First a tweet from Sarah Palin:
This is just an exhausting wingnut meme. They love the Constitution. They luuuuurrrve the Constitution. They are totally hot for the Constitution. They want to marry the Constitution and have like a million of its babies. But they can't be bothered to read the damn thing.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
You'll note that it doesn't say "There shall be no consequences for what you say provided your wingnut bona fides are in order." Juan Williams didn't get arrested. He got fired. Sheesh. If Eugene Robinson started spouting off on MSNBC about how all the tea party people were inbred rednecks whose parents are first cousins, you can damn well bet Sarah Palin would be leading the tweet charge for his dismissal from The Washington Post. And the Washington Post SHOULD fire him if he did that. But Eugene Robinson doesn't say racist shit on the TV and Sarah Palin agrees that it's the Muslims own stupid fault that Juan Williams is scared of them. And anyway the Constitution is totally hot for Sarah Palin and will say whatever she wants it to just like Todd and Sean Hannity. And this is how the entire Fox nation ends up believing the Juan Williams has been constitutionally abused instead of verbal diarrhea-ing his way into a 2 million dollar contract with Fox.
I think I have a pretty good handle on what the first amendment is all about. And I think it's pretty much at the heart of why we work as a country, even when the country seems filled with people saying profoundly stupid things (same as it ever was, but now with its own basic cable network!). We do have the first amendment to thank for those Westboro Baptist nitwits who spew their hate at the funerals of fallen soldiers. But we can also thank the first amendment for this, which (at the risk of going all grandiloquent) is everything that's great about America: