Senator Durbin redefines the “dated” First Amendment
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) appeared on Fox News Sunday to say he has no regrets about pushing the IRS to perform one of those very special conservatives-only audits upon Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS group. He didn’t single them out because they’re political enemies, you see. He just chose them for a bureaucratic beatdown because he thought they’d make a good example to all the other nonprofit organizations, liberal and conservative alike:
Turning to the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups, [Fox News host Chris] Wallace asked Sen. Durbin about a letter he sent to the agency in 2010. In it, he singled out one organization seeking tax-exempt status – Karl Rove’s Crossroad’s GPS. “Why single out Crossroads when you didn’t mention a single liberal group, and there were a bunch that were applying for tax-exempt status at exactly that point,” Wallace asked.
Sen. Durbin readily admitted that he did it because Crossroads was “boasting” about how much money they raised to beat Democrats. According to the law, he went on to say, these groups had to “exclusively” be engaged in social welfare and not campaigning. “I knew that if they went into investigate this group, every other group would be put on notice.”
What a public-spirited fellow Senator Durbin is! And what a stroke of luck that the perfect example to whip the bipartisan pan-ideological spectrum into shape just happened to be a major opponent of Durbin’s party! What are the odds, right? Doubtless the example of all those conservative, patriotic, Constitutional, pro-life, and Tea Party groups shoved into IRS thumbscrews proved duly intimidating to the leftist groups who sailed through the Tax Exempt Organizations unit in a matter of weeks, without having to answer any hyper-intrusive questionnaires. One false move and you could be the next Frank VanderSloot or True the Vote, liberals!
He’s also not sure if it’s time to talk about appointing a special counsel to investigate the Justice Department’s spying on Fox News and the Associated Press. Sure, why not let Attorney General Eric Holder investigate himself for a while, even though he’s prone to giving false testimony under oath? He seems like such a nice man, and he does have impeccable Party credentials.
Durbin continued with a more robust defense of the New Tyranny, in which he said he’s all in favor of shield laws to protect the media from the kind of abuse it’s been suffering at the hands of the Obama Administration… provided they’re duly accredited media organizations recognized as “legitimate” by the government, of course. He’s not so sure these bloggers and Tweeps and whatnot can be considered worthy of First Amendment protection:
This is a mixture of two common liberal themes. First, we’ve got the Constitution as a “living document,” about which Durbin says we should be asking “twenty-first century questions.” That’s code for anti-Constitutionalism – a vision of unrestrained State power, in which any inconvenient Constitutional restrictions can be declared archaic and stripped from the high-performance engine of Big Government during its next tune-up.
The acolytes of Big Government will decide what the people of the 21st Century really need, and of course those “needs” can only be addressed by expanding the power of government. Speed-bump verbiage left over from the quill pen and powdered wig days will then be denounced as an unreasonable obstacle to “progress,” constructed by Dead White Males who couldn’t possibly have understood our modern world of trillion-dollar deficits and online cat videos.
Durbin blends this with the liberal view of “news” media as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Left. Like every other politically favored industry, they want government-sanctioned monopoly protection for it. They intensely dislike the New Media competition it faces. For all the liberal wailing about the Citizens United decision – which they apparently believe is so offensive that it justifies any level of abuse in retaliation – they don’t have a problem with big corporations controlling elections. They just think influence should be limited to one set of corporations: Big Media, the corporate sector they control.
And they always will control it, because Big Media is an affiliate of Big Government, not an opponent. The network and newspaper guild Durbin wants to protect is deeply sympathetic to the mega-State his party worships, for both ideological and practical reasons. Big Media reports tend to believe in the State as a redemptive power, the only agency capable of building a better world through sweeping programs to address headline-friendly social issues. Those mighty government programs are rolled out at camera-ready ceremonies brimming with quotable speeches. They earn celebrity endorsements, which Big Media loves to cover, because the people who can fill movie theaters or populate Hot 100 charts also tend to attract newspaper audiences. It’s easy and fun to write about charismatic political titans declaring “war” against front-page problems everyone says they care deeply about.
From a practical standpoint, the media loves having easy access to conveniently centralized power in a few key cities: Los Angeles, New York, and of course Washington D.C. There’s a lively revolving door between Democrat Party politics and Big Media organizations. Half the people you see interviewing today’s Washington movers and shakers used to be Washington movers and shakers, or work for them.
The government will always have plenty of influence with guild media. It can shape coverage by granting or denying access, and by leaking information when it serves the interests of the Administration – the very “problem” that ostensibly prompted the Justice Department to go fishing in the telephone logs of Fox News reporter James Rosen, and his parents. A world in which only Big Media had the right to unlimited political speech during elections would be an ideal habitat for the Leviathan State.
Leave aside all this prattle about “21st Century questions” and a “living Constitution,” and just imagine asking the Founders if they thought the First Amendment should only apply to organizations certified by the government as “free press.” They would regard you as a madman for even posing the question. Perhaps they would gently remind you that some of the people who signed the Constitution were the “bloggers” of their day, publishing pamphlets that King George III regarded much the same way as King Barack I looks at Fox News. I suspect the Founders would be absolutely delighted to learn that one day, every citizen would be able to instantly publish fiery broadsides denouncing the government they had created.