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Bloomberg: Obama vs. Free Speech

September 29, 2008

Ann Woolner of Bloomberg writes: 

When WGN-AM Radio in Chicago scheduled a two-hour interview last week with David Freddoso, who wrote “The Case Against Barack Obama,” the campaignsent out an alarm to supporters, sparking an avalanche of angry phone calls to the station.

The case against Freddoso, according to the Obama Wire Alert, was that he’s a “card-carrying member of the right-wing smear machine.” And by hosting him, WGN was giving a wider audience for Freddoso’s “baseless lies.”

You can understand the campaign’s inclination not to give such writers more cred by showing up to debate them.

[…]

So it did a month earlier, too, when the same WGN-AM radio host, Milt Rosenberg, gave time to yet another anti-Obama writer, Stanley Kurtz. There is no shortage of these people, it would seem.

Then, as now, the campaign refused to join the critic on the air, preferring to sic supporters onto the station’s complaint line instead. The second time that happened, the host found an Obama supporter to balance out the show, albeit one not connected to the campaign.

Ms. Woolner didn’t have a chance to discuss this new development in the Obama campaign’s war on free speech:

Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee for president, is scheduled to speak at a rally at the university today. The public is invited to this forum, on property it, the public, owns. However, signs and banners will not be allowed, according to the organizers and compliant campus officials. Suddenly, UMW is a First Amendment-Free, or at least a First Amendment-Crippled, Zone, subject to the self-serving preferences of politicos. Why does an Obama rally–or a McCain rally or a Nader rally–justify taking a little off the top of Americans’ most fundamental rights?

A UMW spokeswoman says that the Obama campaign required the sign-and-banner ban. That campaign tells us that the ban is for “security” reasons. But a spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service, responsible for protecting presidential candidates, says that the service has no objection to signs at rallies, provided that no “part of the sign could be used as a weapon”–e.g., a heavy metal pole or a sharpened stick. Finally, the McCain campaign tells us, “We encourage people to make signs at our events.”

Regarding today’s event, one would expect better from a campaign bearing the name of a former professor of constitutional law. (See Ambrose Bierce’s definition of a lawyer: “one skilled in circumventing the law.”) “

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