Oh, this is rich:
Wise-cracking funnyman Al Franken yesterday body-slammed a demonstrator to the ground after the man tried to shout down Gov. Howard Dean.
His description later in the story makes it sound more like a spear than a body slam, but why quibble? The real story here is Franken's explanation.
Franken said he's not backing Dean but merely wanted to protect the right of people to speak freely. "I would have done it if he was a Dean supporter at a Kerry rally," he said.
"I'm neutral in this race but I'm for freedom of speech, which means people should be able to assemble and speak without being shouted down."
Wrong! Freedom of speech does not mean that, "people should be able to assemble and speak without being shouted down." It means that people have the right to assemble and speak without the government locking them up, beating them up, or otherwise punishing them for having unpopular opinions.
The guy Franken attacked wasn't violating anyone else's freedom of speech; he was excercising his. BTW, if trying to shout someone down violates someone's free speech rights, tackling a guy for speaking his mind would have to be about as flagrant a violation of free speech as it's possible to have.
Further, while it's not in the constitution, our country has made it pretty clear that people have the right to speak their mind without being tackled or otherwise brutalized. That's why we have assault and battery laws. I hope there's a prosecutor in New Hampshire that remembers why those laws are on the books.
Update: Tom Perrault had this to say:
Here's the interesting part, however: Al said he put a stop to the shouting protest because he's "for freedom of speech." Yes, that's right.
You see, as a supporter of free speech, you must strike down any non-Democrat (reportedly, the heckler was a Lyndon Larouche supporter) who dares to interrupt someone else. It is, of course, a different story, when someone chooses to heckle, interrupt, drown out or muzzle a Republican -- that's totally acceptable.
But of course!
Another Update: Susanna adds:
My question is, how would he have responded if it had been Rush Limbaugh tackling a Kerry OR Dean supporter at a George Bush rally? Somehow I'm not thinking he would have run up the flag and started singing America the Beautiful in tearful appreciation for Rush's protection of freedom of speech.