Saturday, September 27, 2008

Obama Emulates Jefferson

At the urging of the Obama campaign, local Missouri prosecutors and sheriffs have formed a "Barack Obama Truth Squad" to threaten and prosecute people who dare criticize the Senator.

Yesterday, Missouri Governor Matt Blunt denounced those tactics. I was pleased to see the (highlighted) reference to the Sedition Act:
JEFFERSON CITY - Gov. Matt Blunt today issued the following statement on news reports that have exposed plans by U.S. Senator Barack Obama to use Missouri law enforcement to threaten and intimidate his critics.

“St. Louis County Circuit Attorney Bob McCulloch, St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer, and Obama and the leader of his Missouri campaign Senator Claire McCaskill have attached the stench of police state tactics to the Obama-Biden campaign.

“What Senator Obama and his helpers are doing is scandalous beyond words, the party that claims to be the party of Thomas Jefferson is abusing the justice system and offices of public trust to silence political criticism with threats of prosecution and criminal punishment.

“This abuse of the law for intimidation insults the most sacred principles and ideals of Jefferson. I can think of nothing more offensive to Jefferson’s thinking than using the power of the state to deprive Americans of their civil rights. The only conceivable purpose of Messrs. McCulloch, Obama and the others is to frighten people away from expressing themselves, to chill free and open debate, to suppress support and donations to conservative organizations targeted by this anti-civil rights, to strangle criticism of Mr. Obama, to suppress ads about his support of higher taxes, and to choke out criticism on television, radio, the Internet, blogs, e-mail and daily conversation about the election.

“Barack Obama needs to grow up. Leftist blogs and others in the press constantly say false things about me and my family. Usually, we ignore false and scurrilous accusations because the purveyors have no credibility. When necessary, we refute them. Enlisting Missouri law enforcement to intimidate people and kill free debate is reminiscent of the Sedition Acts - not a free society.

Governor Blunt gets his history wrong in one respect, however. As a politician, the governor presumably felt that he had to make a nod toward the sainted Jefferson. I do not. The ironic fact is that Jefferson had no more respect for free speech than Obama has -- Obama is only following in the steps of his party's founder.

Although Jefferson protested vehemently against the federal Alien and Sedition Acts, aimed against his allies, once he was in power he did not hesitate to unleash state prosecutions against his enemies. Joseph Ellis, tiptoeing a little, puts it this way:
"This is a dangerous state of things," [Jefferson] explained to Thomas McKean of Pennsylvania [in 1803], "and the press ought to be restored to credibility if possible." He did not have anything so heavy-handed as the Sedition Act in mind. Instead he suggested that Republican governors in selected states target the most offensive Federalist editors for libel: "And I have therefore long thought," he apprised McKean, "that a few prosecutions of the most prominent offenders would have a wholesome effect in restoring the integrity of the presses. Not a general prosecution [i.e., the Federalist approach with the Sedition Act], but a selected one." Governors McKean in Pennsylvania and De Witt Clinton in New York took the suggestion as a command to release their lawyers on the most recalcitrant Federalist editors. As Jefferson saw it, he was not violating a principle so much as rescuing it from its own abusive and self-destructive tendencies.

Here is a more extended excerpt from Jefferson's February 19, 1803 letter to Governor McKean:
On the subject of prosecutions, what I say must be entirely confidential [and no wonder!], for you know the passion for torturing every sentiment & word which comes from me [notice the self-righteousness and paranoia]. The federalists having failed in destroying the freedom of the press by their gag-law [i.e., the Sedition Act], seem to have attacked it in an opposite form, that is by pushing it's [sic] licentiousness & it's [sic] lying [lies! all lies!] to such a degree of prostitution [licentious prostitution!] as to deprive it of all credit. And the fact is that so abandoned are the tory [what's a little slur among friends?] presses in this particular that even the least informed of the people have learnt that nothing in a newspaper is to be believed [so what else is new? and if no one believes them, what's the problem?]. This is a dangerous state of things, and the press ought to be restored to it's [sic] credibility if possible. The restraints provided by the laws of the states are sufficient for this if applied. And I have therefore long thought that a few prosecutions of the most prominent offenders would have a wholesome [wholesome!] effect in restoring the integrity of the presses. Not a general persecution [no, that's not a typo]: but a selected one. The paper I now inclose appears to me to offer as good an instance in every respect to make an example of as can be selected. However of this you are the best judge. I inclose it lest you should not have it [sure!]. If the same thing be done in some other of the states it will place the whole band more on their guard subtly put there, Tom]. Accept my friendly salutations & assurances of my high respect & consideration.

The tendency of liberalism to morph into authoritarianism seems to be universal.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:53 PM

    New Obama Campaign Poster Released for Missouri

    Campaign is testing it out there and will be going national with it in all 57 states if they can get away with it.

    Here is the Link:


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