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Feds need McCain-Feingold in their ass

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In a typically excellent column, Jonah Goldberg criticizes blogland for the minimal response that has been made to the Supreme Court’s ridiculous decision in the McConnell case upholding the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

He’s right. This kind of REAL freedom of speech issue [not some brought on crap about federal funding for piss-christs] should have us all up in arms, and it just doesn’t. [Special recognition, however, to Blogcritic Tom Bux for a two-fisted shout for freedom.]

Let me do my little bit to help rectify this lack of blogger responsiveness to this important ruling against our most basic freedom: the feds need the McCain-Feingold law in their ass. I mean, they need it up there sideways, three or four copies of it- in braille for extra pleasure.

All three branches of the federal government now have colluded to tell us that we can’t speak out against politicians running for office. NARAL and the NRA and even goddam NAMBLA should have every right to take out tv ads or billboards saying what they think about a presidential candidate or congressmen. You know, petitioning for a redress of grievances in the most direct manner- making their case to their fellow citizens for why we need to replace the miserable sonsabitches in charge.

By my lights, McCain-Feingold rates as a FAR worse encroachment of our civil liberties than anything in the Patriot Act- and with far less justification. There may be legitimate concerns about “enemy combatants” being held in Gitmo that bear judicial scrutiny. However, that concerns maybe a few hundred people who are being held- and they are at least supposedly enemies trying to kill Americans.

On the other hand, McCain-Feingold slams the lid on the free expression of just the most important kind of speech by tens of millions of Americans. Supposedly, they want us to get involved and speak out on the issues of the day.

Every election cycle, all the politicians work themselves up into a lather over the lack of democratic participation. Yeah, well, actions speak louder than words. This law tells you what they REALLY think about mere citizens sticking their noses into the business of government.

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  • debbie

    Al,

    You are right, unfortunately the only way people get upset about the limitation of free speech is when it involves “anti-American” or “perverse” speech.

    Political speech is EXACTLY what the First Amendment is supposed to cover, the whole reason it was listed in the Bill of Rights – so that no one could be arrested for speaking out against the government or a candidate.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    Goldberg’s neocon blather is a total crock, and the comparison to the Patriot Act is simply ridiculous.

    This issue is a matter of self-regulation by the legislature, and as such is totally constitutional.

  • http://www.shortstrangetrip.org Joe

    Hal, what, specifically, is a neocon? I see you use the term quite a bit and your use makes me think it might not mean what I think it means.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    McCain-Feingold does not involve legislative “self-regulation.” They are regulating everyone who wants to criticize them, ie the citizens. It is stopping citizens from regulating them- which is what we’re supposed to do. Simply muttering the word “ridiculous” does not make it so. Please explain how it is “ridiculous” to consider stopping us from criticizing politicians a serious violation of our liberty.

    “Neo-con” does not have any distinctive meaning at all based on ideological or intellectual criteria. In practice, “neo-con” simply seems to mean “conservative Jew.” What else makes Jonah Goldberg a “neo-con” rather than simply a conservative. What else ties him ideologically to other people described as “neo-con” such as Bill Kristol, who has a significantly different outlook?

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    setting aside the validity (or whatever you wanna call it) of this law for a second…

    is there not a problem with money exerting undue influence in politics?

    it’s always bothered me that, for the most part, it seems like only rich folks (or those that hang around rich folks) can make it on a national level.

    how do we fix that? dunno.

  • ClubhouseCancer

    Al’s right. It IS a free specch issue. While it’s easy to get worked up over the influence of money on the political process, we simply can’t limit people’s voice in the political process.
    I can’t think of a reasonable circumstance where the government should have a right to do so.

    Furthermore, Al’s answer hints at a real truth. If NAMBLA, as Al said, or any group wants to support or denounce a candidate,
    I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT.
    If any group, especially a really radical, controversial group, supports a politician, that is certainly information we all can use.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Excellent point, CC. Yes, if, say, the NRA drops a million bucks supporting some congressman, then his opponents can perfectly legitimately make an issue of that.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    Hal, what, specifically, is a neocon?

    Check Golderg’s site – he’s done several self-serving pieces on defining the term.

  • http://www.shortstrangetrip.org Joe

    Well, if they’re self-serving, why would I want to read them? I’m interested in your definition.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    In foreign policy, I buy their own definitions at http://www.newamericancentury.org/ and the 1996 policy paper for Netanyahu at http://www.israeleconomy.org/strat1.htm as put together by Perle, Feith, Wurmser et al., (many of whom now play a major role in the administration).

  • http://www.shortstrangetrip.org Joe

    Ok, but this is more of a domestic issue. Is there a certain set of issues and positions that you see as being defining ones for the movement?

    I’m just asking because I see the term tossed around a lot (with a negative connotation) and I’m curious to know why and whether the connotation is deserved.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Hal, re: comment #8, you have again merely expressed contempt for Goldberg without even attempting to offer any specific issue of disagreement, let alone a counterargument.

    Also, referring the request for a definition of a “neo-con” back to him strikes me as dishonest- as if it were a term the Jews picked out for themselves. He only ever has used the word a time or two in the process of figuring out what it could mean to the people who use it.

    Now, I’m not going to accuse you specifically of anything- you are invited yet again to define exactly what YOU mean by the term.

    However, this term “neo-con” generally seems to be shorthand code for the argument that the Israelis are running US foreign policy, that somehow Ariel Sharon is giving Bush his marching orders for the benefit of Israel rather than the US.

  • http://flyovercountry.blog-city.com Chris

    Hmmm . . one wonders what Hal might have said if, as Scalia and Thomas posit in the dissent, the Court had said there is no difference between regulating the speech of corporations (here, non-profits who pay taxes on political activity) and “media” corporations.

    It is amusing to, at least to me, to see that Scalia is the strongest defender of Free Speech on the Court since William Brennan.

  • http://flyovercountry.blog-city.com Chris

    Oh, forgot to throw in the neo-con stuff. Goldberg’s three part series boiled down to this: A Neo-Con was an liberal who “came in the from the cold” during the Cold War. Most of ‘em were Jewish.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    Is there a “Central Scripting” for neocons?

    I swear I’ve seen almost the exact words somewhere (probably Goldberg’s columns, maybe something by Frum, the guy who came up with half of what may be the most famous political phrase of the decade, his contribution being “Axis of”).

    And what exactly did you mean by bringing in “as if it were a term the Jews picked out for themselves”?

    Are you trying on the neocon script about how non-neos mean “Jew conservative” when they say “neoconservative”? Wasn’t it David Brooks who came up with that one when he was at the Weekly Standard? Whoever, it just doesn’t wash, and seems to have a malodorous taint to it.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    Al,

    And what was that crap about “Now, I’m not going to accuse you specifically of anything”.

    What form of lunacy is that?

  • http://flyovercountry.blog-city.com Chris

    Irving Kristol, considered the father of neo-conservatism, wrote a brief essay describing it here.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    By “not accuse you of anything” I mean, I don’t want to put words in your mouth. I’m stating up front that my perception of the way the words are usually used might be different than how you mean them.

    On the other hand, I went to your website, and the first thing that I saw was you railing against Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz. Now, they are public figures subject to scrutiny and all that, but they’re several links down the policy food chain.

    Yes, I smell a malodorous taint when I hear the “neoconservative” tag. It smells bad to me- though I could be wrong.

    I note that this is not just a criticism of liberals. It may have originated with a conservative of some kind. In fact, the two people I most associate using the term are Pat Buchanan and Robert Novak- both of whom I have significant respect for as thinkers, reporters and writers. However, they both make me uncomfortable with their anti-Israeli talk.

    By “as if it were a term the Jews picked out for themselves” I mean that you referred me to Goldberg for a definition. HE ain’t the one who uses the term. It is a term sometimes used to describe him. It sounds like you’re tryng to deflect responsibility for your preferred term to him.

    I’m not the first person to pick up this idea about the term. I may well have picked it up from Mr. Goldberg. I heard that explanation, and I’ve not heard any other explanation that makes sense at all.

    The ex-liberal explanation doesn’t seem to explain the word to me. I don’t see any way that it is relevant in the contexts the word is used. Also, I don’t see how it would describe Goldberg, who was never any kind of a liberal as far as I can tell.

    Again, please tell me in your own words what else you mean by the term. I’m not understanding. Dumb it down for a Kentuckian if you could. A sentence or two, or a nice paragraph.

    WHAT THE HELL IS A NEO-CONSERVATIVE?

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    I mean that you referred me to Goldberg for a definition. HE ain’t the one who uses the term.

    But he is the one who wrote a three-part series on the definition. I’m not going to play the neo game of trying to make it seem like the term has no meaning, as Goldberg did in that series.

    This seems to be something the neos have been working on in the last year or two. It’s been in the WSJ and various other places, but it is a game, trying to take “the curse” off the term. You even threw in the scripted part about the “ex-liberals” this time. You’re playing it; I’m not.

    But again, I’ll refer you to another source since you don’t seem to like the National Review: try the Project For A New American Century.

    They clearly explain their position, and they’re about as neocon as they come.

    Another great place to look is the American Enterprise Institute site. This may be the best one for you to gain clarity. Bush thanked them for providing 20 minds for his administration.

    The two members you mention actually are not very far “down the policy food chain.” Paul Wolfowitz is Deputy Secretary of Defence and Richard Perle is on the Defense Policy Board, which puts them both way up there.

    But they’re not alone. There’s Rumsfeld and Cheney and Feith and Libby and Abrams … and the rest of the “AEI 20,” essentially capturing almost all of “the policy food chain.”

    But that still doen’t make the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act unconstitutional.

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    This strikes me as much ado about not much. Limiting some spending by candidates and their parties merely means political consultants come up with other ways to funnel the same money into their campaigns. Wait and see.

    I believe the Democrats and progressives are right to support McCain-Feingold because of the Republicans’ ability to outspend them by double in contributions easily. They would be silly to sit back and let offices be bought without remonstration.

    Barger has a chronic problem with the concept of freedom of speech. He fails to grasp that only government involvement in trammeling speech, which is forbidden by the First Amendment, is at issue. That leads to all kinds of inane responses on his part whenever he tries to write about the topic. Here, he is failing to consider the law is meant to encourage diversity of speech by not allowing the very wealthy to drown out all other voices. The alternative is to allow the Arnold Schwarzeneggers of society to continue to buy themselves political offices whenever they feel like it with the government’s tacit support. Not trying to create a fair playing field for political speech can have the effect of impeding its diversity. Furthermore, Congress is free to constrain itself, which is what it is doing.

    I hesitate to look to see what Mr. Black People Support the Ku Klux Klan (Tom Bux) has to say about McCain-Feingold, but suspect the same failure to grasp the goal of First Amendment law and conservative cant will be apparent.

    Kudos to Hal. He is saying what I’m thinking, with more brevity and punch.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Diva, oh my beloved, what kind of Orwellian craziness is this description of McCain-Feingold: “the law is meant to encourage diversity of speech”? Muzzling people, censoring them from saying their piece does not encourage diversity- it actively PROHIBITS it. “Keep your damned mouth shut and don’t criticize us during elections” would not constitute promotion of an open democratic dialogue.

    This seems to reflect a typical pinko confusion about “equality.” It’s the difference between a right to equal protection under the law versus an expectation of equal outcome. You have the equal right as everyone else to print up flyers and hand them out on the corner. You do NOT have the right to demand that people read them, or print them in their papers if they don’t want, or give them equal consideration.

    I don’t recall any provision in the constitution that says that you have a right to free speech- unless the congress doesn’t like it. I must have missed that part.

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    Your printed flyers analogy is apt, but not to make your point, Barger. What we have now is Joanne Citizen being relegated to handing out flyers on street corners while John Corporation (and the very wealthy) can take over the airwaves and ad pages of major newspapers. What the provision of the Act that seems to bother you so much does is try to even the playing fied for Joanna so that John does not totally dominate political discourse with his extraordinary wealth. Seems like a person who says he cares about the little guy would be in favor of that, but. . . .