Two local bloggers I enjoy have accused the Obama campaign of attempting to suppress free speech.
When WGN-AM Radio in Chicago scheduled a two-hour interview last week with David Freddoso, who wrote The Case Against Barack Obama the campaign sent out an alarm to supporters, sparking an avalanche of angry phone calls to the station.
Mark Draughan (Windy Pundit) responds:
I think this misses the mark. It's one thing to try to shout down an opponent trying to give a speech in an auditorium, but Freddoso was appearing on a talk show. People are supposed to call in to talk to the guest. Executive producer Zack Christenson has only said that the extra volume of calls made it more difficult to run the show, but the show still ran and Freddoso still got to say his piece. Calling this an attack on free speech is silly.
Woolner tries to characterize the incident as a deliberate attempt to "jam a radio station's phone lines with angry callers" and argues that the Obama campaign should have sent someone to the station for a debate.
Maybe. But asking supporters to call the station is certainly a reasonable alternative. The proper response to "bad" speech is "good" speech, and that's what the callers where doing. Woolner is just arguing about who should be delivering the speech.
But Draughan doesn't let Obama off the hook. He brings up a more troubling instance of an Obama campaign effort to suppress speech. In a letter to radio stations airing an NRA sponsored anti-Obama ad, the general counsel for the Obama campaign, Robert F. Bauer, argued that Failure to prevent the airing of 'false and misleading advertising may be 'probative of an underlying abdication of licensee responsibility... For the sake of both FCC licensing requirements and the public interest, your station should refuse to continue to air this advertisement."
I think Draughan is right about the effort to mobilize callers to a radio station. It isn't an infringement on speech, although I wouldn't characterize it as admirable either. On the other hand, the Obama campaign's threat to use the FCC--the government--to suppress political speech crosses the line.
If the McCain campaign had sent out a similar letter in an attempt to block an anti-McCain ad, the liberal blogosphere would rightly be in an uproar.