the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

July 3, 2006

Barney Frank Defends Free Speech on Late Edition


In the spirit of recognizing nonlame behavior from Democrats, let me say that I happened to catch Barney Frank (D-MA) on CNN’s Late Edition yesterday when it was rebroadcast on C-Span Radio, and he did a good job defending free speech. Two passages stand out.

First, Frank highlighted the selectivity of the Republican outrage about the recent story by the New York Times about the administration’s tracking of international financial transactions and the resolution the House passed condemning such stories:

As far as that’s concerned, clearly, let me give an example of the partisanship. In the Republican resolution, which they put through the House, not allowing us to amend it, not allowing us the kind of democracy that we’re fighting for in Iraq and Afghanistan, they cited a 1998 leak of how we were tracking Osama bin Laden. A terribly damaging one.

They didn’t mention who did it. Apparently it was The Washington Times. Now here’s the story. When The Washington Times, a very conservative paper, during the Clinton administration leaked apparently information or printed leaked information about how we were tracking Osama bin Laden, I don’t remember a resolution. I don’t remember a demand for going after that. So, apparently, when a conservative paper does it under a Democratic administration, ho-hum. Now, six years later, when a more liberal paper does it in a Republican administration, you get this.

I honestly, at this point, don’t know how serious the leak was. But I will say this. I have heard for some time now that we have been bragging about how we were tracking the terrorists’ financing. And I find it hard to believe that the terrorists, having read that we were tracking the financing, didn’t understand that banks were involved. Did they think we were sneaking in their caves at night and going through their pockets?

Peter King (R-NY) was representing the anti-free-speech side and reiterated his belief that the Times reporters should be prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917 — a position Greg Sargent has so far found no other members of Congress willing to support.

Later, the subject turned to the recent attempt to pass a Flag Protection Amendment to the Constitution, and Frank was able to tie it to one of the right wing’s recent targets of hysterical overreaction:

I think it’s a great mistake. It’s a failure to understand a very important principle. Support for free speech means allowing obnoxious people to do despicable things. And I’ll tell you, I can’t think of a rationale for arresting people who burn a flag that doesn’t cover those Muslims who wanted to arrest the Danish newspaper for running a cartoon that defaced and abused Mohammed.

I mean, are we saying that, well, it’s OK to degrade important religious symbols, but not a flag? You know, by the way, it’s often when people who burn a flag illegally, it’s got to be your flag. In Massachusetts, you can’t burn leaves out in the open because of purity in the air. So you certainly can’t burn a flag.

But the fact that burning a flag, that we would make that criminal, well then what is the difference between that view and those Muslims who wanted to shut down Danish newspapers? I mean, this notion, people said, well, free speech has limitations. Yes, you can[’t] endanger the safety of others. You cannot impugn, specifically, someone’s reputation with lies. But speech being offensive, that’s what free speech means. It’s very easy to be for the free speech of people with whom you agree.

King’s defense of the amendment was half-hearted and included the sentences “Obviously it’s not the most important issue facing the country” and “The country’s not going to come to an end.”

Keep up the good work, Barney!

post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.


DCDL is a blog by Washington, DC-area members of Drinking Liberally. Opinions expressed are the writers’, not those of Drinking Liberally, which provides no funding or other support for this blog.

Upcoming Events

See information on the revived DC chapter (2012).

DCDL Member Blogs

DCDL Speaker Links

DC Links

Liberal (Mostly) Blogs

Liberal Groups

Internal Links


Drinking Liberally

Recent Comments

Recent Posts


Search Blog



46 queries. 0.404 seconds