Bush: As confused as everybody else on indecency
: On the one hand, George Bush defends the First Amendment in an interview on C-SPAN this weekend. But then he seems to realize that he has just painted himself in the corner, so he turns around and defends Michael Powell, too. Such is life on the slipperly slope.
But note that George Bush does say that the first and best reaction to what you consider indecent is not government regulation but the remote control.
Go with it, George. Go with it.
From Broadcasting & Cable’s coverage, the transcript (full C-SPAN transcript here):
LAMB: … one of the big issues moving around Capitol Hill is indecency. And I want to ask you, how far do you think government should go in telling people who use the airwaves, the broadcast stations, what can be said?
PRESIDENT: As a free speech advocate, I often told parents who were complaining about content, you’re the first line of responsibility; they put an off button on the TV for a reason. Turn it off.
Amen. But he continues:
PRESIDENT: I do think, though, that there can be a — that government can, at times, not censor, but call to account programming that gets over the line. The problem, of course, is the definition “over the line.”
Well, but Mr. President, that is censorship. And, yes, that is precisely the problem: Where is the line and who draws it? Should it be government? No, it should not. You know that, in your heart of hearts. Go with it, George. Go with it.
PRESIDENT: My answer would be, if I were interviewing an FCC chairman, please tell me where the line is, and make sure you protect the capacity of people to speak freely in our society, but be willing to — if things get too far, call them to account. I think Michael did a good job of balancing that.
Mighty tight corner you just painted yourself into, Pres.
LAMB: There is a bill that if it were passed on Capitol Hill would up the fees, up the fine from $27,000 for using bad language, for instance, to $500,000 as a maximum fee.
Actually, that’s only the fine per incident. The maximums go up to $3 million. That is a serious chill on free speech. That is the intent of the legislation: to chill free speech. But to the President, it’s amusing:
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they’re going to collect a lot of money when some of these TV shows are still on.
I’m not laughing, George.
LAMB: But is that — I mean, at what point, though, do you have somebody that says, that word can’t be used, but that word can be used?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I understand. Look, it’s the old — the classic definition of the Supreme Court — by the Supreme Court on pornography, you know it when you see it. I think that was Judge Potter Stewart who said that.
That was, I believe, what the court said on obscenity and that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about indecency on broadcast. He continues:
PRESIDENT: Look, we are a great society because we’re a free society. On the other hand, it is very important for there to be limits, limits to what parents have to explain to their children. Nevertheless, I do want to repeat what I said earlier — the parent’s first responsibility is to pay attention to what their children listen to, whether it be rock songs or movies or TV shows.
The poor man just gave himself whiplash flipflopping like that.
Let me help you out here, George: You are a Republican. You believe in small government. You abhor regulation. You should kill the FCC. Go with it, George. Go with it.