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Remember the First Amendment?

Doctor Charles Krauthammer, this morning:

Rahm Emanuel once sent a dead fish to a live pollster. Now he’s put a horse’s head in Roger Ailes’s bed.

Not very subtle. And not very smart. Ailes doesn’t scare easily.

Doctor Krauthammer [1]

Doctor Krauthammer

The White House has declared war on Fox News. White House communications director Anita Dunn said that Fox is “opinion journalism masquerading as news [2].” Patting rival networks on the head for their authenticity (read: docility), senior adviser David Axelrod declared Fox “not really a news station [3].” And Chief of Staff Emanuel told (warned?) the other networks not to “be led [by] and following Fox.”

Meaning? If Fox runs a story critical of the administration — from exposing “green jobs” czar Van Jones as a loony 9/11 “truther” to exhaustively examining the mathematical chicanery and hidden loopholes in proposed health-care legislation — the other news organizations should think twice before following the lead.

The signal to corporations is equally clear: You might have dealings with a federal behemoth that not only disburses more than $3 trillion every year but is extending its reach ever deeper into private industry — finance, autos, soon health care and energy. Think twice before you run an ad on Fox.

I admit to not having considered the angle on that last para before. He’s quite right.  I regard my omission of that angle as the effect of being overwhelmed by the lawlessness of this administration. (If we consider the Constitution the law of the land, and the constitutionality of the actions of this administration, we must consider the Obama Administration lawless in this regard, at least. )

Krauthammer apparently disagrees with me on this point, saying in the same piece:

There’s nothing illegal about such search-and-destroy tactics. Nor unconstitutional. But our politics are defined not just by limits of legality or constitutionality.

The Doctor refers to what he calls “Madisonian norms.”, and therein, he makes a fair point.  But can we really call the efforts of this White House, including the attempted isolation of Fox, economic and otherwise,  to be anything less than a usurpation  of the first amendment’s intent and wording? This one seems ripe to me for a trip to the USSC, really. I wonder if we’ll see the New York Times take up this case, as they did when Nixon tried this criminal nonsense? Yeah, I don’t think so, either, but…. (Shrug)

Let’s look deeper, based on the news of last night; [4]

We now have Czars making rulings on the pay of private corporations based on the idea that they took Tarp money.  The corporations, forced to take the bait, are now hooked into increased govenmental power over them.  The question is, how far this will go. Will we now see the government mandating where ads may  and may not be placed based on this same taxpayer money connection?  For example, saying to GM that placing ads on Fox is verboten?  I suggest it likely that’s already happening, at least in terms of threat, as Krauthammer suggests.

The first amendment implications of this are far too large to ignore, and the legality of the White House’s attempts are far more than questionable. Can trying to kill off news orgs as official executive branch policy, be considered to be anything less than a direct violation of our first amendment?