When does political speech become sedition?

Granted, every election cycle has divisive speech, but I am disgusted (again) with some of the rhetoric of our brethren on the right side of the aisle. Second amendment solutions proposed from a candidate for National Office was bad enough, but when a sitting Congressman in my state said that he knows that the President is not an American, I was disgusted.

I, for one, never liked President Bush. I was upset when he was reelected in 2004 and I was happy to see him go. I probably made disparaging comments about him and called him shrub on occasion. But I always defended him from claims of being a Nazi or a fascist and would never dream of calling him a traitor, a terrorist, or anti American. He was the duly sworn in President of the United States, and like it or not, he was my President and the commander in chief. This is also the case with President Obama. It is one thing when the fringe on the right and the left disparages the opposition however distasteful, but it is wrong in my mind when officers in the government accuse each other of being traitors and un-American. YMMV.

Anyway, while feeling this righteous indignation, I decided that Rep. Coffmans’s comments, being who he is, could almost be considered seditious. Where is the line? If Coffman had said that we need to take Washington back from the socialist gay Muslims who have seized control of our government, using second amendment solutions if necessary, would that be sedition? Where is the line?

I am mostly looking for practical answers, not gnashing of teeth and wailing about how one politician or another has wrong one President or another. I do realize that this kind of rhetoric flows both ways, but itdoes seem to be flowing one way more than another in the last decade or so.

Finally, apologies for typos, I am doing this on a phone…

To his credit, Representative Coffman has apologized for his remarks and admitted he was wrong. And it appears to be a real apology and not just a “I’m sorry you got pissed off” apology.

The federal law against sedition as such is the Alien Registration Act, or Smith Act (1940), which “made it a federal crime to advocate or to teach the desirability of overthrowing the United States Government, or to be a member of any organization which does the same.” However, it has not been used since 1961.

There have been more recent prosecutions for “seditious conspiracy,” e.g., the Hutaree militia. This applies if two or more persons “conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof.” Speech isn’t enough, membership in a subversive organization isn’t enough, you need to conspire to use force.

“I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I apologize”-Rep. Coffman.
Misspoke? :dubious:

Is this the comment in question?

I have to say- that’s dumb, but it’s pretty weak stuff (or maybe we’re just used to much worse on all sides) and it’s lightyears away from being seditious. And yes, it’s that much stupider when we’re talking about two elected officials. Calling somebody a Nazi is distasteful but that’s not seditious either. It’s best avoided if you don’t want people to think you’re an idiot, but it does not involve calling for the death or violent overthrow or execution of anybody. I think you have to give political comments and metaphors - even inflammatory ones and really dumb ones - a very wide berth so as to avoid a chilling effect. The GOP “gun sights” were a metaphor, for example. Angle’s “Second Amendment solutions” was not a metaphor, but as I recall it was a hypothetical comment about what might happen. That’s not seditious either. It’s absolutely idiotic, though.

Speaking personally, I got called un-American plenty of times as the Iraq war approached and I’m sorry I ever bothered arguing with anybody over it because I’ve never cared about being patriotic in the first place. It’s a childish accusation that has no bearing on any kind of factual matter, but that was a lot of wasted time.

Anyway, where speech is concerned, sitting Congresscritters have certain protections.

Ahh, I see.

Here’s the full text. I stand by what I said. Coffman admits what he did was wrong and says he shouldn’t have said it.

I hadn’t seen the full text when I first posted, just his comments about what he said in the text. My second post was my admission of such (basically).

Right about here:

“We shall not have any course but armed revolution should we fail with the power of the vote in November. This Republic cannot survive for 4 more years underneath this political socialist ideologue.” —Ponch McPhee, editor of the Green County, Virginia, Republican Committee newsletter

You have exceedingly low standards for what constitutes a “real apology.”

His excuse that he “misspoke” goes against common usage of the term. He specifically said he didn’t know where he was born and didn’t care because he knew “his heart” was “Unamerican.” Then in the apology he explained that Obama didn’t believe in “American Exceptionalism,” which is also bullshit as any of a dozen quotes from the man would show that he does.

Then, to top it off, he goes into hiding from the media. A local newscast tracks him down in the street and asks legitimate questions, and he comes off like a parrot, replying to every question the same refrain.

He’s a coward. Other Marines should be ashamed that he represents them.

That wasn’t his apology. That was part of what he was apologizing for.

I don’t want to quote his full text (although you can read it via the link I posted) but it includes the words “I apologize” “I was wrong” “I made an inappropriate and boneheaded comment” “This was my mistake, and I’m not afraid to own up to it” “President Obama is a natural-born American citizen” “I have rejected the notion that he is anything other than American” and “I should never have questioned the president’s devotion to our country. The president and I disagree on many issues - his approach to health care, jobs and energy independence, to name a few. But disagreeing on these issues was not license for me to question his devotion to our country. I believe President Obama loves this country and wakes up every morning trying to do what is best for our nation, even if I disagree with his approach. To question the president’s devotion to our country based on the fact that we disagree over policy issues was wrong of me and I am sorry.”

Quite frankly, unless you were expecting him to endorse Obama’s re-election, I don’t see how much more you could ask for.


The line is where the state opts to draw it. No more, no less.

Any yahoo can call for armed insurrection, and any band of yahoos can even stockpile guns and explosives and take to the hills and fancy themselves true patriots or whatever the fuck - as long as the state doesn’t feel threatened, then it can afford to let them bark at the moon all they want. Him who cannot do is allowed to say - gives the Prince cred’ for open mindedness and accepting the most vocal of criticism, too.

Speech and acts becomes sedition when the powers that be decide to treat and prosecute them as such. At which point they either remain sedition, or… well, Harrington put it best: “Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason ? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason”.

Oh, that’s much worse than I thought. He’s not only a socialist, he’s a political socialist, and not only that, he’s ideological about it. Sounds pretty dire.

Nope. See post #3.

It does appear that at least one of the Congressman’s aides is literate.

What is your reaction to Coffman’s response when a journalist asked him to clarify his apology?

That statement is seditious, but it’s not sedition. The latter is a term of art.

Who would have ever imagined we’d see the day when somebody political held the office of President of the United States?

Could you please clarify your post?