In today’s Washington Post, George Will looks at some recent comments by Arizona Senator John McCain and reinforces for me the reasons while I will never vote for him.
Presidents swear to “protect and defend the Constitution.” The Constitution says: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.” On April 28, on Don Imus’s radio program, discussing the charge that the McCain-Feingold law abridges freedom of speech by regulating the quantity, content and timing of political speech, John McCain did not really reject the charge:
“I work in Washington and I know that money corrupts. And I and a lot of other people were trying to stop that corruption. Obviously, from what we’ve been seeing lately, we didn’t complete the job. But I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I’d rather have the clean government.”
In other words, McCain is willing to sacrifice free speech in the name of so-called “clean government.” I suppose that we shouldn’t be surprising given that it comes from the mouth of the co-sponsor of one of the most anti-free speech bills to make its way out of Congress in recent memory. As Will points out in his usual style, it does raise the very legitimate question of exactly what kind of President John McCain would be.
In his words to Imus, note the obvious disparagement he communicates by putting verbal quotation marks around “First Amendment rights.” Those nuisances.
Then ponder his implicit promise to “complete the job” of cleansing Washington of corruption, as McCain understands that. Unfortunately, although McCain is loquacious about corruption, he is too busy deploring it to define it. Mr. Straight Talk is rarely reticent about anything , but he is remarkably so about specifics: He says corruption is pandemic among incumbent politicians, yet he has never identified any corrupt fellow senator.
That’s because so-called campaign finance reform isn’t really about fighting corruption as much as it is about preserving the advantages of incumbents such as the senior Senator from Arizona, which is precisely what McCain-Feingold does by limiting the ability of challengers to mount effective campaigns against entrenched incumbents.
More importantly, though, McCain’s obvious disparagement of liberty should raise serious doubts in the minds of voters:
McCain favors judges who think the Constitution is so radically elastic that government regulation of speech about itself is compatible with the First Amendment. So Republican primary voters will wonder: Can President McCain be counted on to nominate justices who would correct such constitutional elasticities as the court’s discovery of a virtually unlimited right — one unnoticed between 1787 and 1973 — to abortion?
And if McCain doesn’t respect free speech, what does that mean for the rest of the Constitution ?
McCain told Imus that he would, if necessary, sacrifice “quote First Amendment rights” to achieve “clean” government. If on Jan. 20, 2009, he were to swear to defend the Constitution, would he be thinking that the oath refers only to “the quote Constitution”? And what would that mean?
Hopefully, we’ll never have to find out.
Further thoughts at Outside The Beltway.