Wednesday, September 16, 2009

House Democrats Willing To Trash First Amendment To End Obama Criticism

In several Western European countries, liberals have enacted so-called "hate speech" laws which have criminalized what would otherwise be considered free speech. House Democrats in Washington seem to be moving in that direction in the wake of its passage of a resolution condemning U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson for yelling at President Obama during his speech to Congress last week on health care reform, "You lie!" Constitutional lawyer Jonathan Turley blogs about efforts by House Democrats to enact new rules curbing what members may say on the floor and in committees. "The rules are remarkably broad and arbitrary in limiting comments regarding the President," Turley writes. He then goes on to describe his First Amendment concerns:

It appears that members can still use “disgrace” and “nitwit” but not “liar” or “sexual misconduct.”

The controversy concerns section 370 of the House Rules and Manual, which is being used to bar a range of comments on the President that are in my view protected speech. These include calling the President a “liar,” a “hypocrite,” guilty of a “cowardly” act, or any allegation of “sexual misconduct on the President’s part.”

This could raise some extremely interesting questions, particularly if the Democrats seek to enforce these rules against a member. I believe the Democrats are simply wrong in such a position and are putting themselves at odds with free speech and the inherent rights of a member in the representation of this constituency. Courts have indeed yielded to the prerogative of the House in setting its own rules. However, this may be the exception to that rule. The problem with Wilson’s outburst was that he was not allowed to speak or heckle a presidential address under the rules. This would appear to cover a much broader range of speech.

Former President Jimmy Carter, meanwhile, has declared that most criticsm of President Obama is racially motivated. When you can't defend your policies, deal from the bottom of the deck by playing the race card, eh?


Downtown Indy said...

I wonder if Obama has cultivated some kind of racism in me?

I was very encouraged and eager to see him win the election and get rid of the 'Bush era' ... for about 2 months into his campaign.

I listened to him, started thinking through the ideas he was kicking around, and realized all of a sudden that this guy was perhaps the worst thing that could ever happen to this country.

If Jimmy is right, I became a racist by listening to Obama speak.

Or maybe the simpler explanation (see 'Occam') is that I simply find most, if not all, of Obama's ideals terribly wrong?

Patriot Paul said...

I believe you cite the House Rules, but is it applicable during a joint session of Congress?
Another rule: "a lawmaker shall conduct himself at all times in a manner which shall reflect creditably on the House of Representatives" could be broadly interpreted and would be enough to hang their hat on.

Downtown Indy said...

Another poll undeway about this healthcare thing:

IndyPaul said...

House Rules can and do govern conduct on the House floor and in committee. The House can, and has through its history, institute its own rules of conduct. There is no first amendment issue here. Its funny how some people want to all of a sudden jump on everything done as "Unconstitutional!", when they overlooked the same thing (or more egegious things) done in the past.

I have no doubt that racism enters into the equation for many in their reaction to Obama - as sexism does for many in reacting to women. The stereotypes and fears are often hard-wired, and hard to discern apart from other considerations. I'm not sure how Carter discerns racism from Wilson. The fact that Wilson is from South Carolina makes it more likely, and Carter, as a fellow southerner, certainly would have some insight into that.