Friday, September 26, 2008

Obama Threatens to Sue TV Stations That Play NRA Ads

One of the important characteristics of good political candidate is knowing that your are on one side of a push-button topic and being able to hold to your views without infuriating the other side to work feverishly against you. Whether is abortion, military spending, ideal tax burden, etc. you should try to avoid making the other side go nuclear on you.

Obama is dangerously close to doing just that with his latest announcement that he will sue TV stations that play any of the ads from the NRA's new ad campaign.

NewsBusters has suggested that the NRA ads are full of misinformation, in which case it would seem stopping them would be an acceptable course of action. But not everyone agrees with NewsBusters analysis.
Although faults the NRA for distorting Obama's record, every falsifiable claim in its TV spots has a factual basis. In one ad, a Virginia hunter complains that Obama supports "a huge new tax on my guns and ammo," referring to a position Obama took in 1999. He adds that the Illinois senator voted to "ban virtually all deer-hunting ammunition," a reference to his 2005 vote for a federal ban on rifle ammunition "designed or marketed as having armor piercing capability," phrasing that arguably covered deer-hunting ammunition.
The point is not whether or not the NRA is exaggerating claims--they most likely are, but there is also much truth behind their statements. The point is not how you feel about the gun control issue--I know that it is hard for people to separate their feelings and thing analytically on this issue.

The point is: why is Obama picking to use this tactic with the NRA? Certainly other campaign ads have painted Obama in a negative light. In those cases, the Obama campaign has issued its own ads or held press conferences or given speeches that refute the negative claims. To attempt to use the "power of government", that is lawsuits and federal regulations, to squash any debate on gun control is exactly the kind of actions those people that cling to their guns are worried about. Some people worry about government overreaching their rightful authority. Coming after them on the basis of federal regulations is going to fire them up. This is not a wise political maneuver.

It should be stressed that the group I describe above isn't just a bunch of "gun-lovin' red necks". A huge number of libertarians (or people who sympathize with that stance) share this view. Glenn Reynolds normally makes one-line blog posts linking to some article and making a quick observation. Look how many links he collected on this issue. Do you really want to motivate people like Glenn, who's writing is read by millions, to work against you?

1 comment:

Sarah said...

In a case of slander (which Obama would ostensibly be suing under) he would have to prove:

1)that the statements were untrue

2)Actual malicious intent

and on top of all of that he would have a much harder case of proof given that he is a public figure and public figures have a much higher burden of proof.

While there well could be a case for actual malice under normal circumstances, in an election I suspect a judge would say 'all is fair in politics'. If someone put out an ad that stated outright falsehoods about Obama, i.e. he had a lovechild somewhere, he would probably win that case.

But an ad with the NRA skewing facts is just par for the course during campaign season. Is it ethical? No. Of course not, but did anyone really expect ethics during a campaign?

What I think is MORE dangerous about this, is Obama threatening to sue the TV stations. Does he really want to go down that slippery slope with the media? Suing entities protected under Constitutional freedoms? That is a can of worms I would not particularly wish to open...