‘Fahren­heit 451’ Democrats

Ban­ning speech with a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment is play­ing with fire

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Ted Cruz

Ihave three ques­tions for my Demo­cratic col­leagues in the Se­nate: Should Congress be able to ban books? Should Congress be able to ban films? Should Congress be able to ban groups such as the NAACP, the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion and the Sierra Club from speak­ing?

The an­swer to all three ques­tions should, un­equiv­o­cally, be “no.” But, sadly, 45 Democrats in the U.S. Se­nate are sup­port­ing a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment to re­peal the freespeech pro­vi­sions of the First Amend­ment and give Congress carte blanche power to reg­u­late po­lit­i­cal speech.

It’s all be­cause a group of con­ser­va­tive film­mak­ers made a doc­u­men­tary film in 2008 about thenDemo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton that did not speak fa­vor­ably about her record. Forty-four Se­nate Democrats are now sup­port­ing a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment from Sen. Tom Udall of New Mex­ico to stop Amer­i­cans from show­ing movies like the one Cit­i­zens United cre­ated dur­ing the 2008 elec­tion.

Forty-five Se­nate Democrats are will­ing to re­write the Con­sti­tu­tion to take away the right of Amer­i­cans to speak or cre­ate art that is crit­i­cal of politi­cians.

Forty-five Se­nate Democrats are ac­tively work­ing to si­lence po­lit­i­cal crit­i­cism ahead of the next pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. They are the “Fahren­heit 451” Democrats. Never be­fore has Congress tam­pered with the First Amend­ment.

When a sim­i­lar pro­posal was con­sid­ered in 1997, the famed lib­eral lion of the Se­nate, Ted Kennedy, re­minded his col­leagues that never be­fore had the Bill of Rights been amended and “now is no time to start.”

I agree with Ted Kennedy. Where are the Democrats who agree with him to­day? Not a sin­gle one has spo­ken out against this. Group­think has taken over their party.

The Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, how­ever, has sounded the alarm. The ACLU says the Democrats’ amend­ment would “se­verely limit the First Amend­ment and lead di­rectly to govern­ment cen­sor­ship of po­lit­i­cal speech.”

Floyd Abrams, per­haps the leading First Amend­ment lit­i­ga­tor in the coun­try and an out­spo­ken Demo­crat, has, as well. He said the amend­ment “would limit speech that is at the heart of our First Amend­ment.”

Se­nate Democrats would like to pre­tend they could draw the line be­tween what they think is “rea­son­able” po­lit­i­cal speech and “un­rea­son­able” po­lit­i­cal speech. To hear the Democrats tell it, all they want to do is stop “cor­po­rate in­flu­ences” from un­fairly in­flu­enc­ing the po­lit­i­cal de­bate.

How­ever, The New York Times is a cor­po­ra­tion. Should they stop pen­ning ed­i­to­ri­als? NBC is a cor­po­ra­tion. Should it quit air­ing “Satur­day Night Live”?

Af­ter all, wasn’t Tina Fey in­flu­enc­ing vot­ers when she took on an Alaskan ac­cent and de­clared “I can see Rus­sia from my house” — some­thing Sarah Palin never even said?

Didn’t Will Fer­rell’s hi­lar­i­ous por­tray­als of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush as child­like and con­fused change pub­lic opin­ion of our 43rd pres­i­dent? Wasn’t Seth Green sway­ing vot­ers when he im­per­son­ated Vice Pres­i­dent Al Gore as a dry, dron­ing bore? Wasn’t Dar­rell Ham­mond en­forc­ing a cer­tain kind of per­cep­tion of Bill Clin­ton when he pre­sented the pres­i­dent as a lusty, smirk­ing cad?

The an­swer is yes, yes, yes and yes. That’s what free speech gives Amer­i­cans the power to do — mock, pro­voke, chal­lenge and per­suade. “Satur­day Night Live” has a con­sti­tu­tional right to do so, but the Democrats’ amend­ment would al­low Congress to ban the show.

The hard-line lib­eral par­ti­sans who want to re­write the Con­sti­tu­tion to give their party a po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tage cer­tainly do not have the same in­ter­ests in mind as James Madi­son and Alexan­der Hamil­ton.

We should keep our faith in the Bill of Rights, rather than in politi­cians in­tent on pre­serv­ing their power.

There will al­ways be po­lit­i­cal speak­ers who some­one dis­agrees with. Democrats should be free to dis­agree with films made by Cit­i­zens United, just as many Repub­li­cans dis­agree with films made by Mr. Gore and Michael Moore.

That’s a sign of a healthy and vi­brant so­ci­ety. Ban­ning films is not.

In Ray Brad­bury’s novel “Fahren­heit 451,” — the tem­per­a­ture at which ‘book paper’ auto-ig­nites — Capt. Beatty, who is the chief book burner, said, “If you don’t want a man un­happy po­lit­i­cally, don’t give him two sides to a ques­tion to worry him; give him one. Bet­ter yet, give him none.”

That same sen­ti­ment was ex­pressed by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, which told the Supreme Court in Cit­i­zens United that, in its view, Congress could ban books.

When Jus­tice Anthony Kennedy asked the Depart­ment of Jus­tice if the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion was truly ar­gu­ing that, ac­cord­ing to the Con­sti­tu­tion, book sales could be pro­hib­ited, the Jus­tice of­fi­cial replied, yes, “if the book con­tained the func­tional equiv­a­lent of ex­press ad­vo­cacy.”

That was a shock­ing ex­change. The govern­ment made an un­abashed ar­gu­ment for the govern­ment be­ing able to stop a book from be­ing sold.

As the ACLU ob­served, un­der the Democrats’ pro­posed amend­ment, Congress could ban Mrs. Clin­ton’s new book, “Hard Choices.”

It could ban anti-Hil­lary movies and pro-Hil­lary books alike. What then would be­come of our po­lit­i­cal de­bates? We would have only that which Congress would al­low.

The Democrats, by work­ing to shut down po­lit­i­cal speech, want to elim­i­nate dif­fer­ent sides of our most im­por­tant ques­tions, just as Capt. Beatty said.

Soon, Se­nate Democrats will hold their vote on a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment to re­peal our free-speech pro­tec­tions.

They are play­ing with fire. “Fahren­heit 451” is com­ing to life, and trag­i­cally, the Democrats are play­ing the role of the fire­men who want to burn our books and si­lence the cit­i­zenry. Ted Cruz is a Repub­li­can mem­ber of the U.S. Se­nate from Texas.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.