June 15, 2012
Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axerlrod, announced earlier this week that the administration will push for a constitutional amendment to rollback free speech if his boss is re-elected in November.
“When we win, we will use whatever tools out there, including a constitutional amendment, to turn this back,” Axlerod said on Wednesday. “I understand the free speech argument, but when the Koch brothers can spend $400 million, more than the McCain campaign and the Republican Party spent last time, that’s very concerning.”
“This has never been done before — in 235 years — to make it possible for the government to control political speech in this country — a truly radical, astonishing thing to say out loud even if you believed it,” remarked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday.
“America was built on free speech — the most important part of the Bill of Rights — and so we need to defend speech we don’t like. And we certainly want to fight against those who are trying to shut us up,” he said.
McConnell accused the Obama administration of using the the Federal Election Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service to muzzle its critics. He added that the tactic is reminiscent of Nixon’s enemies list in the 1970s. White House Counsel John Dean said Nixon wanted to “use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”
In April, Rory Cooper wrote about Obama’s “Truth Team“ campaign website. He noted “subtle differences between Obama’s and Nixon’s enemy lists. President Nixon kept his secret, and allegedly used the force of the government to punish adversaries. President Obama’s list is open and designed to elicit public scorn, shame and rebuke. There is no current evidence the President has manipulated the federal machinery punitively. But the message remains clear, if you support a philosophical adversary, you will face some retribution.”
Cooper penned his commentary following remarks made by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi and House Democrats have proposed a three tiered plan to ram through Congress what is known as the DISCLOSE Act. It would restrict the political speech of “covered organizations,” including most television and radio networks, newspapers, publishing houses, and think tanks.
Axlerod’s remarks about the First Amendment reveal that the so-called Team Obama approach to silencing the political opposition is not particularly effective. It also reveals a brazen contempt for the Bill of Rights.
In Citizens United v. FEC, the court said the First Amendment applies to all entities, including corporations:
The Court has recognized that First Amendment protection extends to corporations. … This protection has been extended by explicit holdings to the context of political speech. … Under the rationale of these precedents, political speech does not lose First Amendment protection “simply because its source is a corporation.” The Court has thus rejected the argument that political speech of corporations or other associations should be treated differently under the First Amendment simply because such associations are not “natural persons.”
Obama and Axlerod may disagree with the concept of “corporate personhood” (except, of course, when it comes to the banks and corporations that support Obama), but the issue has far larger implications than simply preventing the dreaded Koch brothers from spending a small portion of their billions for the purpose of political speech.
If Obama manages to amend the Constitution – a remote possibility at best (but then considering the way the Supreme Court is currently construed, maybe not) – restrictions on free speech will undoubtedly be used against opponents outside the political establishment.
Axlerod’s comments underscore a deep-seated hostility toward the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as McConnell noted (not that Republicans are exactly champions of liberty).
Obama and the Democrats apparently hate that the First Amendment prohibits the government from infringing upon the freedom of speech, the freedom of association and the freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The Declaration of Independence recognizes all three freedoms as inherent in our humanity. Axlerod’s comments reveal Obama – who we are told is a constitutional scholar – does not agree.