Freedom From the Press

Responding to Sarah Palin’s expressed fear that media criticism of her public comments amounts to suppressing her First Amendment rights, Glenn Greenwald gives a short lesson on freedom of expression as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution:

The First Amendment is actually not that complicated. It can be read from start to finish in about 10 seconds. It bars the Government from abridging free speech rights. It doesn’t have anything to do with whether you’re free to say things without being criticized, or whether you can comment on blogs without being edited, or whether people can bar you from their private planes because they don’t like what you’ve said.

If anything, Palin has this exactly backwards, since one thing that the First Amendment does actually guarantee is a free press. Thus, when the press criticizes a political candidate and a Governor such as Palin, that is a classic example of First Amendment rights being exercised, not abridged.

So, yeah, she may have more “executive experience” than Barack Obama, but I think we can see why a constitutional scholar would be more prefereable. That is, if the last eight years of domestic espionage, secret detentions and torture were not enough.

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3 responses to “Freedom From the Press

  1. Well, livejournal is not allowing me to comment for some reason, so I copy and paste my Rojo Sez: comment over here, because, as rambly as it is, I don’t want to have spent the time writing it only to have to delete it, as I said at the end:

    Frankly, I have my doubts that Obama would be more preferable, as undoubtedly intellectually more competent he is. Did his constitutional scholarship prevent him from voting for such unconstitutional measures as warrantless wiretapping and the extension of the USA PATRIOT Act? No. Did it stop him from voting to continue to fund unconstitutional wars? No. Does it stop him from arguing for unconstitutional measures such as the executive expansion of the Afghanistan war to Pakistan (already preempted by Bush on that score, but my point stands)? No. What do we want; intelligent, nuanced attempts to reconstitute the unconstitutional imperial executive at once damaged and expanded by the Bush administration or ham-handed, reactionary attempts to do the same? I see unacceptable dangers in both, the differences likely of little concern to the people under the bombs and also of little interest to me, who wishes to resist imperialism in every way I can without, and this marks me as a coward in comparison to many other far more commendable people, going to jail for a long, long time.

    I have, however, been getting great pleasure out of the hilarious incompetence of the McCain campaign and Palin’s vapidity.

    Which is good, because my parents are visiting Portland, he a retired poli-sci professor specializing in international affairs and she a retired anthro professor focused on South Asia, both Obama supporters, although thankfully neither are of the starry-eyed variety found all over the inter-tubes, and the Palin/McCain follies have offered some welcome leavening moments amidst our arguments about Obama and my decision to vote McKinney, which are somewhat less acrimonious than the previous Kerry/Gore v. Nader debates, I think largely because the “‘rental units,” as my sis calls them, are justifiably confident of an Obama victory and because they understand that Oregon is locked-up for Obama. My father just said over dinner tonight that he guessed that “six radicals in Portland” didn’t matter very much. Ouch. I wonder who the other five he’s thinking of are? Not that the arguments were that acrimonious before, we generally agree on who is getting shafted here in the United States and around the world, somewhat agree on why they’re getting shafted, and generally disagree and how to go about fixing it, so that doesn’t lead to the kind of political enmity that you sometimes here about within families (my reactionary closeted uncle, and namesake, is an entirely different matter).

    What was most interesting to me from tonight’s conversation was my father bringing up who he though Obama was likely to resemble in decision making style. He cited Roosevelt (Franklin) and Lincoln, this in part I think in reaction to my criticisms of Obama’s ability to embrace such loathsome figures as Ken Adelman and his suggestion that Paulson, of all people, might be considered to stay on as Treasury Secretary (Obama has abandoned this latter, wisely). His point was that Roosevelt and Lincoln both had the ability to surround themselves with objectionable people and then ignore their advice. I’ll leave aside the historical merits of that observation, with which I have some disagreements. In response I said that I expected Obama to resemble Bill Clinton minus some of the impulsiveness (Obama does seem judicious, if often negatively in my view). My father responded, much to my surprise, “Oh, God forbid!” I don’t remember that opinion from the Clinton years (In fact, while I’m rambling on and on and on I might as well tell this story: My father served as the head of what’s called the Eleanor Roosevelt Valkill Committee, which is dedicated, they say, to promoting Eleanor’s admittedly more humane vision of international law and human rights than that held by Franklin. So, during one of the years my father was the head of this committee, they select Hillary Clinton to receive the annual award given for the promotion of human rights. Anyway, I fly home to Poughkeepsie for Christmas and sitting on the mantle over the fireplace is a picture of Pops shaking hands with Hillary while awarding her the prize. It was twice the size of the picture of the family, the only other picture on the mantle. I immediately laid the Clinton picture on its face and said, “I will not abide pictures of Hillary larger than pictures of the family!” (Framing! heh.) That photo either no longer lives on the mantle or is assiduously removed every time I come to visit, I know not which and haven’t bothered to ask.) Anyway, extended aside aside, my father’s response surprised me and made me wonder whether the economic meltdown and imperialistic hubris (and nemesis, to allude to Chalmers Johnson) of recent years had him reassessing the Clinton presidency, because I don’t remember having particularly critical views while it was going on.

    Ok, sorry for the ramble, only tangentially related to what you wrote, but it came out nonetheless and I don’t want to delete it.

  2. Wow, that was fun to read! I so rarely get extensive responses to my stuff. And so personal, too – which is welcome.

    Regarding Obama as constitutional scholar and his Senate voting record: no argument here. I don’t deny he lets political convenience guide his every action. It seems that there is a general movement toward some kind of restoration of the limits on executive power, answerable to law, balanced by the other branches, and de-fanging as a head of the police state. How successful that will be is anyone’s guess; once in office (provided he wins), Obama might find a few “innovations” made by his predecessor tempting to keep in his armory. We should keep our eyes peeled.

    As for the imperial Presidency, it’s like Nader keeps saying: the most powerful branch of the U.S. government is the Congress, if only they would get their shit together and act as a real check on executive power – especially in matters of war-making. That requires some serious ideological groundwork, shifting the framing of the debate from “We need John Wayne on a white horse to punish the brown people for smudging our childish water colors of global dominance” to “We need to keep the executive branch from becoming a dictatorship.” There are some old arguments to dust off from the Federalist Papers and put in a new context.

    Funny you should mention Clinton, FDR and Lincoln. I’ve been working on a cartoon about how an Obama presidency would look in historical terms. Lately I’ve been thinking more LBJ: broad domestic programs and a war that undermines his credibility and efficacy. I really worry about getting sucked into Afghanistan (and possibly Pakistan), playing out some kind of Iraq II.

  3. Hmmm, the LBJ analogy is interesting, I hadn’t thought of that one. My opinion is that Obama’s commitment to broad domestic programs is far shallower than was that of LBJ’s, even as I think that LBJ’s was mostly in response to outside pressures, so I’ll stick with Clinton.

    Although your raising of LBJ does make me think of the major reason why I think that Clinton is the most apt analogy, because I believe that LBJ, Roosevelt, and Lincoln were all responding to outside pressures that they saw as threats to the system and therefore were more amenable to sweeping change, whereas Clinton was handed a weak union movement, a weak civil rights establishment, a weak peace movement, et cetera, all of whom had tempered or eliminated their systemic critiques and more or less hitched their wagons permanently to the Democratic Party. Hence, no pressure to change things fundamentally. So far, Obama has inherited essentially the same scenario, but I suppose that could change (*crossing fingers*).