To the Obama administration, it must have seemed like a no brainer to add the "We the People" widget to the White House website in September 2011. The forum is supposed to facilitate the right of the people, guaranteed by the First Amendment, to "petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
The White House even added that, golly, as long as enough people sign said petitions, someone in the administration -- not the president, you understand, but someone important who works in government, probably higher than an intern -- will make a formal reply.
So when British CNN host Piers Morgan started turning his show into a one-man crusade for gun control laws, some of those American citizens got the idea of petitioning the U.S. government to deport him to jolly old gun-controlled England.
Morgan replied in a remarkably spiteful column that they needn't bother. If the U.S. doesn't start to seize guns, he'll likely take his mic and go home without.
(Not bloody likely, by the way. Morgan would be radioactive in the British media over allegations that he okayed phone-hacking as editor of the Daily Mirror.)
Since the Morgan petition gathered enough signatures, the response fell to professional scold White House press secretary Jay Carney. The former Time Magazine bureau chief tut-tutted to petitioners, "Let's not let arguments over the Constitution's Second Amendment violate the spirit of its First."
The other petition most immediately in the news was responded to by the Office of Management and Budget's Paul Shawcross. In a letter titled "This Isn't the Petition Response You're Looking for," Shawcross assured petitioners that the White House "shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense" — however, a government-funded Death Star just "isn't on the horizon."
It would not undertake this initiative -- and, again, I'm quoting an official White House response here, swear to Allah -- because "construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000," and "the Administration does not support blowing up planets."
"However," Shawcross added, the government is pouring a bunch of money into the "giant, football-field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth" and that's kind of like a Death Star, except for the light side of the force.
And of course there were the petitions for secession immediately after the election, and the White House's sickeningly pious response thereto. Commentators seized on these petitions as evidence of red America's rampant racism, completely disregarding the fact that petitions for all 50 states -- including that well-known hotbed of KKK activity Vermont -- were posted on the website.
On Sunday night, the top several entries on "We the People" were petitions to add service animals to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a birtherite call for President Obama ("aka Soetoro aka Soebarkah") to resign, a plaintive cry to "ban hammers and baseball bats," and a call to finally "end daylight savings."
Though the site has become a popular forum to deliver some serious petitions to the government, more often it is being used to punk the president -- to put forward absurd propositions that, with enough votes, the White House will be forced by its own idealistic promise, to engage.
Eventually, I predict that the trolls will win and the website will be shut down. Either that or they'll turn it over to the interns. Thank God this isn't the Clinton Administration.
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