- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 18, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: This column’s item “ACLU and the flag” was based on a misreported quote from the American Civil Liberties Union. The entire item has been retracted.

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ACLU and the flag

On Monday, the White House took down the e-mail address, flag@whitehouse.gov. But before burning the “flag” story altogether, let’s wallow a bit in the liberal (non)reaction.

Linda Douglass, the communications director for the White House Office of Health Reform who said “one of my jobs is to keep track of all the disinformation that’s out there about health insurance reform,” had appeared in a White House blog post.

The text of the post said that “since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help” by sending any “fishy” information on health care reform and the source to that e-mail address, which prompted conservative and libertarian blogs to deride it as a snitch program and the soliciting of government informants.

But remember when the American Civil Liberties Union thought the White House couldn’t be trusted? In the ensuing furor, the ACLU was asked by FoxNews.com for reaction.

The statement said “the White House blog is a ‘bad idea that could send a troublesome message.’ But the organization added, ‘While it is unclear at this point what the government is doing with the information it is collecting, critics of the administration’s health care proposal should not fear that their names will end up in some government database that could be used to chill their right to free speech.’ ”

Or as the conservative blog Stop the ACLU paraphrased: “You just have to trust Barry, ‘cause he is just so cute and fuzzy!”

And “Slublog” at the Ace of Spades site recalled that the ACLU took a different tack once upon a time, citing a case when George W. Bush administration officials warned about speech that could aid terrorists.

“Remember when [Bush press secretary] Ari Fleischer said Americans should ‘watch what they say’? Back then, the ACLU said that was a warning to ‘remind us how easily our precious First Amendment rights can be lost,’ ” Slublog remembered.

“The White House snitch program under President Obama, though, is just a ‘bad idea that could send a troublesome message.’ They also want you to know that even though the White House may be collecting personal information, it’s cool. They’re totally sure Obama won’t do anything with it. Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I sure feel reassured. Whew. I mean, it’s not like Obama wants his critics to just shut up or anything, right? Right?” Slublog concluded by linking to a video of Mr. Obama saying that conservatives should be silent, “I dont want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking.”

Jackson Lee I

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas Democrat, sure knows how to talk.

Not only did she take a cell phone call during an Aug. 11 Houston town-hall meeting, but when asked about the video, which went viral last week, she talked at, up and around the question. Just not “about” it.

An account at the conservative site Newsbusters gave a rare “kudos” to CNN’s Rick Sanchez for pursuing the question doggedly as Mrs. Jackson Lee repeatedly evaded and filibustered questions about the video, which shows Mrs. Jackson Lee talking into her phone onstage while a constituent tries to ask her a question.

“After [Mr. Sanchez] repeatedly asked why she did it and if it was disrespectful, the Texas Democrat bizarrely raised the possibility that the YouTube video of her on the phone was ‘doctored,’ ” Matthew Balan of the Media Research Center wrote at his Newsbusters blog (http://newsbusters. org/blogs/matthew-balan).

When Mr. Sanchez sought elaboration on the “doctored” charge and asked her to look at the video and confirm it was her, Mrs. Jackson Lee refused, saying she is “not going to focus on distractions” and “I know nothing about the video, Rick, and I’m not going to comment on it.”

“Then why make the accusation in the first place, Representative?” wrote an exasperated Mr. Balan.

Jackson Lee II

It’s a town-hall twofer. Not only did the meeting hosted by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee produce ridicule about the cell phone call, but there turns out to have been some medical “Astroturf” during the Aug. 11 meeting in Houston (an appropriate city for “Astroturf”).

The headline from Patterico’s Pontifications has to be repeated: “Roxana Mayer: I’m Not a Doctor But I Play One at Townhall Meetings.”

In a rebuttal to the claim that conservative bloggers don’t do reporting, “Patterico” suspected something wasn’t right about Ms. Mayer, who identified herself as a doctor when asking a question and was referred to as one in a Houston Chronicle report and photograph.

“Patterico,” the nom de blog of Patrick Frey, first noted that a Web site run by the pro-Obama Organizing for America “shows a Roxana Mayer was a Texas delegate for Obama, a fact not noted in the Chronicle story.

“But I can’t find any evidence that she’s a doctor. Instead, I find evidence of a Roxana Mayer who appears to be a graduate student studying social work at the University of Houston, where Jackson Lee’s husband is a vice president for student affairs. If Roxana Mayer is a doctor, she isn’t listed where you would expected her to be listed. For example, the AMA Doctor Finder doesn’t list any physician named Roxana Mayer. Nor does the Texas Medical Association,” he wrote.

The conservative blogger acknowledged that this wasn’t definitive, but said “it’s enough to make me go: Hmmm.” A later post nailed it down, reprinting e-mail correspondence between “Patterico” and Ms. Mayer, who is in fact a University of Houston student.

Ms. Mayer acknowledged being the person who questioned Mrs. Jackson Lee and not being a doctor, writing that “I suspect you don’t need me to answer” those questions. She added, “But I’ll say for what it’s worth, I went to get a question answered for myself and two other people close to me who are doctors. Too bad she didnt answer it.”

Mrs. Jackson Lee not answer a question? Unimaginable.

Victor Morton may be reached at vmorton@washingtontimes.com