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Palin Fails Second Test on 1st Amendment

May 15, 2009

On Wednesday, former beauty pageant contestant Sarah Palin rushed to the defense of another, proclaiming of Carrie Prejean, "I can relate as a liberal target myself." But by insisting "those who disagree with her deny her protection under the nation's First Amendment Rights," Governor Palin once again revealed her ignorance of the United States Constitution. As it turns out, Palin also failed First Amendment 101 during the 2008 campaign.
In a statement released late Wednesday, Palin breathed new life into the imbroglio surrounding Miss California, portraying the marriage equality opponent as a victim of a "liberal onslaught of malicious attacks." Going one step further, Palin asserted:

"I respect Carrie for standing strong and staying true to herself, and for not letting those who disagree with her deny her protection under the nation's First Amendment Rights."

Sadly for the would-have-been vice president, the First Amendment protects the free speech rights of the American people - and their press - from infringement by their Government:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

More disturbing still, Palin's constitutional crisis this week follows a similarly embarrassing episode from the campaign trail. Her previous unfortunate run-in with the United States Constitution came during an interview with conservative WMAL radio. Regurgitating her usual talking points against the "elitism" and "filter" of the "mainstream media," Palin coughed up this nugget:

"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations," Palin told host Chris Plante, "then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media."

Palin's mangling of the document notwithstanding, nowhere in the text does the Constitution shield politicians or beauty queens from criticism of their myriad failings.
In theory, Sarah Palin should be all too aware of this point. After all, in March 2008, Palin criticized Hillary Clinton for complaints about her treatment at the hands of the media, declaring:

"Fair or unfair, I think she does herself a disservice to even mention it...When I hear a statement like that coming from a woman candidate with any kind of perceived whine about that excess criticism or, you know, maybe a sharper microscope put on her, I think, man, that doesn't do us any good. Women in politics, women in general wanting to progress this country. I don't think it's, it bodes well for her -- a statement like that...It bothers me a little bit hearing her bring that attention to herself on that level."

But after her defeat in November, Governor Palin was singing a different tune. She declared of the press corps that "There have been some stinkers, though, who have kind of made the whole basket full of apples, once in a while, smell kind of bad." That came after her post-election rant in which she predictably blamed the media:

"I want to make sure that Americans do understand that there is a little bit of disappointment in my heart about the world of journalism today. And I don't want any individual journalist to take it personally but--I have such great respect for the role of the media in our democracy, it is a cornerstone, it allows the checks and balances. But only when there is fairness and objectivity in the reporting."

Apparently, if Americans want fairness and objectivity about Sarah Palin, they'll have to buy her book. Just don't look for a chapter on the Constitution.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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