Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Advocating government censorship of Mr. Ricketts' free speech before he even said anything

"Our friend Doug Schoen, the Democratic pollster, is a political centrist, ideologically much closer to the post-1994 Bill Clinton than to Barack Obama. That makes all the more troubling his advocacy of government censorship of political speech, the kind of expression that is at the core of First Amendment protection.

Schoen finds it "more than just disquieting" but "shameful and embarrassing" that, as the New York Times reported (and we noted) last week, Chicago Cubs part-owner Joe Ricketts considered funding an anti-Obama super PAC ad that would have reminded voters about the president's "spiritual mentor," Jeremiah Wright. Under political pressure, Obama in 2008 repudiated the America-hating pastor, whose views even the New York Times concedes are "clearly racist."

"Speaking frankly," Schoen writes, "racially divisive negative advertisements of this sort do not belong in a presidential election. Whether one supports the president or not, he should be judged on his record, and an ad hominem attack of any sort should have no home in the public arena."

He would like to use the power of the government to suppress this speech of which he disapproves, as he has made clear in other columns. His complaint about the Ricketts ad that wasn't shows just what a pernicious idea this is and why the Supreme Court was right to uphold free speech in the celebrated case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Schoen's objection to the Ricketts ad proposal is imprecise, to say the least. In particular, he doesn't quite seem to know the meaning of the phrase "ad hominem." The argumentum ad hominem--"argument to the man"--is high on any list of logical fallacies. It consists of citing irrelevant facts about a person's actions or character in an effort to undermine his position....

Schoen's contention that "an ad hominem attack of any sort should have no home in the public arena" is bizarre in the context of a political campaign. Such a contest is a choice between men, not merely an abstract comparison of issue positions. Even to the extent that it is the latter, character is important: A voter has to judge, among other things, the sincerity of the candidates' convictions and their competence to carry out their promises.

Every political campaign is an ad hominem argument--a claim that the man seeking the office is fit for it. Mitt Romney argues that his business experience qualifies him to make economic policy. The Obama campaign has responded with an ad hominem attack--an advertisement featuring workers who lost their jobs after a Bain Capital investment failed. This ad may be unfair and misleading, but even if it's completely truthful, it's still ad hominem.

Barack Obama ran for president saying, as he put it in his 2008 convention speech, that he would realize "America's promise--the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort." His connection with figures like Wright gave reason to doubt the sincerity of such professions. His actions as president have shown that such doubts were fully justified....

It sounds as though the proposed Ricketts ad would have been a waste of money (especially now that the New York Times has demonstrated its willingness to propagate the message free of charge).

But Schoen's appetite for government censorship of political speech based on his disapproval of its content, and his insouciance about even articulating a coherent standard to explain his disapproval, shows why it is so important to guard our First Amendment rights vigilantly. Schoen is in no sense a political extremist, yet he is eager to stifle dissent.

Schoen makes one other argument that deserves a response:

Perhaps this makes me a bit of an anachronism, but I still firmly believe that a presidential campaign is supposed to be a dialogue--or a battle--between the two campaigns and parties. Super PACs change the equation so that elections are reduced to a situation where candidates and their henchmen are responding to moves made by outside groups.

The solution to this problem isn't more censorship, as Schoen argues, but less. The Supreme Court has held, wrongly in our view, that lawmakers have the authority to limit contributions to candidates and parties. But they have no obligation to do so. If Congress passed legislation abolishing all such limits, it would obviate much of the incentive to form super PACs. The censorship Schoen advocates is not even necessary to achieve his goal."...via Lucianne

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5/17/12, "Joe Ricketts’s children...include Obama bundler Laura Ricketts."...

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Ed. note: In 2004 George Soros spent $26.5 million trying to defeat George Bush. No one was upset about that or angrily scolded the US Supreme Court on prime time television about it. The wealthy can always give anonymously if indirectly to political candidates via 527 groups which can buy the same ads Super PACs can.

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5/22/12, "Whispering the Truth in Obama's America," American Thinker, Stella Paul

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10/30/2008, Tom Brokaw and Charlie Rose 4 days before Obama's election say they know very little about him. Brokaw says he knows Obama went to Harvard Law School.

Charlie Rose notes we're coming into "what may be the most historic election of our time." He says what we know about Obama is primarily from his autobiography and 2 speeches. Rose asks esteemed journalist/opinion leader Tom Brokaw,

  • "What do you make of Barack Obama?"
Charlies Rose says, we've not have a real in depth discussion about foreign policy, we don't know a lot about the universe of this thinking. Brokaw: "We don't know a lot about Barack Obama and the universe of his thinking. China has not been examined at all,
  • which is astonishing."...
Brokaw: "I don't know what books he's read."...
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Illustration at top via Breitbart Big Government, 4/6/11, "Free Speech for me, but not for thee," Chris Berg

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