I’m a little nervous about writing this, seeing as how I vowed I’d bow out of political commentary. But this is too rich to pass up. We’ll see how this flies, and afterward I may go back to silently despising John Boehner and Fox News without saying anything out loud. You know where I stand, and that’s (almost) good enough.
I’m also a little reticent, because at first it may seem to my liberal friends that I’m defending a Tea Party-backed Republican. I’m not. I’m just pointing out assumptions that a certain media outlet has made regarding his political motives. Those assumptions are probably right, but I was always taught not to assume things, and, well, read on… you’ll see what I mean.
First, a comment about the “liberal media”. I have often heard that phrase applied to the ENTIRETY of American media. When it’s used that way - to imply that, on the whole, media in the United States is left-leaning - it’s simply false, a bogeyman tossed up by conservative pundits and politicians to cover for the fact that, as Stephen Colbert so eloquently put it, “Reality has a well-know liberal bias.” Often, when truth and objectivity in reporting runs counter to what they want people to believe, they claim that those reporting it have a bias. Meanwhile, some of the most prominent media outlets in America are staunchly, outspokenly biased toward conservativism, and those outlets report things falsely all the time.
This doesn’t mean that there ISN’T a liberal media. I’m a media outlet, and I’m told I’m liberal as hell (although I prefer to think of myself as a rational centrist). Daily Kos is left-leaning. Huffington Post is as well. There are quite a few liberal media outlets - although far, far less than there are conservative, and that’s my point, I suppose.
Anyway, sometimes those liberal outlets will give you a version of a story that smacks of a deceptive tone, same way their conservative counterparts do. And it’s one such stories that I’m going to discuss today.
It involves this article in the above-mentioned Huffington Post. Mike Lee is a newly-elected, Tea Party-backed Republican Senator from Utah. He’s also a lawyer who deals with constitutional law. You’ll notice if you even LOOK at the article that the headline implies that Mike Lee says child labor laws are unconstitutional. ”What?” you ask. “What kind of monster would say that the Constitution can’t be used to protect children from predatory labor practices? Does he want us to go back to the old days, when children DIED in factories, when eight-year-olds suffered from horribly unsafe work conditions when THEY SHOULDN’T HAVE EVEN BEEN WORKING?”
He’s a Tea Party backed Republican, so that’s what I assumed at first glance. I ASSUMED, see. But then I read further, which we always should.
In reading Lee’s quote and watch the video, you’ll notice that he doesn’t really say what the headline implies. From what he says, he deplores child exploitation and labor as much as any of us, and his point isn’t that we shouldn’t use our system of laws to protect the innocent. He simply believes that the laws protecting our children should be enacted by STATE legistatures, and not Congress.
I think the headline is misleading, and I think it’s possible that it’s misleading on purpose. With a cursory glance, with no context, someone could easily jump to the conclusion that Mike Lee wants to put children back to work. Burying a factual article beneath an inflammatory headline is a ploy that Fox News uses a LOT. So I’m sensitive to it.
Now, though, to give Huffington Post a little benefit of the doubt, let’s take a step back and look at Mike Lee’s motives for bringing up the whole shebang.
It’s a common theme with Tea Party allies, this argument for taking government from the Federal level and transferring it to the States. I’m not even going to mention how much it sounds like Confederate rhetoric. (You like that? I DID mention it! HA!) Thing is, in some cases, I could actually get behind the idea of letting states decide a few more things for themselves. The issue of state autonomy is ARGUABLE at least, even if it’s often ill conceived or pointless.
And in this case, I don’t see the point, other than to argue. Child labor laws enacted at the national level WORK FINE in protecting our children. So why bring it up? And why bring it up so early in your career as a national politician? ESPECIALLY considering that, being a constitutional lawyer, Lee could no doubt find a whole slew of other instances where Federally-legislated laws probably aren’t working as well as state-legislated ones would. Right? So why THIS one?
And speaking of Lee’s being a constitutional lawyer: in his speech, he cites Hammer v. Dagenhardt, a Supreme Court decision in 1918 that supported his (Lee’s) assertion that child labor laws enacted at the Federal level are unconstitutional. What he seems to have FAILED to mention was that the Supreme Court overturned its own decision in judging the 1941 case U.S. v. Darby Lumber. They decided UNANIMOUSLY then that the Constitution DID provide Congress with the ability to enact the laws in question.
Why would a constitutional lawyer leave that out? Either Huffington Post omitted him discussing the later ruling, or else it didn’t suit his purposes to bring it up, or he really isn’t a very good constitutional lawyer….