WH Chief of Staff Emanuel's Joke - 'The First Amendment...It's Highly Overrated' - and its Proper Context

UPDATE (below the fold): Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity referenced the video from this post on his January 20th show.

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The Word of the Day is: Context.

First, as to the video at right.  Its context is the May 9, 2009 White House Correspondents Association Dinner.  At which White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel uttered the following:

"When you think about the First Amendment...you think it's highly overrated."

Emanuel said this to an unidentified entertainment reporter (I did not toil too strenuously to ascertain his identity).  But said scribe seemed a little bewildered by Emanuel's assertion, despite the obvious mirth in Rahm's face as he delivers the line - at the Correspondents' Dinner.  The irony appears to escape the man with the microphone.

But given how the Administration has gone on to handle all things First Amendment, perhaps this journalist is not humor-addled, but prescient.  Let us now place Emanuel's remark into the proper Administrative context. 

Beginning with their ongoing abuse and manipulation of the Fourth Estate - even if the Fourth Estate is all too often a willing supplicant. 

There was their War on Fox News (FNC), up to and including their attempted ouster of FNC from a press event with White House "Pay Czar" Kenneth Feinberg.  Which led FNC's competitors - NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN - to begrudgingly stand with FNC and the First Amendment against the Administration. 

And there was their War on Rush Limbaugh - which only resulted in yet another launch in Limbaugh's ratings.  

Hey, we said the Administration was doing it, not that they were any good at it.

Then there's the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) appointment of Mark Lloyd to a position created just for him - Chief Diversity Officer.  Lloyd, who of the First Amendment wrote in his 2006 book Prologue to a Farce:

"It should be clear by now that my focus here is not freedom of speech or the press. This freedom is all too often an exaggeration. At the very least, blind references to freedom of speech or the press serve as a distraction from the critical examination of other communications policies.

"[T]he purpose of free speech is warped to protect global corporations and block rules that would promote democratic governance."

Lloyd is a treasure trove of anti-First Amendment words and ideas.  In 2007 while a Senior Fellow at the George Soros-funded, John Podesta-run Center for American Progress, he co-authored (with equally anti-free speech outfit Free Press) the ridiculous "report" entitled The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio.  

The Left, having given up on reinstating the so-called "Fairness" Doctrine, have since sought alternate routes to arrive at the same censorious destination.  This "report" is their road map, using FCC broadcast regulations "localism" and "diversity" to effect the same outcome - the silencing of conservative and Christian talk radio.

Speaking of Free Press, the FCC is currently working on their National Broadband Plan (NBP).  Topping out at an estimated $350 billion (and that's just Round One), the NBP would go a long way towards having the government - not private companies - be the average American's Internet Service Provider (ISP).  And that will do wonders for the First Amendment, will it not?

This is just the sort of "media reform" that Free Press wants.  Said their founder - avowed Marxist Robert McChesney:

"(T)he ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control."

Then you have Maryland Democratic Senator Ben Cardin's newspaper bailout bill.  Is anyone's confidence in continued fidelity to the First Amendment left brimming with the concept of the government paying for newspapers that cover - the government?  It's a guaranteed recipe for converting watchdogs to lapdogs (as if we aren't already there).

Then you have West Virginia Democratic Senator John Rockefeller's bill, which would during a so-called cybersecurity emergency allow President Obama to seize temporary control of private-sector internet networks - i.e. ISPs.  Warms your First Amendment cockles, does it not?

Which brings us back to Emanuel, who just after Obama's victorious 2008 election uttered the now famous phrase:

"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste."

So the entertainment reporter may have simply foreseen what was laying in First Amendment store with Emanuel and the Administration.  And placed it in its proper context.  Smart guy.

H/t: Thank you, Maideneer.

Seton Motley
Seton Motley
Founder and president of Less Government.