THE BLOG

First Amendment, Two Shirts -- Cindy and Beverly

Two shirts, together, could cut through some of Washington's mealy-mouthed pieties about freedom of speech.

Cindy Sheehan wore one of them to the State of the Union speech Tuesday night, and was hauled out of the building and busted for demonstrating in a t-shirt that read "2245 Dead -- How Many More?''

The other shirt is in the wardrobe of Beverly Young, the wife of Florida Republican congressman Bill Young. She said she was kicked out of her gallery seat six rows away from Laura Bush for wearing a shirt reading "Support the Troops -- Defending Our Freedom.'' In this case, the police said, she didn't get ejected -- she was just asked to leave, and she did.

If there's any issue these women might make common cause over, it's free speech. If they're truly peeved about this, and believe that their mute, cotton-blend statements and anyone else's should be welcome during the State of the Union speech, they should join forces and file a First Amendment lawsuit together.

[Now, if Capitol police were to start expelling people from Congress for their fashion sense, I could go for that -- the floor of the House would be virtually empty. Did you ever get an eyeful of Ohio Rep. Jean Schmidt's Olympic gymnast ensemble?]

But I wish this nugget were getting as much press as Mmes. Sheehan and Young:

Fox News says a new provision slipped into the Patriot Act by Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican, would give the Secret Service virtually unchecked authority to make felony arrests of demonstrators inside a security perimeter at any "special event of national significance,'' even when the star of the show -- like Bush or Cheney -- isn't present. This would apply at any designated ``National Security Special Events,'' even when the president is dead [Ronald Reagan's funeral procession] or not there [the Super Bowl.] What as once ranked as misdemeanor trespassing would be elevated to a federal felony. This is on top of FAA flight restrictions dictating that private pilots can't fly above Cheney's new Chesapeake Bay neighborhood even when the VP isn't home.