Free Speech Isn’t Just for People That Don’t Tick You Off
Today’s CNN Poll demonstrating that 45% of respondents don’t value the First Amendment.
It never ceases to amaze me how selective some people can be when they talk about free speech. For some, it means that it’s acceptable to stand on a street corner telling people they’re going to hell for consuming alcohol, but not acceptable to protest outside a government building that the wealthy have too much influence. For others it may mean that it’s fine to camp as a form of protest in public parks and deprive others the use of that land, but not okay to protest to express your religious views on abortion. The latest target of the anti-free speech crowd (a label I have given them for the sake of argument) is Rush Limbaugh. As anyone with a TV, radio, newspaper, or computer knows, Limbaugh has taken a lot of heat and lost a lot of advertisers for referring to women like Sandra Fluke a “slut” or “prostitute” because in his opinion, demanding that insurers or employers pay for contraception amounts to being paid for sex. Now don’t get me wrong, Rush Limbaugh is not a classy guy. If I were to use a list of words to describe him, tasteful, logical, and appropriate wouldn’t appear anywhere on the list. But that’s not the point is it? The point is he called, whether directly or indirectly, this woman a “slut”, and now some liberals and feminists are calling for his head. Gloria Allred, another well known public figure with a penchant for drama, has called for legal action against Rush. I have no doubt that she’d love to be selected for that lawsuit. Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem want the FCC to take action against Rush. CNN’s homepage had a poll today asking if Rush Limbaugh should be kicked off the air, and so far over 40,000 people have voted “Yes”. Let me say that I think, in no uncertain terms, all of these people are wrong.
These people, some of which are well known for their own inflammatory remarks, seem to have lost their understanding of what free speech means. What Rush said was not hate speech. It may be hateful speech, it may be offensive speech, but it in no way posed an immediate threat to Ms. Fluke through instigating violent action or hate crimes, which is what hate speech is typically defined as in the United States. If Ms. Fluke wished to pursue it as a slander case that may be possible depending on the state laws involved, but federally speaking, what Rush said was legal and well within the protection of the first amendment. Even the ACLU, an organization I don’t often love, has specific articles relating to instances of offensive speech and why we must protect the rights of those saying these things. In fact, here’s a quote from that article I find particularly applicable: “How much we value the right of free speech is put to its severest test when the speaker is someone we disagree with most. Speech that deeply offends our morality or is hostile to our way of life warrants the same constitutional protection as other speech because the right of free speech is indivisible: When one of us is denied this right, all of us are denied." You may hate what he says, and you may hate this comment of his specifically, but if you value our Constitution and your own right to free speech, you are obligated to protect his right to say it.
It is simply stunning to me that so many fringe elements of our political system want to be able to say or do whatever they want under the label “free speech” but the second someone offends them, they demand legal actions, regulations, or the removal of that person from their position. To all of you I say this: Free speech is not just for people that agree with you or you simply don’t care about. Free speech ensures that you are going to hear people say things you find offensive and distasteful from time to time, just as they may find your speech offensive and distasteful. What protects your rights protects all our rights. The way to beat Rush Limbaugh and those like him (don’t kid yourself, they exist on both sides of the political spectrum) isn’t to try to infringe on the rights of all Americans, but rather to speak out yourself. Use your right to free speech and tell people why you think he’s wrong. Tell people why they shouldn’t listen to him. Just don’t tell the government that he shouldn’t be allowed to say it and then get mad when they turn around and take your rights away too.
Michigan and Arizona: Did Anything Really Change?
Well the results are in and Mitt Romney can breathe a momentary sigh of relief. As expected, Romney took Arizona by a wide margin. He also managed to win Michigan with a little more breathing room than many were expecting. So, Romney lives to fight another day. He didn’t suffer the embarrassment of losing his “home” state he spent so dearly to try and win, and he’ll likely get a fundraising and momentum bump from the Michigan win since it wasn’t a given like the Arizona win. But other than Romney being able to fight on with the validity of his campaign relatively unquestioned, did the Michigan and Arizona wins really change anything? Not really.
There’s no question that a Santorum upset in Michigan would have made a mess of things for Romney. With his Super Tuesday prospects looking mixed, funding situation becoming much more like that of his opponents, and the hits he has taken to his image nationally, it’s even possible that Romney would have had some calling for him to step out of the race and allow for a stronger, less damaged candidate to take the lead. Luckily for Romney, and potentially the GOP’s stability for the rest of the primary season, that didn’t happen. One has to wonder if the Arizona debate had some effect in Michigan, particularly since Santorum’s edge started disappearing right after mediocre debate performance on his part. Only 35% of respondents in CNN’s exit polls indicated the debate affected their vote, and that segment saw a higher preference for Romney than Santorum, as well as a slight increase for Gingrich. Regardless of the methods or reasons though, Romney wins. Since the momentum of the race didn’t see a big shift in Michigan after all though, we’re still in the same murky waters we were before.
Romney's still the front runner, his campaign just isn't as well off financially as it used to be and his image issues haven't improved. Santorum is still loud and unpredictable and apparently doing a decent job appealing to the tea party and harder-line religious conservatives. Ron Paul is still trudging on and still has no immediate prospects for winning a state. Gingrich's apparent strategy to pretend February, outside of a debate, doesn't exist still has pundits and his supporters sitting on the sideline wondering if that gamble can possibly pay off.
And that’s pretty much it. No big changes happened or should be expected before Super Tuesday. There’s no reason for anyone to drop out or consider dropping out, and there’s no new momentum to give any particular candidate a big bump going into Super Tuesday. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. It’s far from over.
Arizona Republican Debate- Who Won?
I’ll keep my post debate review relatively short for once, primarily because I’m running really short on sleep and we’ve all proven (repeatedly) that trying to predict an outcome in this GOP nomination contest is impossible.
Last night’s CNN Republican nominee debate in Arizona was the first Republican debate in a long time and the only one for some time to come. Lots has happened since the last debate (Santorum victories, Romney’s slip in the polls, Gingrich’s slide, etc.) so a lot of eyes were on this one to see four things based off each candidate. I’ll list them below and provide my “answer.”
1- Can Rick Santorum command the debate stage as a front runner and give people a reason to continue driving his momentum through Super Tuesday and beyond?
No. Santorum stumbled over himself again tonight (like he has in earlier debates) and did not project the confidence, composure, or grasp of the issues (or his own past statements) to give undecided GOP voters any reason to support him. He’s been receiving a lot of mixed reviews for his performance tonight, and that’s a loss in itself. He needed to project confidence and the composure to be president, and he failed. He got some good hits in on Romney, but took a relative beating on his record in the process.
2- Can Mitt Romney promote a new, friendlier, image and stop his slide in the polls?
Eh… maybe. Mitt had one of his better debates tonight but it wasn’t spectacular in any way. He had what sounded like his friendliest debate audience ever tonight, and still got himself in hot water with them a few times. He amped up all kinds of rhetoric and is now borrowing lines from all three of his competitors to widen his appeal, but it still sounds like the same old Mitt. The debate didn’t hurt him, but I don’t see any big benefit either.
3- Can Gingrich steal the stage and spark a come back?
Again… Eh… maybe. Newt was on his game tonight, but not as the podium pounding anti-media firebrand we saw after his jump (back) to the front of the polls before South Carolina, instead we saw the Newt many of us missed from the rest of the debate season. He was composed, collected, and once again sounded like the smartest guy on stage with pretty straight answers to the questions asked. The crowd seemed to give him the best net response for the evening, and Rick Perry was on hand for social conservative appeal, but it wasn’t a blockbuster performance from someone who probably needed one. So although the “good” Newt, the Newt that fueled his rise initially, was back tonight, I just don’t know if that’s enough any more.
4- Can Ron Paul convince people he can win the nomination tonight?
No. I’m actually afraid he may have hurt himself a little tonight. Paul has started to sound like a one line anti-war, pro-state-rights candidate. I know he’s not just that, but that’s all he talked about tonight, and although it’s a popular sentiment, the way he talked you’d think if we stopped fighting battles overseasall our problems would be solved. I know that’s not true, he knows that’s not true, and I think the voters do too. Is he right on the issue of removing almost all our international military presence? Maybe, but he also gets some flak for his Iran views that most voters seem to find naive, so it’s a two-edged sword for him. The point is talking foreign policy, which is one of his weakest platforms from a potential GOP voter perspective, doesn’t help his campaign one little bit and he actually missed a key opportunity to sell his small government platform and economic vision tonight.
That’s all for now. We’ll see how things play out in the upcoming primaries and I’m sure I’ll have lots to say then. As always, feel free to ask questions, provide comments, and so on.
When you have government as the central provider of services, you inevitably move toward tyranny.
Something tells me if Ron Paul had said this, it would have been the most reblogged item on tumblr tonight…
Probably true. Gingrich has particularly adopted some of Ron Paul’s small government thinking and speech this election cycle, but he doesn’t have the internet appeal and amazingly loyal fans Paul does. Not that it really matters that he isn’t getting the blog/internet love he probably should for several of his small government comments tonight- the point is they’re both right on this issue and I’m glad more than one candidate is finally talking about it.
Ron Paul gets a raw deal from the pundits…
Tonight’s CNN debate was a mess. I thought Fox News did a mediocre job (they normally do) with the debate earlier this week, but tonight CNN managed to make that one look like it had substance. I don’t know if you could call anyone a winner tonight, no one really excelled they were so bogged down with personal background garbage, but watching the comments/”scorecards” going up on twitter and facebook I think Ron Paul is getting a raw deal.
Everyone seems to have Dr. Paul as the weakest performer tonight and I think that’s incorrect. In my view, Santorum (who admittedly is my least favorite of the remaining candidates) was the weakest tonight simply because his entire strategy rested on throwing attacks, many of which were completely irrelevant to the issues at hand, at the others and attempting to play a consistent conservative high card with each attack. All three of his opponents put him back in his place repeatedly with answers or stats to counter his attacks and his strategy reeked of desperation and an overall lack of substance. You don’t play the “I’m doing well in the polls and I can take on Obama” card and turn around and pout or throw petty personal attacks at your opponents the next second and then not be able to adequately back them up. He did succeed in bruising Romney a bit, but I thought Romney had a pretty good first hour when he managed to inject some passion and excitement in his ideas for the first time I can remember since I started watching the debates. The rest of the night wasn’t as great for him, and he did a pretty poor job answering the tax and abortion questions, but I don’t think he did badly overall. Likewise, Gingrich has a very strong opening exchange, but you could tell he was a little off his game overall tonight compared to previous debates and I think this personal stuff going on with his angry ex-wife is taking a toll on his concentration regardless of how much of it is true. Paul didn’t do a very good job of delivering real answers to several of the questions tonight, which is a bit unusual for him, but his style was smoother than normal and he got some hits in on Santorum simply by countering Santorum’s statements against him. It’s the first debate I wish I hadn’t watched, but I was curious to see how things played out with Rick Perry off the stage. The dynamic was certainly different, but it’s impossible to say how much the field has changed when a debate centers around unimportant personal history and petty attacks instead of the biggest issues facing whoever our next President will be.
With that said, I think Ron Paul did a lot better tonight than the media is giving him credit for and he deserves to be placed ahead of Rick Santorum in any evaluation of the debate. Paul was able to counter every one of Santorum’s attacks and in my opinion did some damage to Santorum’s credibility in the way he handled the issues. I may not have Dr. Paul as my top pick in this race anymore, but I won’t ignore it when the media ignores his strengths.