Yesterday, putative President Barack Obama chose an Internet chat room to send a message hostile to freedom. He proposed in effect to amend the First Amendment away. Obama has threatened the First Amendment twice before. This third threat is of a piece with the rest. It is also one of the most hypocritical things he has ever done.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition their government for redress of grievances.
James Madison knew how important these freedoms were:
Religion, and to practice it without the government interfering in any way.
Barack Obama doesn’t seem to think so.
How Obama threatens the First Amendment
Yesterday, David Barton gave an interview to D. D. Nave at Tri-Cities.com. He called Obama
the most Biblically hostile president in U.S. history.
Barton cited Obama’s foreign policy, especially toward Muslim countries. That does not threaten the First Amendment. But when Obama and his Cabinet force people to pay for things that break their religious scruples, that does threaten the First Amendment. Funding abortion with taxpayers’ money is bad enough. Forcing people to give contraceptive services directly is worse.
Barton cites more than these examples. He has a list of more than fifty policies on his site.
David Barton isn’t the only one. On Monday, Jon Voight toldThe Daily Caller about Barack Obama’s control of the media.
It’s not less than what has happened in Venezuela with Hugo Chavez, really, because you can’t get the information through.
Jon Voight exaggerates only slightly. The media seem to be Obama’s willing slaves. So technically the First Amendment survives. But how long can the First Amendment survive, when the largest media organs do exactly what the White House tells them to do? And what special favors will the White House propose, to stop alternative media from covering the stories they won’t cover?
An amendment to the First Amendment?
A German printing press, 1811. Photo: Matthias Kabel, CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported License.
But now comes the worst threat yet to the First Amendment. Obama proposed not merely to ignore it, but to change it. Yesterday he joined a chat room on Reddit.com. There he bemoaned, again, the Supreme Court’s holding in Citizens United v. FEC. The Court held that Congress may not limit the money that any person spends on political campaigns. And whether that person combines with others to form a joint-stock corporation, or a labor union, does not matter. Freedom of speech is freedom of speech. Period. End of memo.
But not the end of Obama’s complaints about it. He famously accused the Court of opening “floodgates” to large foreign contributions. (Justice Samuel J. Alito famously shot back, “That’s not true!”) So now Obama wants to amend the Constitution to abridge the freedom of speech. (See also here.)
Obama says he worries about “the super-PAC phenomenon.” Specifically, anyone having enough money can now join the political fray, and say something about a candidate that a campaign would rather not say (or may not say for some other legal reason). Obama never worried about that before this year. He out-raised and out-spent his opponents handily. But something went wrong for Obama. Very wrong. He has spent all his money, and now cannot raise as much as his opponent, Mitt Romney, can raise. So desperate is he that he sent a fund-raising e-mail saying that if he loses the election this fall, his donors will be at fault. (Your editor is on Obama’s mailing list. That’s how he knows. If Obama does not want his whining screeds to leak out, he should never have tricked so many users on Facebook into getting onto his mailing list.)
So now the “big money” has deserted Obama and switched to Romney. So what does he do? Seeks to shut-up anyone who disagrees with him. This is exactly why James Madison wrote the First Amendment: to make sure that no President could do such a thing.
That Reddit.com would host any President (putative or real) who would suggest amending the First Amendment away, speaks volumes about them. Their current moderators must be supremely confident that in the Obama administration, no one will call them to account. The late President Kennedy could teach them how foolish that is:
Those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.
Or the crocodile, the most dangerous meat-eater, or man-eater, in the jungles of Kenya. Crocodiles also cry after eating someone.
By proposing to amend the First Amendment, Obama shows how little he respects it. Or the rest of the Constitution. No doubt the freedoms of assembly and petition will be next, if the people choose to give him another four years.