The Tea Party’s freshman Congressmen made names for themselves by touting a strict, static Constitutional constructionism. Now one of them, Floridian Rep-Elect Allen West, has unintentionally undercut the movement’s entire message by saying the government should censor “pro-Wikileaks” media.
“[We] should be censoring the American news agencies which enabled [Wikileaks leader Julian Assange] to do this and also supported him and applauding him for the efforts,” insisted West on a conservative radio program last week.
Though West’s assertion echoes those of other right wing leaders who oppose Wikileaks, like Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman’s suggestion that papers like the ‘New York Times’ be investigated for espionage charges, the freshman Congressman’s call represents the most blatantly unconstitutional opposition yet.
In addition to totally contradicting freedom of the press, one of the nation’s fundamental rights, West’s wish also undermines the 1971 Supreme Court decision allowing the ‘Times’ and the ‘Washington Post’ to publish ‘The Pentagon Papers,’ a move historians hail as a huge win for free media. West’s statement takes those precedents and throws them out the window, all for the sake of political argument.
What would West say if Wikileaks revealed an impending attack on American soil? Would he be so quick to lambast the free press, a right enshrined in the same constitution he wants to uphold?
By hopping head first onto the conservative bandwagon, West eroded his political platform’s load-bearing axis: constitutional constructionism. His legislative authority becomes an absurdity, and his entire position nullified.
Ideological discrepancies are only part of West’s Wikileaks problem: his comments could also open a torrent of similar inquiries for other Tea Party Congressmen, who will either have to support West’s position, thereby opposing the free press, or the lawmakers will have to contradict their new colleague, admitting the constitutional theories they extolled on the campaign trail have inherent limits.
It’s worth noting that West enrolled in Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s Constitution class, which will offer freshman congressmen and women basic lessons on the bill of rights. Perhaps Bachmann should consider teaching lessons on public speaking, as well.
Update: West released a clarification statement, and claims he didn’t mean “censor,” but “censure.”
“It has never been my intent to quiet or censor the press or anyone for that matter utilizing their right of freedom of speech granted to them under this country’s great American Constitution,” he told The Daily Caller. “[I meant] that the media should be harshly criticized for printing the damaging documents Assange has released which so clearly puts our soldiers and country at risk.”
Though this audio’s crystal clear, the aural similarities between “censor” and “censure” make it difficult to decipher West’s meaning, but it’s definitely possible that he’s saying “censure.” Take a listen and see if you can make a distinction.