Well, another liberal gets fired for saying bad things about a conservative. I browsed a couple of right-wing blogs that covered this, and they said "Oh sure, he has a right to free speech, but that doesn't mean speech has no consequences."
Which brings to mind another issue that has been bugging me. Politicians today -- the Bush administration and Republicans especially -- lie and lie and lie. They lie about what they're going to do (see: New Orleans, rebuilding, Bush promises thereof, vs. reality), they lie in order to get what they want (see: Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, lies about), they lie about their opponents (see: "If you elect John Kerry, you'll all DIE!"), they lie about reality ("Iraq is TURNING A CORNER!" -- about ten dozen corners over the past few years, by my count), they just lie like other people breathe.
The problem is that with all this bullshit flying around, the public has a damnably hard time shoveling all the cow dung aside to find the grains of truth underneath. All these lies are toxic to representative democracy, since it becomes impossible to figure out who'll do the best job as dog catcher, mayor, or President short of spending massive amounts of time shoveling through all this bull crapola to figure out what the real deal is.
So, applying right-wing logic, I have a proposal: You have the right to tell all the lies you want to tell, but if you do, then you get fired from your job as a politician. Call it the "Truth in Politics Act of 2007". Tell a lie in any public forum (i.e., not to your family or close friends), and you're automatically disqualified from political office -- forever.
A co-worker from India says, "but who decides what is a lie or not?". He points out that in his nation, whoever bribes the Truth Commission with the most money is found to be telling the truth. Well, we have a whole court system devoted to that sort of thing. Any prosecutor in any state of the nation will be allowed to present a case to a grand jury alleging violation of the Truth in Politics Act of 2007. If the grand jury agrees that there is a case, then it goes to trial. At trial, what the prosecutor has to do is prove to a jury that the person involved a) said something that was not true in a public forum, and b) was either negligent (i.e., made no effort to detirmine whether what he said was true) or deliberately did so. All the normal rules of evidence, subpoena power, etc. apply. This isn't some kangaroo court "ethics committee" thing, this is the real deal. And if a jury of ordinary Americans decided that politician X lied, that's it. He is immediately removed from office, and forever barred from holding office again.
Now obviously, this could be abused, so we might want to have some checks and balances here. For example, if the jury rules that the prosecutor brought the case fraudulently or in bad faith in order to harass a politician or, worse yet, immunize a politician from being prosecuted again for a particular lie, it is the prosecutor, not the politician, who loses his job and is barred from public office forever. The jury then has the option to dismiss the case with or without prejudice (legal terms meaning, "the politician is found not guilty and cannot be tried again" and "the politician can be tried again by a prosecutor who isn't misbehaving").
Of course, the other problem is that politicians today employ proxies in order to avoid themselves being tarred as liars. For example, the Bush campaign, via one of their major campaign contributors, employed the "Swift Boat Liars For Truth" to lie about John Kerry's war record, rather than themselves lie about John Kerry's war record. I am accepting suggestions about what to do about that problem. But given that the people who employ liars generally are liars themselves, it's arguable that this situation would remedy itself over time -- lying politicians would go the way of the dodo bird, and thus their lying proxies would end up the same way.
It won't happen, of course. Our political system is based upon lies, the first lie being that it is a democratic system. But hey, a penguin can dream, eh?
-- Badtux the Dreaming Penguin