The New York Times considers it “authoritarian” to prosecute protesters from CodePink, the antiwar radicals. On Monday, members of CodePink crashed the Petraeus hearings. This prompted Rep. Ike Skelton, Missouri Democrat, to order the hooligans arrested and to vow prosecution. This, the NYT claims in a Tuesday editorial, is “an unnecessarily authoritarian response to people just want to be heard.”
Please. CodePink does not simply “want to be heard.” It literally screams because it wants to force others to listen. There is a massive difference. When that difference is obscured, a group like CodePink steps in, and free speech as it is conducted by lawful people with diverse views ends. Free speech consists of more than grubby ruffians shouting. We’d have thought the New York Times editors could grasp the distinction — or, at minimum, not defend the very people who try to upend the laws which enable Congress to operate.
CodePink has every right to free speech, and to dispute positions and convince people with its arguments.
But it is indisputably illegal to disrupt Congress. This is the people’s time and the people’s place of deliberation.
CodePink’s tactics applied to Congress are a theft from all of us — pro-war Republican, antiwar Republican, pro-war Democrat, antiwar Democrat. The group stole explanatory time from Gen. David Petraeus. It also stole questioning time from America’s elected representatives, including the general’s critics. This deprives the American voter of needed material to develop insight on any given subject and hold leaders accountable, whatever the point of view.
CodePink is perfectly entitled to protest outside the halls of Congress, to apply for a permit to protest in the streets and on the sidewalks. It may annoy passers-by at Union Station; it may pass out mendacious literature to strangers; it may do any of the things an American citizen is entitled to. It has no special right to sabotage Congress.
Civil society is expected to make an example of lawbreakers. Otherwise, we risk sending the wrong message — whether the hearings are a discussion of wartime policy or not. Justice should throw the book at CodePink for breaking the law.