Friday, August 7, 2009

Are you now, or have you ever been, a critic of the current administration?

You know, I thought it was bad enough when the Department of Homeland Security, under the leadership of Secretary Janet Napolitano, issued a report declaring opposition to the president's agenda an indication of rightwing extremism. Simply opposing abortion, handgun restrictions, or the president's economic policies would be "harmful" to the country, the report stated.

But now, instead of ostensibly putting police and other law enforcement officials on the alert for potential domestic terrorists, the administration is enlisting every citizen from sea to shining sea to monitor casual conversations and emails for any hint of opposition to the president's health care reform.

First of all, I don't know why they bother to call it the president's plan. He has yet to put forth a comprehensive reform plan, and, as far as can be determined, has not even read any of Congress' plans in their entirety. Still, to be fair, he has yet to break any promises that he's made on health care reform, and he's more than entitled to defend his positions.

On the other hand, instead of calling on Congress to not send him any bills containing provisions that would run contrary to his pledges (which has resulted in several draft bills that do run contrary to those pledges), he's calling on the public at large to be his eyes and ears, to report on our neighbors, our family members, and even the stranger on the street. His administration claims they just want to counter any misinformation that may arise about health care reform; but couldn't such a goal be accomplished far better by issuing talking points that would (theoretically) refute the "misinformation"? Why not just do what the president does best, which is apparently to sell his plans to the American public? TV lights get a little hot after a while, I suppose.

There's even the question of whether or not it's even legal for the White House to issue this call. reports that, rather than merely being a potential violation of our First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom to protest, the White House may be in violation of federal law:

U.S. Code: Title 5,552a.

“maintain no record describing how any individual exercises rights guaranteed by the First Amendment unless expressly authorized by statute or by the individual about whom the record is maintained or unless pertinent to and within the scope of an authorized law enforcement activity.”

Now, will the administration be violating the law if they don't actually keep records of the citizens who speak against health care reform? I don't know; I'm not a lawyer. But I do know that this ... is ... wrong.

Richard Nixon was famous for, among other things, saying "When the president does it, it's not illegal". I sincerely doubt that President Obama wants to follow the example of the only president forced to resign over a scandal that involved monitoring private citizens. He'd do well to print a retraction on the White House website; he won't, but he should.

And we should all feel free to continue opposing his agenda.

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