The Flap Over Duck Dynasty

Photo from A&E
Photo from A&E

Lately, a lot of people I know seem to be upset about A&E and their show Duck Dynasty.  Unless you’ve been avoiding the news, the network A&E decided to suspend Phil Robertson from the program after he offered a few opinions about homosexuality.  Now, in full disclosure, I don’t watch Duck Dynasty or any other show on A&E for that matter.

Some of my friends on the right have been quick to declare that A&E is violating Mr. Robertson’s first amendment rights.  However, such a viewpoint demonstrates an ignorance of the constitution.  After all, the first amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.”  Note that it makes no mention of private companies or individuals to exercise their discretion.  Legally, Phil Robertson is perfectly within his rights to express his opinions, however A&E is perfectly within their rights to remove him from their network should he say something which they feel is detrimental.  A major media source is not required to allow any or all opinions, nor should they be forced to do so.  If Mr. Robertson wishes to create a program showcasing his political beliefs, I assume he will be able to find a network to accommodate him.

About the same time as the Duck Dynasty flap, the Senate re-authorized what are a lot of unconstitutional provisions regarding domestic spying, indefinite detention, and privacy through the NDAA, our government killed 14 people in a wedding party in Yemen, and our debt and spending are still out of control.

What I want to know is why is it that so many people are up in arms about the actions of a TV network while the government continues to expand its power.  Isn’t the threat to our liberty far more pressing than a perceived culture war?  Why is it so important whether you are greeted with a “merry Christmas” or a “happy holidays” if we remain silent when it comes to freedom and privacy, tacitly allowing our government to read our emails without a warrant or imprison anyone without a trial?  Aren’t these actions a far great threat to our first amendment rights?

Getting back to the main issue, if you agree or disagree with A&E’s decision regarding Duck Dynasty and Mr. Robertson, I would suggest writing the network to let them know.  Watch their program, buy their merchandise, or boycott them, that is your decision.  Given there are rumors of Phil Robertson’s return in 2014, could it be that this whole controversy is nothing more than a ratings stunt?  If Robertson returns to the show or is permanently removed doesn’t matter too much to me, as I don’t have any interest in the subject matter of the program.  Either way, please just don’t let this relatively minor issue obscure the much larger problems facing our nation.

Allen in the Burg

Yesterday, former Virginia Governor and current Republican U.S. Senate candidate George Allen spoke on the grounds of the courthouse in downtown Harrisonburg.  It was one of several speaking engagements he had planned in the Shenandoah Valley that day.

All in all, approximately thirty-five people attended the event.  A little over half of this number were elected officials, press, and political staffers including: Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, Delegate Tony Wilt (R-26), Delegate Ben Cline (R-24), Rockingham County Commonwealth Attorney Marsha Garst, Board of Supervisors member Pablo Cuevas, Commissioner of the Revenue Lowell Barb, Treasurer L. Todd Garber, Clerk of Court Chaz Evans-Haywood, Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson, and City Council member Ted Byrd.

Besides Mr. Allen, the handful of speakers implored the crowd to select George Allen as the Republican nominee for Senate.  However, they also reminded the audience to support Representative Bob Goodlatte for the Republican nomination as he seeks his eleventh term.

After the ceremony at the court house, George Allen and Bill Bolling, along with a couple of staff members, went over to Jess’ Quick Lunch to enjoy a couple of hot dogs.  Since my earliest days in politics in the mid 90s, both the courthouse and Jess’ have served as traditional political landmarks in Harrisonburg.

As Mr. Allen was leaving the restaurant, I finally saw the opportunity to ask him the question that I had been posing to his campaign staff for the last several months.  One of his staffers tried to hurry him away, but I was able to ask my question anyway regarding his position on the indefinite detention provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act.  Although he seemed to be pretty annoyed by my inquiry, George Allen stated that he opposed detaining American citizens without legal recourse and supported Senator Paul’s efforts to curb this abuse.  Although he indicated that he has made his position clear on this matter, if that was the case, why wasn’t I able to find it on his website and why did his staff not answer my repeated inquires?  Nevertheless, if he wins both the GOP nomination in June and the general election in November, I do hope he stands by this position.

One last issue I’d like to discuss is the relatively poor turnout at yesterday’s event.  After all, there were far more George Allen signs there than people.  Although it is easy to make the claim that George Allen’s candidacy hasn’t really fired up the base of conservative voters, I believe that the problem runs far deeper still.  After all, Mitt Romney has not yet captured the hearts and minds of the Republican base.  Nor have George Allen or Bob Goodlatte electrified voters will bold new proposals to finally solve our debt crisis and get the federal government under control.  Rather than offering exciting candidates that inspire on their own merits, instead the establishment drives us through terror, terror of what may happen with four more years of an Obama presidency.  I believe that it is exceedingly difficult to win an election based upon mere fear alone.  That is one strong reason why I am not supporting either Allen or Goodlatte for the GOP nomination.  After all, what demographic will they bring to the polls in droves that the other lukewarm candidates will not?  Will we see the social conservatives?  What about the fiscal conservatives?  Or maybe the liberty-minded?

I don’t want to see either Barack Obama or Tim Kaine in office in 2013, but if we nominate a bunch of weak-kneed Republican politicians, then don’t be surprised if 2012 morphs into the year of the donkey.

Denouncing the NDAA?

Last week, I contacted the campaigns of all of the Republican candidates for Virginia’s U.S. Senate seat as well as Democratic frontrunner Tim Kaine.  My purpose in doing so was to discover each of their positions regarding the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act.  As you might imagine, I am quite dismayed about the prospect of giving the president the authority to indefinitely detain any person, be they an American citizen or not, without a trial.  I had hoped that each of the candidates would take a strong stance against this potential injustice.

Well, seven days have passed since my inquiry.  What to do you expect each of their responses was?  First, I didn’t get a reply from Tim Donner.  Given that he ended his campaign shortly after receiving my question, this outcome comes as no surprise.  Nor did I get any sort of answer from either E.W. Jackson or David McCormick.   The reasoning for this lapse likely stems from the fact that neither seem to have very organized or responsive campaigns and likely do not have a person devoted to answering such questions.

Then again, neither George Allen nor Tim Kaine offered any sort of opinion either.  My guess here, given their records, is that like John McCain and Mark Warner both support increasing the power of the federal government at the expense of minor things like the Constitution.  Of course, I could be wrong.  I hope that I’m wrong.

At this point, to the best of my knowledge, only one of the Senate candidates has come out in opposition to NDAA.  That candidate is Jamie Radtke.  As she wrote in a recent article, “Today, men and women of zeal are pushing through legislation that will seriously undermine our Constitution and set back the cause of liberty that men and women have fought and died for since 1775.”  She goes on to add, “The NDAA writes into law the unconstitutional authority claimed by the president to indefinitely detain American citizens suspected of supporting terrorism and denies them the right to due process or trial. Worse, it allows the U.S. government to detain Americans as long as we are at war with terrorists, and this is a war with no end in sight.”  You can read all of her thoughts on her website.

As Virginians look to elect or re-elect a president, a senator, and eleven members of the House of Representatives in 2012, I believe that it is imperative that we choose candidates who respect our Constitution and the rule of law.  Giving the president new and unconstitutional authority to imprison us is not the kind of leadership that I’m hoping to find.  Therefore, I call on each of the candidates to join Jamie Radtke in denouncing NDAA.

Here’s my take home message for my fellow Virginians: If a candidate does not issue a firm commitment to protecting the people from overreaches of the government, then he or she should not be considered as a reasonable choice for any elected office.