At a National Rifle Association convention this weekend, the longtime gun-nut and formerly relevant rock-and-roller said, among other things, that he’d “either be dead or in jail” if Barack Obama is re-elected in November.
In describing Obama, Mr. Cat Scratch Fever used words like “evil” and America-hating.” He called Obama “the enemy” and blamed the “good people who bent over” and let him in. He invoked images of the 1990s Mel Gibson movie Braveheart, inviting like-minded invididuals (as much as any individual is capable of being like-minded with Nugent) to “ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.”
He had another quote that might have been pretty funny had it not had those I’m-going-to-kill-the-President overtones:
“If the coyote’s in your living room p****** on your couch, it’s not the coyote’s fault. It’s your fault for not shooting him.”
All of this resulted in a meeting between Nugent and the Secret Service, the group tasked with investigating threats against the President.
For those who didn’t know, threatening the life of the President is a federal Class D felony punishable by, among other things, five-to-10 years in prison. There is a system of level enhancements depending upon the type and frequency of threats.
Speaking of frequency, the U.S. Attorney’s Manual states that approximately 75 percent of individuals who have made threats on the life of the President have been mentally ill.
Whether Nugent fits that bill is information above my pay grade, as is the decision on whether it even matters. A threat is a threat.
What interests me most – aside, of course, from the safety of the man this Democratic nation elected to be its leader – is the response Nugent’s tirade has inspired.
Last month, Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney was quoted as saying, “It’s been fun getting to know Ted Nugent.” Romney hadn’t said anything about Nugent’s remarks at press time, but his campaign had released the obligatory email saying, “Divisive language is offensive no matter what side of the political aisle it comes from” and that Romney wants everyone to be “civil.”
Will he be held to that comment when negaive-campaign-ad season begins? Will Obama?
Here’s a little more perspective:
In 2003, country artists the Dixie Chicks spoke out against America’s involvement in war and expressed shame that President George W. Bush was a fellow native Texan. The response? They were called, among far worse and not-fit-for-family-print names, traitors. Country music radio stations essentially ended their career at arguably its peak.
Nine years later, Nugent, a well-past-his-prime musician, is still listened to for his political ideas. But apparently, even a veiled threat at the President’s life isn’t enough to raise the ire of as many Americans as were ready to march with torches and pitchforks in the direction of the Dixie Chicks.
It’s arguable that Nugent’s speech will be as protected as that of the Dixie Chicks. But the real moral? Just because speech is free doesn’t mean everything that is ever said deserves to be heard.
Justin McGill is the general manager of The Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.