When WGN-AM Radio in Chicago scheduled a two-hour interview last week with David Freddoso, who wrote The Case Against Barack Obama the campaign sent out an alarm to supporters, sparking an avalanche of angry phone calls to the station.
I think this misses the mark. It’s one thing to try to shout down an opponent trying to give a speech in an auditorium, but Freddoso was appearing on a talk show. People are supposed to call in to talk to the guest. Executive producer Zack Christenson has only said that the extra volume of calls made it more difficult to run the show, but the show still ran and Freddoso still got to say his piece. Calling this an attack on free speech is silly.
Woolner tries to characterize the incident as a deliberate attempt to “jam a radio station’s phone lines with angry callers” and argues that the Obama campaign should have sent someone to the station for a debate.
Maybe. But asking supporters to call the station is certainly a reasonable alternative. The proper response to “bad” speech is “good” speech, and that’s what the callers where doing. Woolner is just arguing about who should be delivering the speech.
What’s especially odd about Ruberry’s excerpt of this piece is that there are clearer examples of the Obama campaign’s attempts to suppress opposition speech.
For example, the National Rifle Association is running this ad, accusing Obama of all kinds of anti-gun nuttiness, which may or may not be true. I’ll let Jesse Walker explain the problem with the Obama campaign’s response:
Instead of, say, crafting a response ad, Obama’s team had general counsel Robert F. Bauer send stations a letter arguing that “Failure to prevent the airing of ‘false and misleading advertising may be ‘probative of an underlying abdication of licensee responsibility.'” And, more directly: “For the sake of both FCC licensing requirements and the public interest, your station should refuse to continue to air this advertisement.”
(Copy of the letter here.)
So, while the stuff John Ruberry was complaining about earlier is not worth worrying about, this is a genuine threat to use the government to squelch what someone is saying. It makes me wonder about the things Obama will try to do if we actually put him in charge.
(And while we’re at it, I don’t think the NRA is totally off the mark. Bauer’s letter includes a detailed explanation of how the NRA twisted Obama’s position on guns, and they didn’t have to twist very far. His statements on gun control have left him a lot of maneuvering room, and the NRA was able to use some of it against him.)
On the other hand, when it comes to using the law to attack election-related free speech, Obama’s just playing it by the book. And John McCain wrote the book.
Thanks to the McCain-Feingold Law and others like it, when a group of Americans wants to band together to discuss politics with other Americans, they need permission from the government. It’s called campaign reform, but it’s arguably the greatest attack on free speech in my lifetime.