The Triumph of George Will (Free Speech Edition)


Reader and film critic extraordinaire Alan Vanneman points to this excellent George Will col wherein the occasionally bowtie-bedecked bloviator burnishes his libertarian-leaning bona fides. The topic is McCain-Feingold and the April 5 House of Representatives vote to restrict the amount of filthy lucre that can be shoveled at 527 groups:

House Republicans, easily jettisoning 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….

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….The First Amendment is now permanently in play, its protections to be truncated whenever congressional majorities envision short-term partisan advantages.

Will, who slams his own paper, the Wash Post, for being pro-McCain-Feingld, notes that last time around, 527s tipped Democratic, hence the Republicans' outrage. And he praises the 18 GOP members of Congress who voted against restricting 527s and, by extension, political speech: 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).

Whole thing here.

Reason talked with Going Dirty author David Mark a while back, discussing the positives of negative campaigning here.

Former head of the Federal Election Commission Brad Smith reported from the frontlines of "John McCain's War on Political Speech" in the December 2005 Reason here.

A decade ago (!), back when Steve Forbes (!!), Bob Dole (!!!), and Lamar! Alexander (!!!!) were jockeying for the GOP presidential nod, I took a stand for "attack ads" here.