Committed to the First Amendment
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Kitchen Gets too Warm for Daschle

Note to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle: Don't kill the messenger. Smarting from the Democrats' stinging election defeat and having been the target not only of conservative invective but of threats on himself and his family and very real anthrax-laced letters, the senator lashed out at radio talk shows in his final press conference as majority leader (at least this go-round).

Fresh from some skull sessions with political strategists, who apparently advised him that Democrats need to get similarly edgy given the success of conservative talk-radio hosts in getting their message out, he compared Rush Limbaugh and other conservative hosts to fundamentalist hate groups in foreign lands. When pressed, he said he believes there is a direct connection between talk radio and the threats he has received. Then he followed with this example: "When I was accused of being an obstructionist, there was a corresponding and very significant increase in the number of issues that my family and I had to deal with.

"The media," he continued, "plays a role in creating this foment and creating this extraordinary emotional fervor that sometimes is not contained and therefore then leads to other actions that are outside the control of anybody in the media or in politics."

Some of the vitriol from the right is a bit much to stomach, but Republicans have not been immune from some tough shots from the other side as well (think James Carville). It's just that liberals have not had the success in finding a media voice to match the conservatives. When they do, that same "media" will be there to give them the platform to, potentially, reassure the faithful and, perhaps, convert the infidel. As with the Republicans, what they do with that platform is up to them.

Daschle's harping did nothing to advance that cause.

One to Deliberate

A judge has agreed to a request from PBS's Frontline
to film a capital murder trial, including jury deliberations, for a documentary. The case is on hold while a Texas appeals court mulls the prosecutors' objection to the judge's acquiescence. Fair enough. It has given us some time to ponder the issue as well. Is this reality television gone too far, or is it an important electronic document of a, literally, life-and-death decision. Might it even prove a boon to the judicial system, as RTNDA President Barbara Cochran suggests, by demystifying the process for a populace often ready to dodge jury service. Several non-capital murder jury deliberations have been filmed, and post-trial interviews with jurors have been favorable.

RTNDA says cameras belong in the court but maintains no such blanket assertion for jury rooms. We agree on both counts. But we also think there could be value in documenting what a Frontline
executive producer called "the ultimate responsibility to decide the fate of a fellow citizen." Currently, we are an uneasy "yes," but the jury is still out. We'd be interested in your opinion.