Sophism in its most elemental form was on display in the recent gun-control confrontation between U.S. Sens Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Diane Feinstein, D-Calif. While speciously expressed condescension may be an effective tactic in a law school exercise, Cruz's rhetorical presentation seemed more an argument in search of a sound-bite than an honest attempt at dialogue.

Invoking the sanctity of the Second Amendment as the basis for sidetracking an assault-weapons-control bill, the Texas Senator asked Feinstein whether she would "consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?"

Since there exists a substantial body of settled law addressing this issue, the essence of the question represented not a search for dialogue, but rather a transparently lame exercise in "feed the base" rhetoric. Books relating to child pornography, obscenity, advocacy to incite lawless action and "clear and present danger" are unprotected by the First Amendment.

Similarly, Cruz's question relating to "specified individual" Fourth Amendment protections has been answered in a wide-ranging body of case law finding for at least 13 exceptions ranging from "Exigent circumstances" to "Protective sweep."

While the Republican establishment routinely denounces perceived big-government erosions of our Bill of Rights protections, it was the Bush administration and the GOP faithful that enthusiastically delivered us the USA Patriot act. With warrantless search, weakened probable cause and reduced judicial overview at its core, it has emerged as one of the most Fourth-Amendment-damaging pieces of legislation in modern times.

Doug Prescott