Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Constitution and Mrs. Palin - Part 2

The First Amendment - Freedom of Speech

Mrs. Palin has a curious take on the free speech part of the First Amendment of the Constitution.  Here she is, recorded by WMAL, an AM station in Washington, DC: "If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations, then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media."

When she railed against her running-mate's opponent during the 2008 race, her attacks were vitriolic and incessant.  She maintained that Barack Obama could not be "one of us" because he got his start in the living room of a domestic terrorist, and continued to "pal around with" Bill Ayers, a member of the Weather Underground when candidate Obama was not yet a teenager. As a result of her rhetoric, Palin rally attendees called for Barack Obama to be killed. In a twisted interpretation of the First Amendment, Mrs. Palin insisted that she not only had a right to say what she did, riling up redneck crowds at every campaign stop, but that the media had no right to call her on it.

 Let's take a look at that part of the First Amendment. "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..." Nowhere in this amendment does it say that a person who speaks freely shall be protected from the press reporting on what was said.  Yet Mrs. Palin appears to regard commentary by the press as an infringement on her right to free speech.

At the same time, she seems not to recognize the hypocrisy of her personal view because through her attorney, Mrs. Palin threatened to sue Alaskan blogger Shannyn Moore for reporting the existence of rumors about a pending investigation of her potentially corrupt dealings.

So, let's get this straight.  If Mrs. Palin says wild and incendiary things on the campaign trail, her right to free speech should protect her from the media talking about what she said.  But if someone else mentions an extant rumor that names Mrs. Palin, that person deserves to be sued for daring to repeat what others have been saying.

I'd say that Mrs. Palin's understanding of this part of the First Amendment is wanting.
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