The Corner

Culture

Protect the Bill of Rights! No, Not That Bit

In response to my rant yesterday, a friend sent me a link to a famous scene from an Aaron Sorkin-penned movie called The American President, in which, to stirring music and the obvious approval of his staff, the fictional commander-in-chief delivers these lines:

In case you missed any of that:

You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I’m gonna convince Americans that I’m right, and I’m gonna get the guns. We’ve got serious problems, and we need serious people, and if you want to talk about character, Bob, you’d better come at me with more than a burning flag and a membership card.

My friend thought that this demonstrated the extent to which this fantasy has taken hold in Hollywood, and I pretty much agree with him on that. But, in truth, I was far more intrigued by the words that had come out of the same character’s mouth just a few moments before:

For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being president of this country was, to a certain extent, about character, and although I have not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I’ve been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character. For the record: yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren’t you, Bob? Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party’s most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution? If you can answer that question, folks, then you’re smarter than I am, because I didn’t understand it until a few hours ago. America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free”.

This really is quite incredible. In the first part of his speech, the president boasts that he is a member of “an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights,” accuses his opponent of declining to uphold the Constitution, and explains passionately that individual liberties inevitably yield costs that can be tough to accept. And in the second, he proceed to suggest a law that guts one of the key parts of that very same Bill of Rights. If there is a clearer example of the manner in which entertainment-sector progressives pick and choose which constitutional rights they think are worth defending, well, I’d love to find it.

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