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Tilting at Windmills

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March 27, 2010

A 'CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER'.... It was tough to keep up with all of the over-the-top Republican rhetoric this week, but Rachel Slajda does a nice job highlighting some of the "most incendiary" remarks of the past several days. In particular, she flagged a written statement from Rep. Todd Akin (R) of Missouri, which I hadn't seen:

"Today Americans are reacquainted with the danger of an arrogant all powerful government, a deadly enemy within, a clear and present danger in Washington.

"In spite of nationwide opposition socialized medicine is being forced down our throats. That medicine is toxic to freedom. But freedom dies hard in America.

"I do not believe that the majority of Americans will submit passively to the gold chains of socialism."

Now, regular readers may recall that Akin is known for occasionally making deranged remarks in public. But if anyone's wondering why some right-wing extremists might feel compelled to consider violence, it may have something to do with the extraordinarily stupid and irresponsible rhetoric coming from the likes of Todd Akin.

He did, after all, put in writing his belief that leaders of the United States government can be characterized as an "enemy."

I'm especially interested in that "clear and present danger" phrase. Lawyers and/or historians are welcome to weigh in here, but as I recall, that's a legal standard used to allow the government to restrict Americans' speech.

Does Todd Akin believe those he disagrees with should be silenced?

Steve Benen 11:15 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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I think he took the quote straight from the Harrison Ford / Robert Culp movie.

Posted by: cr on March 27, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

To answer your question: Maybe, since it seems obvious Akin has read too many Clancy novels and watched too many episodes of "24" - what is he to do now that FOX has canceled his reality TV show? -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on March 27, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

It seems to be more RW code words from what I can tell. I think I've decoded it.

Arrogant = Uppity Negro (well, half black but we ain't gonna point that out.) Most heinous crime of all. Pity the poor self entitled white folks who have to endure this atrocity!

"a deadly enemy within, a clear and present danger in Washington" = whaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, a bunch of libs (wimps all of them! Really!) led by a black man and a WOMAN(!!!!!) pantsed me and my good old boys made us look dum (sic.)

That medicine is toxic to freedom = toxic for the ability of my HC insurer donors to rape sick people for as much as they can.

Posted by: Former Dan on March 27, 2010 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

I know this is terribly obvious, but can we please educate these people about what socialism actually is? They really seem to have no idea whatsoever. (Especially since they use it synonymously with communism, fascism, nazism, etc.) So tiresome and ignorant, it's exhausting as well as ridiculous.

Posted by: zoe kentucky in pittsburgh on March 27, 2010 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

And remember, he's not talking here about anything like government surveillance of citizens, or disregard for courts and the rule of law, or the executive branch claiming new and unusual powers, or the government violating U.S. and international law without impunity.

He's talking about regulation and limited government subsidies in the health insurance market, passed through the normal legislative process.

Priorities.

Posted by: mcc on March 27, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

"Today Americans are reacquainted with the danger of an arrogant all powerful government, a deadly enemy within, a clear and present danger in Washington.

Isn't this asswipe in the government in Washington or does he just mail in his votes?

Posted by: gandalf on March 27, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

The "clear and present danger" standard comes from Justice Holmes in the WWI case Schenck v. US:

The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that the United States Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree. When a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right.

In short, if the government deems an individual's speech to be something that will cause harm -- falsely shouting "fire" in a crowded theater was Holmes' metaphor here -- it can ban it.

So the irony with Rep. Moron's statement is that the government might deem *his* speech to pose a "clear and present danger" according to precedent and crack down on *him*, not vice versa.

Posted by: TR on March 27, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps he is concerned about those "Socialists" and Fellow Traveling congressional folk such as Hatch, Grassley and Kit Bond, who signed on to the amendment in 1993 by Senator Chaffee (R)RI and co-sponsored the demand that mandates be added to the Clinton bill. Why those mandates being "Rammed" down the gullets of his fellow Americans borders on a take over by the old USSR.

The Democratic Party must only pluck the "Socialistic" ideas from the RepuGs, eh? Oh, BTW, in that Heritage plan in '93, sponsored by the RepuGs, they wanted to do away with pre-existing conditions, as well. How their collective memories fade.

Posted by: bettheclock on March 27, 2010 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

What are they putting in the water, there in Missouri? How does a clown like this get elected to the House of Representatives anyway? Anyone know if he represents a rural or urban district?

Posted by: LL on March 27, 2010 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Does Todd Akin believe those he disagrees with should be silenced?

Emphatically, yes. These thugs knew, before Obama had even taken the oath of office, that a successful conclusion to the health-care debate would strike at the very heart of conservatism; crippling it for a generation at the least, and possible destroying it as a viable political force in the United States. Akin is merely one of the beyond-count symptoms of what happens when the tyrant is backed into the corner; no way out, and the enemies of that tyranny closing in on all sides.

Yes---Akin is a symptom of tyranny: The tyranny that has grabbed at the throat of this Republic ever since the rise of Reaganist Gingrichism. It is a tyranny for which there is no level of violent desperation that is unacceptable; for which there is no lie that is too unpalatable; for which there is no coded rhetoric too unimaginable.

IMHO, we are beyond the crossroads by which the anger and hate might have been peacefully abated---and now stand at the final fork in the road: To the one side lies the path of putting down the violence through law enforcement and the courts; to the other lies the path to open war.

Posted by: S. Waybright on March 27, 2010 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

LL, to answer your question - Akins represents the tony suburbs of the Western part of St Louis - Most of his second district is affluent Just love the name of his community - Town and Country. Neither Riff nor Raff allowed, although the majority of his voting supporters are of the Flotsam and Jetsam mentality of any humane thought.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 27, 2010 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

But if anyone's wondering why some right-wing extremists might feel compelled to consider violence, it may have something to do with the extraordinarily stupid and irresponsible rhetoric coming from the likes of Todd Akin.

I think that you put too fine a point on this. Rep. Aikin's statement is a clear incitement to violence. That GOP leadership refuses to denounce this sort of thing or discipline its membership speaks volumes as to their motives.

Posted by: AK Liberal on March 27, 2010 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

As to your legal question, no, clear and present danger is not the test for determining if government may proscribe incitement speech any more. That test was articulated by Holmes in early cases like Schenk, and versions of it were employed throughout the first half of the 20th century. Eventually, the Supreme Court overruled prior decisions using versions of the "clear and present danger" test in 1969 in Brandenburg v. Ohio. Its prior tests were basically unworkable, and the Court promulgated a new standard for when prosecutions based on speech are permitted, a standard that is basically impossible to meet in most situations. The money quote is as follows

"These later decisions have fashioned the principle that the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action."

Note the two prongs here: the speech must be "directed to inciting or producing IMMINENT lawless action" AND that speech must be "likely to incite or produce such action." Only then can the government proscribe incitement speech (there are other categories that the government may proscribe - fighting words (hate speech), obscenity etc). That means that the guy has to be on the soapbox saying "LYNCH THAT GUY" to a crowd before the government can proscribe such speech. The crap the conservatives have been saying don't fall anywhere near this standard, because the incitement has to be "imminent" and "likely" to cause violence. Although the spew from these guys is toxic, it doesn't meet that standard. As for Akin, I have no idea what the man thinks, he seems like a moron based on that statement.

Posted by: d on March 27, 2010 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

Clear and present danger is also a justification for a civilian using deadly force in self defense.

Posted by: Marnie on March 27, 2010 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

While we're on code words: "gold chains"?

Posted by: DonBoy on March 27, 2010 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, I was wondering about"the gold chains of socialism" too. Was that supposed to be derogatory? 'Cause now it sounds like we get hcr *and* jewelry. Add a bouquet of flowers to that and I'm totally putting out.

Posted by: YooHooligan on March 27, 2010 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

"gold chains" == you will actually like the health care reform benefits, but they're bad for ya, I'm telling ya, bad bad bad!

Either that, or he thinks MC Hammer is going to be put in charge of health care in america.

Posted by: Rathskeller on March 27, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Waybright: "IMHO, we are beyond the crossroads by which the anger and hate might have been peacefully abated---and now stand at the final fork in the road: To the one side lies the path of putting down the violence through law enforcement and the courts; to the other lies the path to open war."

Not particularly insightful, but certainly as "incite-full" as anything the republicans have said.

Posted by: cr on March 27, 2010 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Here in Virginian Taliban country, I see a lot of bumper stickers referencing Obama's unending desire to take everyone's guns away. I may have missed it, but evidently every time our president opens his mouth it's to decree that all gun owners are to be stripped of their weaponry and jailed indefinitely. Gun sales are up, ammo's getting scarce. And fat-assed bearded Confederate wannabees are absolutely positive that our uppity president wants their hunting rifles.

My bet is this. Someone gets shot by a Tea Bagger at some sort of event. The Feds impose a crackdown on concealed weapons at public events, which sounds like "Obama taking guns away" to these crackers. And then the shit starts.

Posted by: chrenson on March 27, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

"gold chains" = a Republican trying to do the populist demagogue thing, and failing. You really have to be a lefty to do it properly, like this:

If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.

Posted by: rea on March 27, 2010 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Arguing legal standards with Rep. Akin is like arguing with your dining room table. Gosh, that sounds familiar.

Posted by: E L on March 27, 2010 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

He did, after all, put in writing his belief that leaders of the United States government can be characterized as an "enemy."

Nothing new. Helen Chenoweth said it all the time. To her, anyone who wasn't an extreme right-wing Republican was her mortal enemy. Of course, in her mind, she and her ilk weren't extremist. Everyone else was. She was in the mainstream.

Posted by: Screamin' Demon on March 27, 2010 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

"...can we please educate these people about what socialism actually is?"

Maybe its time to use those FEMA 'reducation camps' authorized in the 'Patriot Act' for the likes of Mr. Akin. I mean the RW nuts already think the government is capable of such tyranny so let's just do it.

Posted by: robert on March 27, 2010 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

"Not particularly insightful, but certainly as "incite-full" as anything the republicans have said."

Really, cr? How so---by stating the obvious, that this stuff either be shut down through the legal process, or allow it to inflate until it reaches the logical conclusion? The coded language of the Right, used in this present day, is little different than the coded language used in the run-up to the firing on Fort Sumter.

They depicted Lincoln as a baboon, y'know. Or---maybe it's that you don't like someone saying that this political wildfire needs to be knocked down before it becomes an political inferno....

Posted by: S. Waybright on March 27, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

From the Free Dictionary (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/socialism), which I thought did a good job of summarizing this term:

"[Socialism is] an economic theory or system in which the means of production, distribution, and exchange are owned by the community collectively, usually through the state. It is characterized by production for use rather than profit, by equality of individual wealth, by the absence of competitive economic activity, and, usually, by government determination of investment, prices, and production levels."

Posted by: crispinpierce on March 27, 2010 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Jeeez. Todd Akin is a veteran (National Guard Lt.) I'm not sure if this gets him VA services, but if so, he knows about, and has no doubt used, real socialized medicine. He will qualify for Medicare in two and a half years. If he uses that, he will be using something that is not socialized medicine, but single payer. Not even SocMed lite. The new federal program isn't even close. We all know this. How come he doesn't? He's supposed to know more than some John Q. Public guy, me. If he does actually understand these simple concepts, then he is a lying piece of shit demagogue. Surely not.
OK, the big question of the year is: How do these guys get away with this crap? Only in someplace with a totally worthless media not remotely doing their job could......oh. Never mind.

Posted by: emjayay on March 27, 2010 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

I know that there must be a 1st Amendment protective balance here to be weighed, even for schmucks like this guy, but last time I checked the statute on sedition, I think that advocating or encouraging the violent overthrow of any duly elected US government meets the definition for seditious conduct. If that is indeed the case, maybe someone could ask the press to ask this moron Aikins if he;s a seditious bastard and, therefore, a legally actionable threat to the rest of us and our democracy. Prosecutors?

Posted by: alan on March 27, 2010 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

"Does Todd Akin believe those he disagrees with should be silenced?"

Yes. And none of us will be raptured, either.

Posted by: bluestatedon on March 27, 2010 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

"Clear and present danger" is right out of the HUAC playbook. Man, that takes me back!

Posted by: bobbyp on March 27, 2010 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK

It has been WAY too late for a long time to reason with the Teabaggers, and the Republicans who are formenting their rage. As S. Waybright stated, these are the kinds of language and attitudes that ignited the Civil War.

And, just in case you needed more proof of how low conservatives can go, check out the extremely VILE cartoon by Darleen Click of Protein Wisdom, as posted by Amanda Marcotte on Pandagon.net.

http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/seriously_why_are_they_so_obsessed_with_rape_metaphors/

Long story short, the cartoon portrays President Obama as a rapist of Lady Liberty. I hope the President sues for libel.

I apologize any offense that this causes, but we progressives need to be aware of what these people are doing.

Posted by: knightphoenix2 on March 27, 2010 at 11:38 PM | PERMALINK

"Add a bouquet of flowers to that and I'm totally putting out."
Posted by: YooHooligan on March 27, 2010 at 12:41 PM

But will you still respect us in the morning?
(Which of course begs the question of whether you respect us now... )

Posted by: smartalek on March 28, 2010 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

"I know this is terribly obvious, but can we please educate these people about what socialism actually is? They really seem to have no idea whatsoever. (Especially since they use it synonymously with communism, fascism, nazism, etc.) So tiresome and ignorant, it's exhausting as well as ridiculous."

No, ever since Jonah Goldberg refined WWII and Nazis, (and possibly before) history has meant nothing to these people.

Posted by: Fred F on March 28, 2010 at 2:29 AM | PERMALINK

um "redefined" WWII and Nazis not "refined"

Posted by: Fred F on March 28, 2010 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

The short answer is that "clear and present danger of imminent harm" is a legal term that today means "inciting a riot" and is not protected speach. Originally it was used as an analogy to "shouting fire in a crowded theatre". This "justified" locking up for 20 years anti WWI protestors for handing out flyers and Eugene Debbs for giving a speach. Thankfully, conservatives lost that argument in the late '40s when American nazis were getting descriminated against, or was it the klan?

Posted by: gocart mozart on March 28, 2010 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

Dying from lack of access to healthcare is also toxic to freedom.

Posted by: bob h on March 28, 2010 at 6:38 AM | PERMALINK

Representative Akin's third paragraph, to me, is a clear call for armed violence against the U.S. Government, which he has declared is "the enemy". I think that should cost him his seat in the House of Representatives.

Posted by: Claimsman on March 29, 2010 at 3:22 AM | PERMALINK

I'm pretty sure the south would love to rise again, you know, run around in groups of big ole trucks, shooting one of their many guns into the air, hollaring at scantily clad girls in the Wal-Mart parking lot, tossing beer cans and swear words all over, then running back ta the house in time to catch the latest game on ESPN and Survivor.

It's dreams of Old Glory by people who've gotten bald and fat and, unable to put down their TV remotes because they might miss something, revolt by calling into Talk Radio on their cells instead.

Aside from that one crazy who'll do something stupid, the rest of them are just angry empty idealists who need Fox's paper targets so's they know where to shoot off their mouths.

In Alabama blue and red don't make purple, it makes trouble.

Posted by: * on March 29, 2010 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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