Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Say, What?

One tactic used by the White House to control the message du jour is to handpick the audience when the President speaks out on policy issues. These "events" are usually taxpayer funded and not speeches for private organizations. Three citizens ejected from a "public" and taxpayer funded event have filed a lawsuit against the three "volunteers" who removed them from the event for violation of their constitutional rights. An AP article published in the Sacramento Bee yesterday details the theories the defendants are espousing on the issue.

White House officials can exclude dissenters from taxpayer-funded appearances by President Bush without violating the protesters' rights, according to lawyers for volunteers who helped eject three people from a hall where Bush was to speak.

Attorneys for Michael Casper and Jay Bob Klinkerman said the government has the same rights as a private corporation when its officials speak. ...

"The president may constitutionally make viewpoint-based exclusionary determinations in conveying his own message," the attorneys said in a filing last week. "So in following the instructions of the White House and carrying out its viewpoint-based exclusions, Casper and Klinkerman did not violate any of plaintiffs' constitutional rights."
[Emphasis added]

What an interesting set of arguments: the government is just like a private corporation and the government can exclude people with a different viewpoint.

First of all, the government is most assuredly not just like a corporation. A corporation is a business entity with the primary goal of making money for its shareholders. A government is a civic entity with the primary goal of serving its citizens, all of its citizens.

Next, and this flows from the first point, in a democracy all viewpoints are entitled to be heard. It's guaranteed by the Constitution. While it may be painful for this particular president to be asked pointed questions or to hear dissenting viewpoints, that doesn't negate the right.

An attoney for two of the plaintiffs repsonded properly to this hogwash:

"A private organization is entitled to limit the kinds of speech that the public can have if it comes to attend its event," [Martha] Tierney said. "But the government is under a different standard and can't limit speech just based on viewpoint at a public, taxpayer-funded event." [Emphasis added]

And that is the whole point.



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