In light of President Barack Obama's recent attack on the Fox News Channel, the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto wonders: "why is the Ground Zero mosque the only case in which Obama has ever defended anyone's First Amendment rights without qualification?"
There are a number of possible answers, and at least some of them are reasonable and worthy of media attention. And indeed, a few journalists have noticed and raised objection to the White House's selective contempt for opinion media - Fox is "destructive," but MSNBC libtalkers Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann "provide an invaluable service."
But there is a deeper First Amendment double standard at work here, as Taranto notes:
The president's disparagement of Fox doesn't bother us. He has a right to free speech, and we're proud to work for News Corp., which owns the only network that consistently fulfills the press's adversarial role.
But suppose he had ended the answer after the first sentence, simply stating that he supports Fox's rights under the First Amendment and declining to express an opinion about how the network uses those rights? That would have matched precisely his approach to the Ground Zero mosque.
If President Obama is willing to criticize Fox for the way in which it uses its First Amendment rights, why does he refuse to urge the Ground Zero mosque people to move to a less obnoxious site? Or, to put it another way, why is the Ground Zero mosque the only case in which Obama has ever defended anyone's First Amendment rights without qualification?
Indeed, Obama has hardly been a stalwart defender of First Amendment protections since taking office.
He has taken a steadfast position against the ability of unions and corporations (but especially corporations) to spend money on political speech.
His administration has repeatedly denied journalists access - most notably during the BP Gulf oil crisis.
Obama nominated a Supreme Court justice who claimed that the protection of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment "depends upon a categorical balancing of the value of the speech against its societal costs."
Elizabeth Warren, whom Obama recently appointed to an advisory role, recently said that the First Amendment right to redress "scares me" and needs "dialing back."
Another White House official, Regulatory Czar Cass Sunstein, has suggested that the federal government should mandate that certain information appear on privately-owned and operated websites. "Sometimes people don't do what's best for our society," Sunstein stated in defense of the policy.
White House officials recently bullied the New York Times into changing a story on an upcoming White House ad blitz, despite the fact that the Times's initial story was accurate.
So, again, "why is the Ground Zero mosque the only case in which Obama has ever defended anyone's First Amendment rights without qualification?" Any suggestions for Taranto?