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Archive for Sunday, April 16, 2006

Republicans put politics over principles

April 16, 2006

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If, in November, Republicans lose control of the House of Representatives, April 5 should be remembered as the day they demonstrated that they earned defeat. Traducing the Constitution and disgracing conservatism, they used their power for their only remaining purpose - to cling to power. Their vote to restrict freedom of speech came just as the GOP's conservative base is coming to the conclusion that House Republicans are not worth working for in October or venturing out to vote for in November.

The "problem" Republicans addressed is that in 2004 Democrats were more successful than Republicans in using 527 organizations - advocacy groups named after the tax code provision governing them. In 2002, McCain-Feingold banned large "soft money" contributions for parties - money for issue-advocacy and organizational activities, not for candidates. In 2004, to the surprise of no sensible person and most McCain-Feingold supporters, much of the money - especially huge contributions from rich liberals - was diverted to 527s. So on April 5, House Republicans, easily shedding what little remains of their ballast of belief in freedom and limited government, voted to severely limit the amounts that can be given to 527s.

David Dreier, R-Calif., explained, sort of. He said he voted against McCain-Feingold because "dictating who could give how much to whom" violated the First Amendment, but now he favors dictating to 527 contributors because McCain-Feingold is not violating the First Amendment enough: It is not "working as it was intended." That is, it is not sufficiently restricting the money financing political advocacy.

Candice Miller, R-Mich., said that restricting 527s would combat "nauseating ugliness, negativity and hyperpartisanship." Oh, so that is what the First Amendment means: Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech unless speech annoys politicians.

Improving the tone of politics, leveling the playing field, fulfilling the intent of McCain-Feingold - the reasons for expanding the restrictions on political advocacy multiply.

McCain-Feingold restrictions on the amount, timing and content of political speech were ratified by the Supreme Court, which embraces this perverse idea: Because elected officials are experts about politics, they deserve vast deference when they write rules governing speech about, and campaigns against, elected officials. When the court gave its imprimatur to McCain-Feingold's premise - that big government should have big power to regulate speech about itself - it guaranteed that what happened April 5 will happen incessantly: The First Amendment is now permanently in play, its protections to be truncated whenever congressional majorities envision short-term partisan advantages.

The Washington Post, exemplifying the media's hostility to speech rights other than their own, eagerly anticipates the next fiddling. As it crouches behind its media exemption from the restrictions it favors for rival sources of political speech, the Post eggs on the speech regulators and hopes for "future legislation" if money diverted from 527s flows, as surely it will, into other political uses. And so the regulatory regime metastasizes, nibbling away at what McCain-Feingold enthusiasts evidently consider the ultimate "loophole" - the First Amendment.

Fortunately, the measure the House passed on April 5 will not become law this year. Not because Republican senators are too principled to pass it, or because Democrats have a truly principled opposition to it, but because Senate Democrats will have 41 votes, enough to block action on it.

The Democrats, who favored McCain-Feingold and now are as cynical as Republicans about defending free speech only when it serves their competitive interests, will someday win control of Congress. Then they can wrap their anti-constitutionalism in the Republicans' April 5 rhetoric. They can say:

"In 2006, you Republicans said that because Democrats have done better than Republicans with 527s, the 527s should be restricted in order to 'level the playing field.' Now we will level the playing field by restoring the 'fairness doctrine' to broadcasting, thereby eliminating conservatives' unfair domination of talk radio."

The 211 Republicans who voted for big government regulation of speech will have no principled objection. How many principled Republicans remain? Only 18. The following, who voted against restricting 527s:

Roscoe Bartlett (Maryland), Chris Chocola (Indiana), Jeff Flake (Arizona), Vito Fossella (New York), Trent Franks (Arizona), Scott Garrett (New Jersey), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Ernest Istook (Oklahoma), Walter Jones (North Carolina), Steve King (Iowa), Connie Mack (Florida), Cathy McMorris (Washington), Randy Neugebauer (Texas), Ron Paul (Texas), Mike Pence (Indiana), John Shadegg (Arizona) and Lynn Westmoreland (Georgia).

On this remnant of libertarian, limited-government conservatism, a future House majority can be built. The current majority forfeited its raison d'etre on April 5.

- George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.

Comments

xenophonschild 8 years ago

Con-man: As usual, you are way off the mark. William the Great deliberately sacrificed the Democratic majority in the House in order to pass the legislation needed to curtail spending, balance the budget, and leave a surplus.

Republicans have been the majority - with a strangehold on the House, Senate, and Oval Office - for more than half a decade, so why have we gone in debt more than at any other time in history? Face the truth: your fellow conservatives have sold out. They have spent more, and more wildly, than any previous Democratic group.

How much do you know about the Kansas congressional delegation? Todd (Pretty Boy) Tiahart is a know-nothing, do-nothing lollipop who was put up to run because the Wichita suburban soccer moms went ga-ga over his pretty-boy looks. Forget that he knows essentially nothing, and doesn't go to the toilet without asking the state Republican chairman how many sheets he should use to wipe himself. Jim Ryun is okay; I met him a few times when we were puppies at KU and can't say anything negative about him. But we need more Democrats, like Moore, in this state to represent working people over the interests of Republicans who don't know when they're being duped by the super-rich.

Cutting welfare is good. Make people work for a living, or starve. Continue to fund education so we don't have . . . less than gifted . . . folks like you, Arminius, billyflay, Pilgrim, and others of your ilk poisoning public policies.

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conservativeman 8 years ago

Neo-liberal demonrats will never be "Libertarian" and will most definately never be fiscally conservative. The only reason Cliton is given any credit for fiscal responsibility is because the Congress was primarily republican during his term.

True fiscal conservativism is cutting 90% of welfare, cutting, 90% of medicare, cutting 100% of the department of Education, and finally giving many of the federal programs that remain over to state control. Primarily FEMA, Louisana as an example: The federal government should only restore order. The state should be responsible to it's citizens to assist in rebuilding or the individual is responsible.

Foreign aid should cease! If we support a country financially, they owe us their support in other arena's.

As for Kansas elected officials in Washington, they are doing a good job overall. Except Moore who needs to get with the program. As for our esteemed Gov, she is doing a terrible job. She is out of touch with what Kansans want. If she were to get wet she'd probably melt, keep Dorothy away from her!

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xenophonschild 8 years ago

Note that no Kansas Republicans voted against the measure. As much as I dislike having to compliment George Will, he does us all a service with this piece. Our elected representatives are not doing a good job, and are mediocre in so many ways.

I've been, and remain, a liberal Democrat all my life, but it's time for a more libertarian, fiscally conservative mind set to take over in Washington, D.C.

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