Scott Greenfield uses the Sarah Palin 1st Amendment flub to complain about the way non-lawyers are allowed to express opinions about the law:
Whenever our politicians lack the education and knowledge to understand and appreciate how the law works, particularly the Constitution, they feel nonetheless empowered to expound on their personal view of how it should be, and what it is, in their view.
That sounds a bit like Scott doesn’t like non-lawyers talking about the law, but he’s always been kind to me about my ignorance, so that’s not quite it. His position is a little more subtle, and a little more directed towards politicians.
I’m not suggesting that only lawyers belong in politics. But I am suggesting that non-lawyers don’t get a free pass to ignorantly opine, or even whine, about the law.
Well, no, but I think accomodations have to be made. Just because someone is unable express an idea in the proper legal terms doesn’t mean they have a bad idea.
Successful software engineers learn this early in their career. Just because your customer (or client or boss) doesn’t know how the software works, what it does, or even how to reboot their computer, doesn’t mean their opinion is worthless. This is especially true if they are the end user of the software. In that case, their opinion is the only one that matters.
So, with regard to Palin’s comments, if they don’t make sense to a lawyer, that doesn’t mean they’re foolish. It might be a good idea to draw her out on her ideas more so you separate the legal errors from the more important issues of philosophy and values.
Then again, here’s how ABC is reporting what she said:
“If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations,” Palin told host Chris Plante, “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.”
“It’s sort of perplexing to me, because I’m a practical person and plainspoken also, but just cutting to the chase and calling things like I see them, just like most Americans. But this has not left a bitter taste in my mouth, the bitter shots taken by the mainstream media and by some of the elitism there in Washington,” Palin said.
I don’t think you need to be a legal expert to see some muddled thinking here.