And in other news from SCOTUS today:
Lying is now a federally protected activity when running for office. The case in question involved a politician and his false claim of military heroism, but the reach of the Supreme Court ruling is much greater. The result appears to speed the demise of free and fair elections that began with the infamous Citizens United decision that allowed for unlimited corporate graft to campaigns. Now politicians can lie with impunity AND raise unlimited funds from single corporation sponsors. What could possibly go wrong?
From MSNBC.com article today:
The case involved Xavier Alvarez who was an elected member of the Three Valleys Municipal Water District Board in Pomona, California. In 2007 Alvarez said at a public water district board meeting that he was a retired Marine, had been “wounded many times,” and had been “awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor” in 1987.
In fact, he had never served in the United States armed forces.
He pleaded guilty to violating the Stolen Valor Act, but claimed that his false statements were protected by the First Amendment right of free speech.
The Stolen Valor Act has criminal penalties for making false claims about one’s personal military history, a common practice among the ambitious and conscious-free running for public service positions. Unfortunately, “going to Hell” is not one of the criminal penalties outlined in the statute, although it should be if you falsely claim war injuries.
In what conservatives would call “an ironic twist”, the Obama administration defended the telling of truth, at least as it relates to running for office. (Once elected to office, the administration argues that false statements “happen”). They argued before the justices that if Mr. Alvarez was not punished for his lie, it would “make the public skeptical of all claims to have received awards….” As if we already were not skeptical of any politician’s claim of valor, courage, and commitment to a Higher Purpose.
Alvarez’s lawyers contended that the Frist Amendment freedom of speech protected “exaggerated anecdotes, barroom braggadocio, and cocktail party puffery”, or in other words, campaign stump speeches. The fine line between “barroom braggadocio” and a pledge to lower taxes, cut spending, create jobs and increase the defense budget simultaneously is dangerously thin, and according to the Supreme Court, needed to be protected.
Liberals were devastated by the ruling, but the validation of the individual mandate during the same session tempered the gloom. The only downside for conservatives will be that when the Ten Commandments are posted in courthouses, Amendment #6, “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness” must be stricken with White Out. According to the Supreme Court, bear falsely all you like! So both sides have a right to complain, although we can’t know if either side is really disappointed in the ruling since they could be lying. We’ll never know.
After the victory in court, a newly emboldened Alvarez said at his Water Board meeting (not to be confused with a “waterboarding meeting”, also legal) that he can finally tell the story about the fish that got away without fear of government retribution.
“Seriously, it was this big!” he said, holding his arms as far apart as possible. “Trust me.” A story like that has GOT to be true.
So SCOTUS was one out of two today. Not a bad record for a Thursday.