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Whose Home Is Off Limits?

(“Home,” by Iggy Pop.)

This morning, Scarecrow wrote a powerful, passionate post on the swift-boating of Graeme Frost and his family:

The Republicans in Congress have argued that if a 12 year old expresses a view on a public issue, he and his family are “fair game,” allowing the meanest of their supporters to investigate his family, expose their personal finances, publish their addresses and phone numbers (thus implicitly inviting right wing morons to harass and intimidate these people).

. . . So exactly what it is about expressing such an opinion that turns this child or millions like him and their families into “fair game” for mean-spirited attacks, invasions of privacy, public exposure and threatening intimidation?

Ezra Klein eloquently expressed a similar sentiment on Tuesday:

This is the politics of hate. Screaming, sobbing, inchoate, hate. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to drive to the home of a Republican small business owner to see if he “really” needed that tax cut. It would never, not in a million years, occur to me to call his family and demand their personal information. It would never occur to me to interrogate his neighbors. It would never occur to me to his smear his children.

Ironically, though, this shock is being expressed at the same time that progressives are applauding a separate effort to make someone pay a personal price for their public, political actions (or lack of them). It started with this passage in the Washington Post:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was in a determinedly good mood when she sat down to lunch with reporters yesterday. . . . But her spirits soured instantly when somebody asked about the anger of the Democratic “base” over her failure to end the war in Iraq.

“Look,” she said, the chicken breast on her plate untouched. “I had, for five months, people sitting outside my home, going into my garden in San Francisco, angering neighbors, hanging their clothes from trees, building all kinds of things — Buddhas? I don’t know what they were — couches, sofas, chairs, permanent living facilities on my front sidewalk.”

Unsmilingly, she continued: “If they were poor and they were sleeping on my sidewalk, they would be arrested for loitering, but because they have ‘Impeach Bush’ across their chest, it’s the First Amendment.

Though opposed to the war herself, Pelosi has for months been a target of an antiwar movement that believes she hasn’t done enough.

Digby‘s response: “They’re citizens. And you work for them. That inconvenient first amendment was put in the constitution so you wouldn’t forget that.” Just an hour and a half ago, Markos wholeheartedly concurred.

Now, I understand that the Speaker of the House is a far more public person than a 12-year-old who happens to appear in a radio address, and that a war that has cost many thousands of lives stirs deep passions more plausibly than a piece of domestic legislation. But isn’t there at least a bit of a contradiction here?

Let’s suppose, just for the sake of discussion, that there’s a legitimate line to be drawn between Michelle Malkin stalking the Frosts at home and Code Pink protesting in front of Chez Pelosi. Where, exactly, should we draw it?

Whose home is off limits? And whose is truly “fair game”?

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Swopa has been sharing prescient, if somewhat anal-retentive, analysis and garden-variety mockery with Internet readers since 1995 or so, when he began debunking the fantasies of Clinton-scandal aficionados on Usenet. He is currently esconced as the primary poster at Needlenose (