Tom Corbett is a desperate man.
The Republican Governor of Pennsylvania is way, way down in the polls in his fight for re-election. Somewhere between 15-20 points down to Democrat Tom Wolf. And there’s a really messy scandal coming to light about his time as state Attorney General: eight of his staffers were enthusiastically sharing porn by email. Two men who became top Corbett Administration officials have had to resign. Others are hanging by a thread.
So Tom Corbett could use a nice big fat distraction. And he’s got one, courtesy of Goddard College’s commencement invitation to Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Corbett’s response: a proposed bill that would bar convicted criminals from seeking publicity from their crimes. The bill is now fast-tracking its way through the Legislature; if it gets into law, expect it to be struck down as a violation of the First Amendment.
But no matter. Corbett’s not seriously interested in the bill; all he wants to do is wave the bloody shirt, and turn the spotlight away from the cratering of his political career.
The bill, according to lead sponsor Mike Vereb, “would allow crime victims or prosecutors acting on their behalf to bring a civil action to halt conduct by an offender if it causes the victim or the victim’s family severe mental anguish.” He slammed Goddard for giving Mumia a platform to deliver a “taxpayer-funded rant.”
Let’s take the latter first. Mumia’s remarks, according to those — unlike Vereb — who actually read them, were the usual blandly inspirational stuff of commencement addresses. He did not speak of the crime that put him behind bars for life. He did not mock the family and friends of the late Officer Danny Faulkner. He did not recite the lyrics to “Fuck Tha Police.”
If the family and friends of Danny Faulkner are suffering any severe mental anguish, it’s not because a small liberal-arts college in a small Vermont town invited Mumia to give a brief recorded address to 20 students. It’s because of all the conservative ragemongering that capitalized on the event.
Mike Vereb said, “The words of the victims should be louder than the criminals.” Well, they would have been if people like Mike Vereb had let the Goddard event pass quietly by.
In fact, they still were louder. A whole lot louder. How many people actually heard Mumia’s words? And how many have heard the words of Faulkner’s family, friends, and supporters?
It’s people like Mike Vereb and Tom Corbett who are indulging in taxpayer-funded rants. They are the ones causing “severe mental anguish” by endlessly reciting the details of the crime and pushing the Faulkner family back into the spotlight. And, figuratively, waving Danny Faulkner’s bloody shirt for a brief moment of political advantage.
Could somebody please draft a bill that would bar public officials from going on taxpayer-funded rants that cause severe mental anguish?