“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.” (my italics)
Let me give it a shot because while the not so smart Sullivanian interpretation has other pieces of evidence to suggest it, I think actually something else is going on.
Obviously the future of any such attacks would not be hindered en toto by the MSM calling such attacks negative. And negative here meaning something like “out of bounds”, “in poor taste”, “pathetic”, etc. Not negative in the purely factual sense of negating or criticizing Obama. But negative in a committing a foul sense. Of course such attacks can always be made through right-wing radio, the internet, blogs, anonymous email chains, whatever.
So in that sense, the First Amendment charge is ludicrous. I mean if The First Amendment is preventing freedom of speech, she can certainly still say these things in public in all kinds of formats. She’s not going to jail for saying what she has said about Obama and his associations and what she thinks that says about him.
But I think on another (deeper?) level what is being said–or perhaps left implied–is that free speech constitutionally for the GOP is to be able to say that Democrats are un-American. I think she knows she is saying that–or at least that certain people can catch the hint–of course I can’t know that for sure, but I think that’s a more plausible read than her being a total airhead.
I hear it as much more part of a attack against liberal media and certain forms of discourse being shut off through (from this pov) the bullying tactics of the left media. Not a literal or legal censorship but a kind of moral or political censorship. Not de jure but de facto. It’s part of the culture war battle–something like the war on Christmas.
And if that is what Palin means then I actually agree with her in the sense that that is what the media is doing BUT I think the media should do that. I think they should be in some sense calling out the BS of a campaign. And one of the prime BS charges for me is this guilt by association stuff. Particularly when the other campaign is not engaged in such a process. It’s not like McCain doesn’t have some negative associative history.
I know this will out me as some elitist “real hard-workin” America-hater but has it ever occurred to the VRWC that constantly attacking the media you know might turn them against you? And then that would you reap what you sow to a certain extent? It’s one thing if you can keep the media in abject fear, but one day they might grow a pair (even a small set) and call you out, you’re bluff has been called, you got a nothingburger hand which is exposed, and you look like a chump.
As a smaller subset of this same phenomenon has been Jewish folks on the left tired of right-wing American Jews creating litmus tests for who are the real lovers of Israel. Especially when the majority of Jews keep voting Democrat.
One of the main issues that has come up in this recent election is whether the media’s job is supposed to be to just be this (so-called) neutral almost deistic figure and simply create a space where both sides get equal time. Or are they suppose to referee. Are they supposed to call it like they see it when one side is undoubtedly doing this kind of thing much more than the other. When one side, is simply sleazier, much sleazier than the other?
The kind of thing Palin sees as a threat to her constitutional right is the media no longer kowtowing to the GOP in its recent history of character assassination politics. Obviously she doesn’t have a constitutional right to have her criticisms of another politician be presented a certain way (to her liking) on cable news. Unless she wants to control the media say by what the government? Well that wouldn’t really work now would it?
But the invocation of constitutional rights I think is out of fear that the media (as well as other realities) will no longer go for the kinds of Pat Buchanan/Lee Atwater/Karl Rove style of campaigning. To be fair, those cats all had candidates who actually had platforms in addition to the character attacks on the left. This cycle, for the first time that vaunted Republican discipline was blown up by the incompetence of the Bush administration and the corruption of the Republican Congress (esp prior to ’06).
To the degree the MSM cut McCain off on this front (and again has she heard of Fox News? How many ACORN stories did they run?) it is because McCain had nothing else then Obama attacks. Once that media advantage is gone, the political faction that Palin represents is only something like 20-25% of the country and is decreasing over time. And that is a recipe for electoral disaster unless they can control the media sphere. They lose that they are in big trouble long term politically–if they are going to continue to hold on to the remaining and ever shrinking hard-right base and whatever is left of the Reaganite coalition that is.