The Inconvenient First Amendment

This is going to have more disclaimers than a pharmaceutical ad.

* I have known Dennis Kucinich and been on friendly terms with him since he was a city councilman in Cleveland.

* I have appeared occasionally on MSNBC.

* For a very long time I have been part of the MSM.

* I don't know why, but the term "MSM" sounds kind of kinky to me.

You can decide whether any of the above affect my point of view here. They probably do.

Now to that point of view. Finally.

The Nevada judge who ruled that NBC must include Dennis Kucinich in the Tuesday night debate not only needs to go back to law school, he needs a refresher course in high school civics.

Happily, the state Supreme Court stepped in and overturned him. But it shouldn't have been necessary.

Whether you like the media or not, particularly the aforementioned MSM, one of our fundamental principles is that government does not dictate how it covers the news.

That judge would have ultimately relied on the power of government to shut down the debate, had he prevailed, and in the process would have demolished one of the foundations of our constitutional democracy: the freedom of the press.

As to the merits of this case: While it is certainly arguable that NBC's invitation-disinvitation of Kucinich will not win any award for gracefulness, the network, in my opinion, lurched to the correct decision.

Dennis Kucinich has had his chance. He has appeared on umpteen nationally televised debates. But in the various elections that have now been held, he has barely risen in the standings above the asterisk level.

NBC finally concluded that the time had come for an uncluttered competition between the three who have any chance whatsoever of getting the Democratic nomination.

What we got as a result was a really good, solid debate. No bells and whistles, no demagoguery, just a display of the candidates' grasp of various issues and aptitude for political maneuvering. Still, that's not the point here.

It's healthy to debate whether the mainstream media are functioning as protectors of the corporations who own them, or that they, in their zeal for profits, are not covering the news as well as they should. That's not the point here either.

The point is that Dennis Kucinich, in addition to pulling off a pretty good publicity stunt, was seeking government control of the press. He should damn well know better.

Wouldn't it be nice if the mass media were available on an equal basis to anyone and everyone who had a point of view? Obviously they cannot be. Now we have an Internet for that.

Meanwhile, those who are turned off by MSM can agitate for improvement. But that definitely does not include government control.