Sunday, November 02, 2008

Palin claims her First Amendment rights are threatened

I saw this story through Americablog, which linked back to the Huffington Post, which linked to this ABC News source story:

In a conservative radio interview that aired in Washington, D.C. Friday morning, Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin said she fears her First Amendment rights may be threatened by "attacks" from reporters who suggest she is engaging in a negative campaign against Barack Obama.

Palin told WMAL-AM that her criticism of Obama's associations, like those with 1960s radical Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, should not be considered negative attacks. Rather, for reporters or columnists to suggest that it is going negative may constitute an attack that threatens a candidate's free speech rights under the Constitution, Palin said.

"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations," Palin told host Chris Plante, "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."

Excuse me Sarah Palin, but you have got it completely backwards. The First Amendment protects you from the government's infringement of your freedom of speech rights, not from "attacks" by reporters calling you out for your negative campaigning against Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. In addition, the First Amendment guarantees a freedom of a press to criticize their government and its officials on issues, and even the hypocrisy of these officials. Sarah Palin feels that she is the victim of media attacks, criticizing her going negative campaigning against Obama by bringing up the Ayers and Wright associations. And Sarah Palin’s First Amendment rights are being infringed upon by the media? She is completely wrong here.

Salon's Glen Greenwald perfectly explains the issue, even to the point of showing how Sarah Palin's views of First Amendment rights are so wrong:

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.

This isn't only about profound ignorance regarding our basic liberties, though it is obviously that. Palin here is also giving voice to the standard right-wing grievance instinct: that it's inherently unfair when they're criticized. And now, apparently, it's even unconstitutional.

According to Palin, what the Founders intended with the First Amendment was that political candidates for the most powerful offices in the country and Governors of states would be free to say whatever they want without being criticized in the newspapers. In the Palin worldview, the First Amendment was meant to ensure that powerful political officials such as herself would not be "attacked" in the papers. Is it even possible to imagine more breathtaking ignorance from someone holding high office and running for even higher office?

Two more days until the election.

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