Thursday, August 26, 2004

Too Clever By Half

This KerrySpot post sounds an ominous note for President Bush:

Scott McClellan tells press pool that President Bush this morning called Senator John McCain ask for his help in pursuing court action to shut down all the activities of the 527 groups... Bush went on to say to McCain that if court action does not work, he would look forward to working on legislation to silence the independent groups in political debate.

One Kerry Spot reader, a NR subscriber for 13 years, emails in, ‘So Bush is going to team with McCain to further muzzle free speech by taking legal action against the Swift Boat Vets, and other ‘shadowy groups?’ Forget it. The First Amendment is more important than taxes, the war on terror, education, what have you. I can't vote for him now.’

Jim Geraghty tells him to hold his horses.

This smells like Bush three-level-chess "strategery" to me. If Bush and McCain pursue legal action to shut down the 527s, that puts pressure on Kerry to join in, too. That means Kerry has to sign on to legal action to stop, the Media Fund, Americans Coming Together…If Kerry doesn't join in, his double standard is exposed in terms even undecided independents can grasp: 527s that run ads comparing Bush to Hitler are okay, but ads criticizing Kerry shouldn't be allowed.

If Bush and McCain win, the biggest guns in Kerry's arsenal get silenced, and the GOP can enjoy its huge hard-money advantage…If Bush and McCain lose, the First Amendment is safe for another day, and Bush and McCain have done their part to stop ‘soft money.’

As a matter of principle, this is still a repugnant affront to First Amendment rights, no matter which side benefits from it. But as a matter of political strategy, it sounds like the same bill of goods that was sold to us when Bush signed McCain-Feingold in the first place. Remember how it was put over as being good public relations for the White House (no more “fat cats influencing elections” {snicker}) and anyway, don’t worry because the SCOTUS is sure to strike it down? Well, Olympus didn’t strike it down, did it? And now we’re being assured that legal action to muzzle all 527s is just to (further) embarrass Kerry, and don’t worry, because they’ll never really succeed. But what if they do? If you can’t express yourself through parties or independent organizations, and in only strictly limited fashion directly through candidates’ campaigns, well, it doesn’t leave many alternatives. And the hell of it is, that won’t be the case, because it will never be the case. Unless the political class is going to drop the façade and simply cancel elections altogether, they will never, ever “get money out of politics” any more than they’ll end our dependence upon fossil fuels or feminists will banish the male sex drive. All they’ll accomplish is to create a “soft” money black market by effectively criminalizing grassroots democracy.

For that matter, who’s to say that Kerry would be pressured into following suit? Why couldn’t he just flip-flop again and attack Bush as an enemy of political expression (since as we all know only left-wing agitating fits that description in Kerry’s universe…) and watch Big Media tear Dubya apart? Can you say “Swiftboat Who?”

It’s been nearly two weeks now since the President went on Larry King Live and first condemned all 527 activity instead of calling upon Senator Kerry to release all his military records and settle the Swiftboat Vet dispute. That comment didn’t sit right with me then, and hasn’t ever since.

And now we see why.

Looks like my instincts are as sharp as ever.