(UPDATE: David Bernstein at Volokh has an excellent point. Following his example, I’m putting my money where my mouth is and putting the controversial “Hunter” ad right here on the blog. You’ll see embedded YouTube video below the break. Let ’em come after me. Now on to the post…)
On the heels of the Democratic Party threatening to release the IRS hounds on the organizers of the anti-Ahmadinejad protest earlier this week if they didn’t personally snub Sarah Palin as a speaker, here comes Barack Obama’s lawyer threatening to release the FCC hounds on any TV station that dares to air an anti-Obama issue ad released by the NRA.
If shutting down TV stations weren’t bad enough, officers of the court and law enforcement in Missouri, prompted by the Obama campaign, are gearing up to prosecute for libel anyone the campaign says “lies or misleads” about Sen. Obama. Fabulous idea: a political candidate formulating his own standard of libel and recruiting officials with the power of the state to enforce it.
It’s tough to type while I’m clenching my fists in white-hot anger, but details are indeed below the break.
Robert Bauer, general counsel for the Obama campaign, has issued a cease-and-desist letter warning TV stations that they must not air the NRA’s recent “Hunter” ad, “for the sake of FCC licensing requirements.” Bauer generously cites an unfavorable review of the ad by FactCheck.org to back up his characterization of the ad as “false, misleading, and deceptive.”
To be fair to Bauer and the Obama campaign, FactCheck.org is a nonpartisan watchdog and research group which is normally very dependable; I visit their site often. However, as Dave Kopel at Volokh Conspiracy take great pains to point out, FactCheck.org screwed up their fact-checking of this ad royally. While the ad depends on specific votes and citations in Obama’s record for its talking points on what Obama favors and supports, FactCheck.org relies only on vague bromides by Obama describing what he thinks he can manage politically, a huge difference in this case.
There’s a gigantic gulf separating “I don’t favor Measure X” and “I don’t think I can sell Measure X.” The fact that FactCheck.org didn’t notice this difference is a very rare but stunning lapse in diligence on their part. I’ll still depend on their site in the future, but from now on in my eyes they’ve got some tarnish to rub off before they carry the credibility they did last week.
In any case, if Sen. Obama and his legal team decide to loose the FCC on stations that air this ad, the stations would have a strong case in their favor. That assumes, of course, that the FCC will see merit in the campaign’s complaint and the stations contest it in court; frankly, I’m not willing to bet that it would go that far.
And in yet another case of governmental abuse of power in matters of political speech, public prosecutors and sheriffs in Missouri are issuing blanket threats of libel charges against Obama critics, at the behest of the Obama campaign. Video via Gateway Pundit, who has more.
UPDATE: The KMOV video appears to have gone stale…here’s the YouTube version.