"Stop Stabbing our Troops in the Back": The Limits of Free Speech
In recent weeks, I've launched some mild criticisms of Jack Kelly, mainly for his rebuking Ann Coulter for being, well, herself. Jack writes columns that are hard-hitting, but in the thinking of people like Ann (and me), hard-hitting is not really enough to spark truly serious debate about such issues as: (1) the need for America to win in Iraq; (2) the need to call liberal Democrats to account for their dangerous and cynical views.
A so-called reasoned debate is not enough. It's like the Confederate artillery barrage before Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. The shells fall far short and don't do any real damage. And what qualifies metaphorically as General Pickett's rush to futility? I'd suggest the Republican efforts in the election of 2006.
That was the election where the best appeared to lack all conviction, while the worst were full of passionate intensity. Now, some of the best are striking back.
Recently, Jack Kelly questioned Sean Hannity's relatively benign treatment of Coulter on Fox News. Unfortunately, Jack also wondered about the depth of Sean's Christianity -- and by extension, Ann's own faith. On all the evidence I've seen, there's little doubt either person's Christian faith.
Ann has said she won't vote for Rudy Giuliani, because of his stand on abortion. I don't agree with her on that point, even though I'm strongly pro-life, as is Sean. My view is that if we don't vigorously conduct the War on Terror, as Rudy surely would (so would McCain), then most other issues could become moot.
Also, Rudy rejuvenated New York City, restoring most of its economic robustness. At the same time, his policies cut sharply into the city's crime rate -- especially the number of murders. Saving thousands of lives is by definitions a pro-life activity.
Also, Rudy has promised he would appoint judges who are "strict constructionists." He is using a code-term there to reach out to social conservatives, such as Sean Hannity and Steve Maloney. In fact, it wasn't strict constructionists who came up with novel interpretation of the Constitution that led to Roe v. Wade.
On the overall question of Christians taking tough political stands: I have to remind Jack (gently, but firmly) that Christians aren't society's punching bags. The Jesus who drove the moneychangers from the temple was not a Milquetoast. There's not really a contradiction between loving our enemies and confronting them with some hard truths. As Jesus said, "I come to bring not peace, but the sword."
On the "Hannity and Colmes" program earlier this week, Sean confronted his co-host Allen Colmes, who was talking his usual claptrap about Iraq. Hannity said, "When are you liberals going to stop emboldening America's enemies?"
Then, as the feckless but facile Colmes blathered on, Hannity asked, "When are you going to stop stabbing our troops in the back?"
Colmes, shaken, replied (in essence): "Look, if we have to give up our constitutional right to speak out, then the terrorists have won."
Yes, we do have a right to speak out -- to make reasoned arguments pro or con related to Iraq. However, free speech presupposes a recognition of the consequences of our speech. Frankly, speech that does nothing but encourage people who hate the concept of liberty is highly suspect speech. What precisely is it purpose?
Sean Hannity was right to say: "Stop." Allen Colmes was wrong to reply: "No." Somehow, I don't think the concept of right and wrong has a lot of meaning for Colmes and those who think like him.
Some forms of speech can do a lot more harm than shouting fire in a crowded theater. They can result in the deaths of American men and women. As I've suggested before, Al Qaida reads the public opinion polls, as well as the remarks of American liberal politicians. Osama bin Laden has said as much.
The Constitution is not a perfect document, and the rights outlined in it are not absolute. That understanding is what moved Mr. Justice Arthur Goldberg to say: "The Constitution is not a suicide pact." In the same sense, it should not be a death trap for soldiers protecting the very rights that others are abusing.
To put it in Coulteresque Terms: When your speech is leading to the death of my son or daughter, or my nephew or niece, then I will do what I can to inhibit your particular exercise of speech. For me to do otherwise would be immoral and would be a breach of faith with our best and bravest.