Windy City Madman: Nuge meets Obama “truth squad”
By: Daniel Clark
During the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Barack Obama deployed so-called “truth squads” throughout the swing state of Missouri. Comprised mainly of prosecutors and high-ranking law enforcement personnel, these partisan watchdogs announced their intention to monitor private citizens’ political speech. Although they would later protest that they’d never directly threatened to arrest or indict Obama’s critics for voicing their opinions, the implicit threat was plain to see.
They defended themselves by pointing out that Missouri law contains no speech-crime provisions for them to enforce. Still, one might reasonably have feared being targeted for unrelated trivial or imagined offenses, as punishment for having committed crimes against superhumanity. If the squadders’ only intention was, as they claimed, to rebut attacks against Obama by revealing the “truth,” then why did the campaign make a point of recruiting such authority figures, instead of simply hiring some good p.r. people?
Moreover, if Obama hadn’t meant to use legal harassment to stifle free speech, then why, during that same campaign, did he attempt to censor National Rifle Association ads that informed voters of the candidates’ positions on the Second Amendment? The Obama campaign’s general counsel wrote a letter meant to intimidate TV station managers into yanking the ads. This prompted the NRA to send out a rebuttal, asking them to “disregard the shamefully false assertions from the Obama campaign and its attorneys.”
At a recent NRA gathering, rock guitarist, gun enthusiast and dead varmint connoisseur Ted Nugent delivered an odd and semi-coherent harangue, in which he said, “If Barack Obama becomes president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail at this time next year.” Moments later, he followed up with one of his trademark violent Tedaphors. “We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.”
A reasonable person might describe this rhetoric as irresponsible, but does it justify a face-to-face meeting with the Secret Service? Okay, so Nugent may have watched Braveheart a few too many times, but nobody could have seriously thought that he meant to decapitate anyone. To take his electoral call to arms literally, you’d have to believe he seriously expected to meet his adversaries on a real battlefield, and on horseback.
There was no reason for the authorities to question The Nuge about his first statement, either. What he was really saying was that, once President Obama no longer has to worry about reelection, prominent gun owners like himself will be targeted by the government. No rational person could have understood him to be making a physical threat against the president. At worst, he might be considered paranoid, if they weren’t really out to get him.
Charlton Heston expressed the same sentiment more artfully at the 2000 NRA convention, when he said, while brandishing a rifle at the podium, “As we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed — and especially for you, Mr. Gore — ‘From my cold, dead hands!’”
If subjected to the same lazy interpretation as Nugent’s speech has been, the armed Heston’s “fighting words” to a presidential nominee must be considered a far greater offense, yet he was not publicly called out for a grilling by the Secret Service. Perhaps that’s because Vice President Al Gore had not transformed the Secret Service into another speech-policing “truth squad.”
Not that The Nuge minded meeting with the president’s protectors. In fact, he claims to have enjoyed their company. Considering what some of those fellows have been up to lately, he and they must have had plenty to talk about. The warning they delivered was not meant for him, however. It was meant for everyone else who disagrees with President Obama, but might now think twice before speaking out against him, rather than face the ill-defined consequences.
The Detroit-born Nugent is known as the Motor City Madman, but he’s not the dangerous one here. It is instead the Windy City Madman, President Obama, who is blowing the “chill wind” that actor Tim Robbins pretentiously puffed about during the Bush years. Obama has even created websites for citizens to rat each other out for disseminating “lies” about him and his policies. That, combined with the threat of being confronted by authoritarian truth squadders for the offense of criticizing El Presidente, is enough to make Nugent’s fear of being dead or in jail a year from now sound not so crazy.
Daniel Clark is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the author and editor of a web publication called The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press, where he also publishes a seasonal sports digest as The College Football Czar.