Pleading the First

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 the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Copyright 2008 Ben S. Pollock

Last Friday, GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, first-term governor of Alaska, gave a rare interview, this one with Chris Plante, a talk show host on Washington, D.C., station WMAL-AM. [Audio and video versions here.] It soared through the Internet within hours, with the point of interest being Gov. Palin’s use of the First Amendment. I have tried to transcribe the whole interchange:

Plante:

Is the news media doing its job, are you getting a fair shake, are the Republicans getting a fair shake?”

Palin:

I don’t think that they’re doing their job when they suggest that calling a candidate out on their record, their plans for this country, that their associations, is mean-spirited or negative campaigning. If they [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations, 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. Look at Joe the Plumber, good old Joe the Plumber in Toledo, Ohio. He just asked a simple, straightforward question, and the media started investigating and attacking him. So, you know there is some fear there and in those terms, not, I don’t think they [the media] have been doing their job, in that kind of context.”

As thousands already have pointed out in two days, Palin has this constitutional principle backwards. There’s little for me to add. The Democratic vice presidential candidate, Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, often is loose-tongued as well but in a different way. The question that matters: Who is better qualified to step up, should the need arise? We have only two choices.

If I gave the best explanation of why Palin’s remarks provoke fear in lovers of democracy and freedom, would it matter?

That is the only issue. In many ways, the tendency for a locked-in mindset is the only thing that shines out from the spring primaries to now. Voters stick to their preferences, once they make them. People who are making their choices this weekend likely are not making pro-and-con lists, studying brochures or reading columns like a jury. Then, those who’ve supported one of the candidates for months or years are not prone to change, despite any new indications of how their candidate will perform once elected. Sen. John McCain may not now be the kind of president he would have been had he been elected in 2000. Sen. Barack Obama doesn’t have many more years of experience than Palin. This plea for reasoning by voters goes for both tickets. Heck, it goes for choosing mayor and county judge, too.

Brick has not had many political postings in October. Maybe it’s from this defeatism. Little can be added to the debate from my Shady Hill manse. But we are now under a hundred hours from election day, with candidates and issues still are being discussed (and here) despite record numbers of absentee (“early”) votes already cast. The outcome of any of Tuesday’s races still is uncertain. It’s not to denigrate the surveys — the good ones are better than ever — but the Undecideds remain numerous enough to sway any race. The Undecideds remain uncounted, until they truly are counted, that is, polled in their precincts.

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