From time to time, I get emails from a former client, now retired, concerning political topics. The former client, let’s call him Bill, is a moderate Republican and a reasonable fellow. (Yes, Virginia, there are still a few of them around).
Many of the emails that Bill sends me are over-the-top things that he gets from people he knows. He sends them to me mainly to get my take on their contents.
Below is the latest one, and my response.
The message that Bill forwarded:
> The dictator has spoken., but you and I cannot.
> New law makes it illegal to protest in Obama’s presence
> This means that, wherever Obama is, you do not have a right to
> ask him anything you want to. His secret service can have you
> arrested, fined, and imprisoned for more than a YEAR if you ask
> him something he doesn’t like. Sound like he’s more like Hitler
> than Lincoln to you?
> WATCH AND BE AMAZED AT HIS LATEST ATTEMPT
> TO STAGE A TAKE OVER OF AMERICA…
> Guess you’ve probably heard about this, but sending it on anyway.
> It’s probably the scariest thing this guy has done yet.
> Are you aware of this new law, signed by “Obama” in early March
> May the Lord have mercy on us!!!!
You passed on this message:
[Above message quoted in full.]
First of all, I would like you to forward my reply to the person who passed the message on to you. If that person did not originate the message, I ask that that person forward my reply to the person who sent him or her the message, and to anyone else to whom he or she sent the message, all the way back to the original author.
Second, I am, as much as anyone else, in favor of protecting our freedom of expression as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Sadly, the freedom of expression has been eroded to some degree. Ultimately, we have to look to the courts, including the Supreme Court, to protect our freedom of expression. That said, the Supreme Court, including our current Supreme Court, which has a majority of Republican appointees, has a less-than-perfect record of protecting that freedom. The solution to that problem is to vote for Presidential candidates who are more likely to appoint justices who will be effective guardians of our right to free expression.
With that as a preface, let’s get to the substance of the email message and of the clip from Fox News to which the message points.
The message claims that this law is “HIS LATEST ATTEMPT TO STAGE A TAKE OVER OF AMERICA.” The “him” is clearly President Obama, who, the message suggests, sound like he’s more like Hitler than Lincoln.” The law is, “… probably the scariest thing this guy has done yet.” ‘”[T]his guy,” is again, clearly President Obama.
The legislation in question is HR 317. It was sponsored by Congressman Thomas J. Rooney, who represents the 16th Congressional District in the State of Florida.
See the second entry at:
Congressman Rooney is a Republican who served four years in the U.S. Army JAG Corps and who served as a Special Assistant U.S Attorney at Fort Hood, Texas. He has also taught Constitutional and Criminal Law at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The bill passed in the House by a vote of 399 to 3.
The House of Representatives has 435 members. In the 112th Congress, of the 435, 242 are Republicans.
Of the total of 435, 30 did not vote on this bill, and only three members voted Nay. (The three were Republicans, and one of them was Ron Paul.).
This means that the bill received overwhelming Republican support. In fact, because the Republicans, being in the majority in the 112th Congress, control the committees, this bill never would have gotten out of committee if the Republican leadership had problems with it.
The related bill, S.1794, passed the Senate by unanimous consent. In the 112th Congress, in the Senate, there are 47 Republicans, and two Independents. One of the Independents is Joe Lieberman, who supported John McCain during the 2008 Presidential Election.
In the Senate, any Senator can block legislation by filibustering it. It takes a vote of 60 to pass a cloture motion, which is what would be needed to break a filibuster. Not one of the 47 Republican Senators attempted to filibuster S.1794.
Because there were differences between the House and Senate bills, the two bills went to a conference committee. The House of Representatives approved the result of the Conference Committee by a vote of 388 to 3. Two of the three Nays were from Republicans, and one was from a Democrat.
(Interestingly, Ron Paul did not cast a vote the second time around. The two other Republicans who voted against the bill the first time around, Justin Amash of Michigan and Paul Broun of Georgia, did vote against adopting the outcome of the conference committee.
You may also find it interesting that, in the vote on adopting the outcome of the conference committee, the sole Democratic dissenter was Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota. He happens to be a Muslim.)
The bill was signed into law by President Obama on March 8, 2012, and it became known as Public Law 112-98. The text is here:
P.L. 112-98 amends Title 18 of the U.S. Code (the body of federal criminal law) to revise a preexisting prohibition against entering restricted federal buildings or grounds. The previous prohibition had been on the books for 40 years.
The old law made it a crime to “willfully and knowingly” enter restricted buildings or grounds. The new law imposes only a “knowingly” requirement. The new law also specifically defines the phrase, “restricted buildings or grounds” to include, “the White House or its grounds or the Vice President’s official residence or its grounds.”
Other “restricted buildings or grounds” are:
— a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting; or
— a building or grounds so restricted due to a special event of national significance.
An on-line law-journal article about the statute,
asserts that the new law violates protesters’ first amendment right to protest in their preferred public place. That is not an unreasonable position.
The American Civil Liberties Union has taken a fairly restrained position on the law. It recognizes that a lot of the media hubbub is overblown, but at the same time, the ACLU recognizes that the new law, “… could be misused as part of a larger move by the Secret Service and others to suppress lawful protest by relegating it to particular locations at a public event.” The ACLU goes on to say, “Rest assured we’ll be keeping an eye on how this law will be interpreted and used by law enforcement – especially in light of the coming elections.
With all of that as background, I have two questions that I would like the person who sent this email to you to answer. If the person who sent the email to you in turn forwarded it from someone else, I would like that person (and everyone else in the chain back to the original author) to also answer the following two questions.
Question Number 1: If this piece of legislation was President Obama’s LATEST ATTEMPT TO STAGE A TAKE OVER OF AMERICA, why did 223 Republican House members and 47 Republican Senators go along with it?
Question Number 2: If you are that concerned about suppressing the rights of demonstrators, what email messages were you sending when the following things were going on:
— http://nyclu.org/pdfs/rnc_repo… (the closing of Central Park to political rallies, the mass arrests of hundreds of people lawfully gathered on City sidewalks, the lengthy detention and illegal fingerprinting of people charged with minor offenses, the use of a filthy bus depot as a holding facility, and the pervasive videotaping of lawful protest activity);
(Jeffery and Nicole Rank, a married couple from Texas, attended a taxpayer-funded event in West Virginia on July 4, 2004. They wore shirts bearing the phrases, “Love America, Hate Bush,” and, “Regime Change Starts at Home.” President Bush also attended the event. Event staff and law-enforcement officers ordered Mr. and Mrs. Rank to cover up their shirts. They refused. Thereupon, they were arrested, detained, and charged with trespassing. Note also that the Bush White House had prepared a Presidential Advance Manual, not be be disclosed to the public, providing guidance on how to prevent demonstrators from getting their messages in front of the President.)
A few more observations…
First, in the Fox News clip, Judge Napolitano, whom Fox News bills as its resident Constitutional scholar, makes the statement that the President signed the bill “in secret.” The clear (and blatantly false) implication is that this was some sort of stealth maneuver in the shadows to grab wide-ranging power to suppress dissent.
Presidents sign some bills with great fanfare, with lots of people from both Houses of Congress, and with others, present. Presidents sign many, many other bills without any public ceremony.
The Constitution says nothing about how a President should sign a bill. Article 1, Section 7 describes the general process of how a bill becomes law.
Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated[.] If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.
So, in other words, under certain circumstances, a bill can become without the President even signing it. All he needs to do is to let ten days (not counting Sundays) pass, without taking action on it one way or the other.
Whoever wrote the message that you forwarded to me either clearly has no knowledge of the law as it has existed for forty years, and is clearly suffering from ODS (Obama Derangement Syndrome), or is deliberately distorting what really happened (and is clearly afflicted with ODS).
How could the signing of the bill be in secret if, as a result of the signing, the bill became a Public Law?
Fox so-called News’s distorted portrayal of how the President signed the bill into law was obviously crafted to make the whole thing sound really scary and to put the President in the worst possible light. But there is nothing new in Fox so-called News distorting the facts and trying to put the President in the worst possible light.
Second, comparing the President of the United States to Adolph Hitler is outrageous. Anyone who makes such a loathsome comparison brings a profound disgrace upon himself or herself.
In this country, there is no rounding up and shipping off in cattle cars to concentration camps of political dissidents and ethnic minorities, for use as slave laborers or simply to be killed because of who they are, or what religion their parents or grandparents were. There are no concentration camps, period. There are no mass gas chambers, period. There are no crematoria ovens running to dispose of the remains of gassed Unerwünschten, period.
In this country, the political opposition to the President exercises positive control over one of the Houses of Congress and exercises negative control over the other chamber. No bill becomes law without Republic cooperation, either active (in the House) or passive (in the Senate).
In Nazi Germany, Adolph Hitler ruled by decree, from January 1933 onward.
In this country, there is an independent judiciary that can strike down any law, or any regulation, as unConstitutional.
In Nazi Germany, the judges were the puppets of Adolph Hitler.
In this country, there are free and open elections, in which any number of parties can participate.
In Nazi Germany, there were no more elections once the Reichstag gave Adolph Hitler the power to rule by decree, except for a essentially symbolic) plebiscite which ratified the conferral of such powers upon Adolph Hitler, and all opposition political parties were banned.
In this country, there are independent media that can say anything they want in opposition to the President or any member of his political party, and no reporter, no editor, no newspaper publisher, no radio-station or television-station or cable-channel owner will end up jailed or dead if he or she does so.
In Nazi Germany, the Nazi regime controlled all outlets of mass media. Even the private printing of tracts by dissenters triggered the death penalty.
I have an uncle whom I never met. The reason why I never met him was because he gave his life fighting Adolph Hitler and his Axis allies. (That happened several years before I was born.)
It dishonors the memory of my Uncle Jack and of the 416,799 other GIs who gave their lives in the struggle against the Axis to compare the President of the United States to Adolph Hitler.
As a child, two of my next-door neighbors had numbers tattooed on their arms. They survived the Nazi-run death camps because they were young and strong enough to work. Many of their relatives, and millions of others, were not as lucky. It dishonors their memory also to compare the President of the United States to Adolph Hitler.
I’ll be interested to read the response of the author, or the responses of the forwarder or forwarders and the author of the message. I have no problem if they want to send the answers to my two questions directly to me. I think that they should also cc you, because you are clearly also interested in the subject of the free-speech rights of political demonstrators.
With best regards,