Whittling away the Bill of Rights One Pesky Plank At A Time

Pollster Scott Rasmussen told a local radio host this week that if GOP Congressman Ron Paul were to pursue a third-party candidacy next fall — which he considers unlikely — Paul would draw more votes from Barack Obama than from the Republican nominee. That is how upset the anti-war Left is with the president, Mr. Rasmussen said.


And if the Obama administration has upset that traditional Democratic constituency with its “forgetfulness” over closing the Guantanamo POW camp and speeding up withdrawals from our counterproductive, hugely expensive “nation-building” enterprises in Iraq and Afghanistan, you don’t even want to ask how happy traditionally left-leaning civil libertarians are about the administration’s stance on the Bill of Rights.

Obviously, this administration hates the Second Amendment. When Robert Levy and Clark Neily of the Cato Institute launched the gun rights case that became District of Columbia v. Heller, the administration argued — unsuccessfully, thank heaven — that there was no Second Amendment right for residents of the District of Columbia to own handguns to defend their homes. (And no, they certainly didn’t add that it would be more militarily useful for residents to own machine guns, offering to hand them out at cost.)

The Tenth Amendment? The Obama administration continues to prosecute those who dispense marijuana to medical patients in California, ignoring that state’s “Compassionate Use” Act. Federal juries aren’t even allowed to hear that defendants were complying with state law when arrested. (For the record, federal laws take precedence only when enacted “pursuant to the Constitution,” which delegates to the federal government no authority over drugs or medical practice.)

The Fourth and Sixth Amendments? The Justice Department recently argued before the high court — unsuccessfully, again — that police should require no warrants to plant a GPS tracking device on a suspect’s car. And 95 county sheriffs from around the country gathered Monday at the Tuscany Resort in Las Vegas to applaud speakers who warned that the new National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law by President Obama mere weeks ago, does away with a huge chunk of the Bill of Rights, allowing U.S. citizens to be detained indefinitely without trial by military authorities on the mere say-so of anonymous government agents who identify them as “enemy combatants.”

What’s left? Well, at least the Obama administration still defends the FIRST Amendment‘s freedom of speech, right?

You had to ask.

The Obama administration was back in court last week, trying to convince a skeptical judge that tobacco companies should be required to put large, gruesome, graphic photos on cigarette packs to show that the habit kills smokers and their babies.

Cigarette makers told U.S. District Judge Richard Leon they can’t be forced to spread the government’s anti-smoking advocacy with “massive, shocking, gruesome warnings” on products they legally sell. Attorneys for the Obama administration countered that the photos of dead and diseased smokers it wants on all cigarette packs are “factually uncontroverted.”

It’s also uncontroverted that a certain percentage of car buyers can look pretty gruesome after they’re maimed or killed in car wrecks. Could the government mandate color photos of those crash victims pasted to the window of every new car in the showroom — bigger and gorier photos on smaller cars, which are less safe than weightier models? Pictures of dissected cadavers with colon disease or pancreatic cancer on packages of processed meat products?

Judge Leon has already ruled that cigarette makers are likely to succeed in their lawsuit to stop the requirement, on First Amendment grounds. That’s why the judge blocked the rule from taking effect until after the lawsuit is resolved.

Leon found in his earlier ruling that the nine graphic images approved by the Food and Drug Administration in June — including a color image of a man exhaling cigarette smoke through a tracheotomy hole in his throat — go beyond conveying facts about the health risks of smoking, into advocacy. And that’s a critical distinction in a case over compelled speech, speech which (to rub salt in the wound) the manufacturers would have to pay for.

The judge showed no sign that he was changing his position in favor of the government after the hour-long hearing Wednesday. “It sounds like they are headed to a place where you have to watch a 10-minute video before you can even buy a pack of cigarettes,” he said.

Tobacco lawyer Noel Francisco said the government is free to try to tell Americans how to live their lives, but not to require cigarette manufacturers “to serve as the government’s unwilling spokesman in that paternalistic endeavor.”

But what does this administration care about the First Amendment? The government shouldn’t be bothered by the dried-up, faded words of dead 18th-century slave owners like Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, who sought to bestow upon us a central government of sharply limited powers, right?

Well-meaning faceless bureaucrats should be able to force people to do anything they want, as long as it’s “for the greater good of the many.”

Right … comrades?

5 Comments to “Whittling away the Bill of Rights One Pesky Plank At A Time”

  1. Winston Smith Says:

    Vin, you know as well as I do that both flavors of klepto-republicrats long ago sold the souls (and constituencies) out to the banksters. Obama couldn’t care less what classic anti-war Democrats think, just as Bush II didn’t care what anti-socialism Republicans thought about the prescription drug program.

    Both parties increase the Orwellian warfare/welfare state without a second thought.

    BTW, any thoughts on Lieberman’s s. 1698?

  2. Jason Calley Says:

    Vin, honesty compels us to admit that the US Constitution is a dead letter and has been for some time. Arguing over which bits if it are being violated is rather like a group of Italians complaining over which precepts of the Roman Republic are not being enforced.

    We need to move on to a discussion of how we should interact with a post-Constitutional government.

  3. liberranter Says:

    A well written and spot-on article, Vin. But to continue in the same vein as Winston and Jason, Barack Obama and his “administration” are not the problem. It matters not a trace of insect excrement which “party” or “ideology” occupies the Great Imperial Palace inside Rome-on-the-Potomac. Whatever figurehead occupies that office for a four or eight-year period is but a marionette for the bankster-industrial class that has made the evisceration of our God-given rights its top priority. Frankly, I really doubt that Barack Obama –or George W. Bush, or any figurehead over the last century, for that matter– really cares (or cared) one way or another about gun rights, free speech, or states rights, whatever the flavor of the concocted rhetoric spewing forth from his mouth. The only thing that matters, or that ever mattered, to any of these shallow, talentless cretins is the illusion of power, the pseudo-respect that comes with it, however ephemeral, and the payoff that comes after they’ve been used, humiliated, and put out to pasture.

    Obama would very likely don a white sheet and a hood if his handlers demanded it of him and if the reward for doing so would be that he was allowed to continue playing Emperor-Demigod for another four years, with lucrative lifelong perquisites to follow after his “retirement from office.” The point being that he and all who have preceded him over the last century have no soul, no morals, no principles, and no human decency, not to mention no true ideological beliefs of their own. The outcome would be the same whether it was Barack Hussein Bush or George W. Obama, Demopublican or Republicrat in office.

  4. Chris Says:

    If cigarette companies should have to put pictures of possible results from smoking on their packages, why shouldn’t abortion clinics have to display the actual (not possible) products of their handiwork in the front windows?

    Just trying to be consistent is all…

  5. R Says:

    Vin – I see a red herring! I know from my time served in government education that Franklin was not a slave owner – he was an strong abolitionist. I’ll venture to reason without Google-ing it that since Adams was from Massachusetts, generally not being a State of slaveholders, he as well was no slaveholder. Likely he was an abolitionist himself.

    @ Chris:
    BEAUTIFUL comparison.