John Edwards vs. The First Amendment

It now seems like every day that we hear more lunacy from the increasingly desperate Edwards campaign. Yesterday it was attempts to suppress news from a student journalist. His lack of respect for the First Amendment is seen yet again in his proposal to suppress advertising of new drugs.

I’ve never been very fond of such pharmaceutical company advertising as they are intended to drive sales of more expensive medications when cheaper alternatives will often work as well. However because we do not like something does not mean we should use the power of government to suppress it. This especially pertains to speech we might disapprove of.

There are alternatives to attempting to suppress free speech. When patients come in requesting a prescription based upon an advertisement I’ll often explain how the ads are used to try to sell higher priced medications which are not necessarily the best for them. All other things being equal I tend to avoid prescribing medications which are advertised. For example, when a patient needs a proton pump inhibitor, it is very unlikely I’ll prescribe a purple one. Many insurance companies are using educational programs to encourage patients to use less expensive alternatives–although this must also be watched to ensure that insurance companies are not also trying to deny patients a more expensive alternative to save money.

Following my recent criticism of Edwards’ junk economics, we also see more examples in this report from The Concord Monitor. Just as some Republicans are wrong when they claim that any government action to solve a problem is bad, Edwards is wrong in his belief that all problems must be solved by big government programs.

The News John Edwards Did Not Want You To See


The news story in the video above was produced by a student at The University of North Carolina. While hardly the most critical story of Edwards I’ve seen, it does raise the suspicions which many have that Edwards is campaigning on poverty more out of political expedience than conviction.

The New York Times and The News & Observer reports on efforts of the Edwards campaign to suppress distribution of the video, including demanding that it be removed from You Tube:

A UNC-Chapel Hill journalism professor said John Edwards’ presidential campaign tried to kill a student’s video story about his campaign headquarters.

Associate Professor C.A. Tuggle said two top staffers for the former North Carolina senator demanded that the school drop the segment from the student-run television program “Carolina Week.” They also asked to have the video removed from the YouTube Web site.

Tuggle said they threatened to cut off access to Edwards for UNC student reporters and other student groups if the piece aired.

“My gosh, what are they thinking?” Tuggle said. “They’re spending this much time and effort on a student newscast that has about 2,000 viewers? They’re turning a molehill into a mountain.”

The story also summarizes the aspects of the video which the Edwards campaign objected to:

The segment, by graduate student Carla Babb, began as a look at Nation Hahn, a UNC senior interning with the campaign. During the interview, Babb asked about a recent column in The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper, criticizing Edwards’ choice of the posh Southern Village shopping center as the location for his headquarters.

Babb rewrote the piece to focus on that angle and interviewed the columnist, prompting the complaint from Edwards’ campaign.

In the video, James Edward Dillard, a columnist for The Daily Tar Heel, says that the location conflicts with Edwards’ campaign goal of reducing poverty in America.

“To pick that place as your campaign center, when you’re going to be the man who advocates on behalf of the poor, I just think, why not turn the media’s attention to somewhere where there are huge, huge problems,” Dillard said.

Beware of Protection from the DEA

The Missoulian reports on the case of a woman who committed suicide due to being unable to cope with the pain of an immunosuppressive disorder. She had received relief of her pain in the past with marijuana and believed that she would have access to medical marijuana based upon state law but found that this did not prevent the DEA from continuing raids:

She was a high-profile campaigner for the Montana Medical Marijuana Act, and like others, she was dismayed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that drug agents could still arrest sick people using marijuana, even in states that legalized its use.

The ruling came to haunt Prosser in late March, when DEA agents seized less than a half ounce of marijuana sent to her by her registered caregiver in Flathead County.

At the time, the DEA special agent in charge of the Rocky Mountain Field Division said federal agents were “protecting people from their own state laws” by seizing such shipments.

The DEA sure did a find job of “protecting” this woman.

All of the candidates for the Democratic nomination have made statements opposing the raids, although Joe Biden’s was fairly weak. All of the Republican candidates support continuation of the current policy with the exceptions of Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo.

Obama Might Finally Explain Where His Views Differ from Clinton’s

The New York Times reports that Barack Obama has stated he will start confronting Hillary Clinton more forcefully, “declaring that she had not been candid in describing her views on critical issues.”

In an interview on Friday that appeared timed by his campaign to signal the change of course, Mr. Obama said “now is the time” for him to distinguish himself from Mrs. Clinton. While he said that he was not out to “kneecap the front-runner, because I don’t think that’s what the country is looking for,” he said she was deliberately obscuring her positions for political gain and was less likely than he was to win back the White House for Democrats.

Asked if Mrs. Clinton had been fully truthful with voters about what she would do as president, Mr. Obama replied, “No.”

“I don’t think people know what her agenda exactly is,” Mr. Obama added, citing Social Security, Iraq and Iran as issues on which she had not been entirely forthcoming.

“Now it’s been very deft politically,” he said. “But one of the things that I firmly believe is that we’ve got to be clear with the American people right now about the important choices that we’re going to need to make in order to get a mandate for change, not to try to obfuscate and avoid being a target in the general election.”

Yes it is true that Clinton has not always been very clear on her views. Unfortunately the same can be said about most presidential candidates, including Obama himself. I have looked favorably on Obama considering that, assuming that Richardson and Dodd are unable to compete with the front runners, Obama is our best hope of preventing the undesirable result of Clinton winning and the even more disastrous result of Edwards winning.

Obama has often made comments which I’ve found appealing, but too little detail was often present. There is some question as to whether attacking Clinton would distract from his message of being a unifier. This would not be a problem if he concentrated on describing his views, and how they differed from Clinton’s, while avoiding the unproductive and divisive tactics utilized by Republicans from the right and Edwards from the left. Criticism of Clinton based upon real issues and ideas would be a welcome change from the increasingly inane attacks which Edwards has been utilizing in desperation.

While I still hope for more specifics from Obama, at least from my perspective he has clear advantages over Clinton on the key issues of Iraq and health care. He deserves credit for his opposition to the Iraq war from the start and for resisting the use of mandates in his health care plan. Obama also appears more likely than Clinton to support liberal principles in other areas. Andrew Sullivan touches on this and other issues as he presents his arguments in favor of Obama over Clinton:

There are, to me, three core issues in this election: the Constitution, the war and the environment. All three are urgent, and the need for deep, radical change overwhelming. It’s vital that the next president not assume and inherit the kind of extra-legal powers that Bush and Cheney have acquired as part of what amounts to a protectorate, not a presidency. The rule of law must be clearly re-established. Only Obama has the integrity to be trusted on that matter. Clinton will never have it. It’s vital also that the next president be committed to withdrawal from Iraq as swiftly and as cleanly as possible. Again: the difference between a triangulating shell of a politician and an actual human being who was right about this war in the first place is completely clear. And we need someone in the administration – Al Gore obviously springs to mind – who can marshall the country’s resources to tackle climate change and the urgent necessity for new energy sources. Gore loathes the Clintons as much as anyone, because he saw them close-up, and knows what their cynical, ruthless machine is really about: them. On those three issues, Obama is vastly superior to Clinton, whose history of executive secrecy and privilege, whose constant triangulation on the war and whose polarization of the country would make difficult and real change impossible.