The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech, by Kimberly Strassel (Twelve Press, 396 pp., $30)
Fred Siegel writes:
…Strassel’s chapters on the politicization of the IRS in Obama’s hands make for a striking summary of Chicago skullduggery. In 2012, an election year, the IRS, led by liberal operative Lois Lerner, systematically sidelined conservative (often Tea Party) organizations. The broadest and deepest scandal in IRS history is more than three years old, but there is little chance that Obama’s Chicago-ized Justice Department will hold anyone accountable. Strassel also discusses the attempts led by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Dick Durbin of Illinois to criminalize criticism of the standard-issue UN position on climate change. The senators insist that manmade climate change is a matter of “settled science.” But climate is always changing, and science is never settled.
In late 2008, after Democrats took control of all three branches of government, the Left realized, writes Strassel, that it could use the federal bureaucracy to deploy campaign finance laws selectively against its opponents. The Left could also call upon “the extraordinary new power of the Internet and social media” to convince “a credulous public” that its assaults on opposition political activity “were aimed at ‘cleaner’ and ‘more open’ elections.” This dynamic constitutes what Strassel calls “the modern intimidation game” that “now defines American politics.”
[Read the full review here, at City Journal]
In Wisconsin, Democrats enraged by Governor Scott Walker’s successful effort to limit the collective bargaining rights of public employees played the intimidation game even while out of power. The state’s Progressive-era laws, designed to ensure fair elections, and its unique Government Accountability Board were turned against conservative activists who supported Walker. Democratic Party county prosecutors pressed an array of lawsuits and used armed sheriffs’ deputies to stage early-morning raids, guns drawn, on the homes of conservative activists suspected of having marginally violated state campaign finance laws—in this case, the heinous crime of having outside committees coordinate campaign expenditures with Governor Walker’s electoral efforts. Further, the accused were forbidden by state law of telling anyone, except their lawyers, about the raids. Most of this, as Strassel accurately notes, was “simple harassment.”
As for real wrongdoing, the Obama administration, as Strassel explains, has slow-walked documents required for the investigation into the IRS scandals and the Justice Department’s Fast and Furious fiasco, in which the federal government inadvertently armed Mexican drug cartels. Moreover, the House committee examining the Benghazi debacle still doesn’t have tens of thousands of Hillary Clinton emails. But the investigation did inadvertently expose the former secretary of state’s home-brewed email server. Read the rest of this entry »
Joel Gehrke writes: Patty Murray, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the Senate, threatened today to provoke a government shutdown this fall if the Republican-controlled Congress won’t agree to a budget more in line with President Obama’s priorities.
“Republicans have a choice,” Murray said in a Wednesday speech, per the Huffington Post. “They can either work with us early on a bipartisan budget deal that will set the topline budget levels and allow the Appropriations Committee to work on bills that can be signed into law. Or, they can wait until we reach a crisis, until we approach or hit another completely unnecessary government shutdown — and work with us then.”
REWIND: #Baltimore Police Chief Calls For More Gun Control, NRA Predicts Citizens Will Need Guns In CrisisPosted: May 2, 2015
When asked by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, “We need the firepower and the ability to protect ourselves from our government” — from our government, from the police — “if they knock on our doors and we need to fight back.”
“Do you agree with that point of view?” Senator Durbin asked NRA executive VP Wayne LaPierre.
LaPierre initially responded, “I think without any doubt, if you look at why our founding fathers put it there, they had lived under the tyranny of King George and they wanted to make sure that these free people in this new country would never be subjugated again and have to live under tyranny.”
Then the NRA VP continued with a statement that has since been proven to be true in both Ferguson, Mo., and now Baltimore, Md. Read the rest of this entry »
Senator Harry Reid, the tough tactician who has led Senate Democrats since 2005, will not seek re-election next year, bringing an end to a three-decade congressional career that culminated with his push of President Obama’s ambitious agenda against fierce Republican resistance.
Mr. Reid, 75, who suffered serious eye and facial injuries in a Jan. 1 exercise accident at his Las Vegas home, said he had been contemplating retiring from the Senate for months. He said his decision was not attributable either to the accident or to his demotion to minority leader after Democrats lost the majority in November’s midterm elections.
“I understand this place,” Mr. Reid said. “I have quite a bit of power as minority leader.”
The National Republican Senatorial Committee responds to Harry Reid’s retirement:
“On the verge of losing his own election and after losing the majority, Senator Harry Reid has decided to hang up his rusty spurs. Not only does Reid instantly become irrelevant and a lame duck, his retirement signals that there is no hope for the Democrats to regain control of the Senate. With the exception of Reid, every elected statewide official in Nevada is Republican and this race is the top pickup opportunity for the GOP.”
Hot Air‘s Ed Morrissey comments:
“…The contrast of Reid’s obstructionism on budgets through most of his reign and the easy way in which Republicans settled back into normal order would have proved embarrassing when the GOP used it on the campaign trail next year, and Reid would have become the poster boy for the kind of dysfunction voters would get if they chose Democrats in Senate races.
Now, after announcing his retirement, Reid’s clout will recede even further. A Minority Leader who doesn’t plan on running again will hold fewer cards for whipping his caucus into line. Other Democrats will look to those who will control committee assignments in future sessions, and the jockeying for leadership slots will necessarily push Reid to the sidelines. Procedurally, Reid might be able to cause some problems, but the more he does that the more he damages Democrats in the next election cycle, especially to the extent that it’s seen as running interference for a lame-duck President who suffered two successive midterm disasters. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the Boeing Co.-made interceptors will be launched from an underground silo at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in an attempt to strike a dummy missile fired from a Pacific range, according to the article. The exercise is designed to gauge whether the system is capable of knocking out an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile.
The agency’s director, Navy Vice Admiral James Syring, described it as the agency’s “highest near-term priority,” during a hearing Wednesday before members of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, headed by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois.
An interceptor launched from the same site last July missed its target, the latest in a series of failures dating to 2008. Lawmakers, including Durbin, have criticized the military’s plans to increase the number of interceptors despite lingering problems with the technology. Read the rest of this entry »
The White House and Senate Democrats may need a refresher course on how to leak a juicy story.
The White House today was forced to backtrack on a rumor Obama administration officials started about a Republican House leader who purportedly insulted President Obama to his face, telling the president, “I cannot even stand to look at you.”
Turns out, it never happened.
How do we know?
The same White House that was responsible for starting the buzz now says there was a “miscommunication” and a “misunderstanding.”
Here’s how it went down:
During The Shutdown:
House Republican leaders and committee chairmen met with the president at the White House to discuss the government shutdown and debt ceiling on Oct. 10. Vice President Joe Biden, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors also sat in on the meeting.
By GLENN HARLAN REYNOLDS
Sen. Dick Durbin thinks it’s time for Congress to decide who’s a real reporter. In The Chicago Sun-Times last week, he wrote: “Everyone, regardless of the mode of expression, has a constitutionally protected right to free speech. But when it comes to freedom of the press, I believe we must define a journalist and the constitutional and statutory protections those journalists should receive.”
How do you decide who is a journalist? Essentially, he says, it’s someone who gets a paycheck from a media organization: “A journalist gathers information for a media outlet that disseminates the information through a broadly defined ‘medium’ — including newspaper, nonfiction book, wire service, magazine, news Web site, television, radio or motion picture — for public use. This broad definition covers every form of legitimate journalism.”
Does it really? Everyform?
Because, as I write this, most of the information I’m getting from Egypt is being tweeted and blogged by Egyptians and American expats in Egypt. The media organizations are usually hours behind.
Personally, I think a journalist is someone who’s doing journalism, whether they get paid for it or not.
And Durbin is a constitutional ignoramus if he thinks that when the Framers talked about freedom of the press, they were talking about freedom for the press as an institution.
Journalism is indeed an activity, not a profession, and though we often refer to institutionalized media as “the press,” we should remember that James Madison talked about freedom of the press as “freedom in the use of the press” — that is, the freedom to publish, not simply freedom for media organizations.
In Madison’s day, of course, the distinction wasn’t as significant as it became later, when newspaper publishing became an industrial activity. It was easy to be a pamphleteer in Madison’s time, and there was real influence in being such.
But that changed with the increase in efficiencies of scale that accompanied the industrial revolution, and “the press” in common parlance became not a tool of publication but a shorthand for those organizations large and wealthy enough to possess those tools, much as the motion-picture industry has come to be referred to as “the studios.”
Yet now technology has changed things up again; the tools of Internet publication are available to anyone, however modest his or her means. (There are even homeless bloggers; I’ve met one myself.)
The ability to publish inexpensively, and to reach potentially millions of people in seconds, has made it possible for people who’d never be able to — or even want to — be hired by the institutional press to nonetheless publish and influence the world, much like 18th century pamphleteers.
Over the past few years, a lot of big scoops have come from people other than the institutional press — from James O’Keefe’s exposés of ACORN and voter fraud, to Edward Snowden’s release of NSA secrets via Glenn Greenwald, who talking head David Gregory suggested is not a “real journalist.”
Durbin’s pontifications about who’s entitled to press freedom were uttered in the course of promoting a federal “shield law” that would allow those “real” journalists to conceal their sources. I oppose such laws in general, but to the extent that they exist, they should protect everyone who’s doing journalism, regardless of where their paycheck comes from.
I wouldn’t trust Durbin (or most of his Senate colleagues) to baby-sit my kid. I certainly don’t trust them to decide who counts as a “real” journalist — and, more importantly, who doesn’t.
Glenn Harlan Reynolds is a law professor at the University of Tennessee.