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Campaign Tracker: the worst job in politics and you still have to wear a suit (March 17, 2010)

Representative Denny Hoskins (r): tracker, what tracker? (March 22, 2010)

Representative Denny Hoskins (r): a clueless pilgrim in the land of republican false equivalence (March 27, 2010)

There was a curious letter to the editor from Representative Denny Hoskins (r – noun, verb, CPA) in yesterday’s edition of the Warrensburg Daily Star-Journal addressing the issue of election tracker(s) and one of his challengers, Courtney Cole, the Democratic candidate (Bill Wayne, a Libertarian, filed yesterday).

The letter in the Warrensburg paper ended with:

…I call on Ms. Cole to either substantiate each of her slanderous attacks or correct her record. Otherwise I will seek the appropriate legal remedy to address the slander she has introduced into this campaign.

Slander in a campaign? Legal remedy? If there were legal remedies for what gets said or printed between political rivals Bill Clinton would be wealthier than Bill Gates and the republican party would be (monetarily) bankrupt.

Does Representative Hoskins (r) recall what the Missouri Republican State Committee did in October 2008?

Also in the letter to the editor:

…A common, but perhaps unfortunate fact in politics today is that political parties use videographers, or “trackers,” to record the political activities of candidates for offices…

If it’s common in politics and someone says politicians do it is that defamatory? Just asking.

Well, let’s take a look at a bit of American history. New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964):

….Thus, we consider this case against the background of a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials. See Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1, 4; De Jonge v. Oregon, 299 U.S. 353, [p271] 365…..

….Authoritative interpretations of the First Amendment guarantees have consistently refused to recognize an exception for any test of truth — whether administered by judges, juries, or administrative officials — and especially one that puts the burden of proving truth on the speaker. Cf. Speiser v. Randall, 357 U.S. 513, 525-526. The constitutional protection does not turn upon “the truth, popularity, or social utility of the ideas and beliefs which are offered.” NAACP v. Button, 371 U.S. 415, 445. As Madison said, “Some degree of abuse is inseparable from the proper use of every thing, and in no instance is this more true than in that of the press.”….

….Injury to official reputation affords no more warrant for repressing speech that would otherwise be free than does factual error….

….If neither factual error nor defamatory content suffices to remove the constitutional shield from criticism of official conduct, the combination of the two elements is no less inadequate….

….A rule compelling the critic of official conduct to guarantee the truth of all his factual assertions — and to do so on pain of libel judgments virtually unlimited in amount — leads to a comparable “self-censorship.” Allowance of the defense of truth, with the burden of proving it on the defendant, does not mean that only false speech will be deterred. [n19] Even courts accepting this defense as an adequate safeguard have recognized the difficulties of adducing legal proofs that the alleged libel was true in all its factual particulars. See, e.g., Post Publishing Co. v. Hallam, 59 F. 530, 540 (C.A. 6th Cir. 1893); see also Noel, Defamation of Public Officers and Candidates, 49 Col.L.Rev. 875, 892 (1949). Under such a rule, would-be critics of official conduct may be deterred from voicing their criticism, even though it is believed to be true and even though it is, in fact, true, because of doubt whether it can be proved in court or fear of the expense of having to do so. They tend to make only statements which “steer far wider of the unlawful zone.” Speiser v. Randall, supra, 357 U.S. at 526. The rule thus dampens the vigor and limits the variety of public debate. It is inconsistent with the First and Fourteenth Amendments…..

Stare decisis.

With this tracker stuff out in front of the public does that mean we won’t be seeing any darkly lit shaky videos or grainy photographs along with shock headlines and disturbing music in cable television commercials in the 121st District before the November election? Just asking.