved" idea of history presented on TV, and that, moreover, US Congressmen should be DEMANDING that a fictionalized show be pulled or edited to "conform" to a government commission is not only blatently unconstitutional but dangerous. By that standard, Fahrenheit 9/11 and almost every historical film every made should be pulled from the shelves and we'll have to have a government office to review films from now on. What is wrong with these people?

It just stuns me that liberals would go along with this idea. Sure, it may work to their advantage this time.

This is government censorship, pure and simple.

Posted by: Cassandra at September 10, 2006 12:50 PM

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