Supreme Court

John McCain Calls Citizens United the Supreme Court's "Worst Decision Ever"

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What is it about the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that drives so many of its critics to make such ill-advised statements? As you may recall, one day after the Court issued its ruling, which struck down certain restrictions on political speech by unions and corporations, then-television personality Keith Olbermann declared on MSNBC that Citizens United "might actually have more dire implications than Dred Scott v. Sandford," the notorious 1857 case that helped trigger the American Civil War.

Thankfully Olbermann's breathless prediction did not pan out, but it now appears that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) would like to up the apocalyptic ante. According to The Oxonian Globalist, McCain told an audience at the University of Oxford's Oxford Union that Citizens United was the Supreme Court's "worst decision ever." Take that Dred Scott!

To better understand why Citizens United is in fact not the worst decision the Court has ever handed down, or even a bad decision at all, read Jacob Sullum's "You Are Now Free to Speak About Politics: Why do some people fear a less restricted debate?"

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  1. Yo, McCain, you don’t have to remind over and over again us all why you made Obama president. We get it.

    1. It’s a cry for help.

  2. Yes, that’s right. Allowing teh Kochprashuns to have some First Amendment rights is worse than declaring that black people (or some other group of human beings) have no rights that the dominant classes are bound to respect. Worse than letting the government take your property to give to a developer.

    Not only that, CU is worse than cancer, and worse than Hitler, too.

    1. Don’t forget, it’s a tax!

    2. At least slavery was in the Constitution, and Dred has been overturned. What about Korematsu? Still on the books!

      1. Slavery wasn’t in the Constitution and Dred was never overturned.

        Your record on historical accuracy continues to be consistent.

  3. In an unrelated story, the Supreme Court unanimously rules 9-0 that John McCain is the “Worst Senator Ever.” Scalia, in a concurrence joined by Thomas and Alito, said, “Even worse than Ted Kennedy, by way of clarification.”

  4. shut up McCain. we’re within 60 days of an election.

    1. No, no, laws aren’t supposed to apply to him, silly.

  5. You lost, McCain, get over it.

    1. I blame him personally for Obama. This is all your fault, Senator.

      1. No shit. If almost any of the other Republicans in the primary had won, we might have avoided this particular tragedy.

        McCain hasn’t been worth jack shit since they let him out of the Hanoi Hilton.

        1. I don’t know…I don’t think the Huckster would have done any better.

          1. You are certainly correct. I have done my very best to get that certain turd out of my mind.

      2. I thought we were blaming Jeri Ryan still.

          1. And we will until she begs us for forgiveness. Even then, we’ll demand **cough** recompense.

  6. Setting aside the specific merits of the CU decision, on the broader question of whether money = speech and whether elections should be able to be influenced by large special interest spending, I think the libertarian position eats itself.

    To acknowledge that wealthy interests should be able to have undue influence over elections is undemocratic and obviously anti-freedom. To claim that their advertising spending is merely speech and not a means of unduly influencing the democratic process is to claim that the entire advertising industry is a giant delusion, with delusion-based profits.

    Clearly the marketplace is not so ridiculously flawed and advertising does affect opinions. Hence, when spending on political advertising is equated with political speech, rich interests inevitably will have outsize control over the candidates, policy priorities, and outcomes of elections.

    Ideally the priorities of a billionaire should carry no more weight in public policy than the priorities of a poor person. That will never be the case, but by CU further stacking the deck, what we have is plutocracy wrapped with a nice little bow. And it’s a little premature to make claims about the outcomes of CU since this is the first major election in its wake.

    1. Tony, we don’t ban speech in this country whether it was purchased or not.

      1. Tony, we don’t ban speech in this country whether it was purchased or not.

        Unfortunately, what Tony (and people like him) believe is that there is some species of super-intelligent beings that can determine what purchased speech unduly influences, and which purchased speech does not.

        The logic, of course, being that the more effective the ad campaign, the more illegal-er it will be. But these hyper-elite policy makers will craft a set of regulatory guidelines that will steer around this logical end.

        1. Some printer paid for Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense’.

          Case closed.

          1. Damn you. Like every 200th post, you say something rational. Still better odds tha Tony.

    2. fuck off slaver.

      1. Dude, Tony isn’t so bad. He actually engages in discussion and responds to people’s points. In that way, he’s useful for making us liberty-minded folk examine WHY we believe what we do. A troll he is not.

        Some of the most interesting discussions/debates I’ve seen on HnR have been instigated by Tony

        1. Yes, unlike Red Tony.

          And the little Red Tony’s (restoras, Red Rocks Rockin, wareagle, Mike M, etc)

        2. Tony does not engage. Like MNG before him, he throws a point up, trolls the conversation, and then promptly forgets it ever happened on the very next thread.

          I have seen no growth from Tony, and that is the hallmark of a troll.

          1. Uh, that’s because it’s a fucking sockpuppet. It’s designed to get people to argue with it, to mess up threads, to, as someone else used to say, “make the puppets dance”.

            If you argue with it you’re getting manipulated. Don’t do it.

            1. I really don’t see it. I rarely post but I lurk in the shadows A LOT, and while Tony’s positions are certainly dumb I wouldn’t say he’s trolling. It would be naive to expect any of us to actually change our positions and embrace progressivism/welfarism, so why should we expect him to one day just embrace the free market? Everyone knows you don’t “win” internet arguments, one side just gets tired

              1. I don’t expect him to have a fall-to-Rand conversion, but he has zero growth on any viewpoint. Pick a topic and Tony will reliably say the exact same things he said on Day 1

                1. Just out of curiousity, do you subscribe more to the Kelley or Peikoff branch?

                2. zero growth on any viewpoint

                  That’s typical of the denizens of every political blog, wouldn’t you say? One wouldn’t expect Reasonoids to suddenly start agreeing with Kos Kids.

              2. while Tony’s positions are certainly dumb I wouldn’t say he’s trolling

                Do you think it’s a coincidence that it says exactly the right things to inflame many commenters here? Or how about when whoever is behind it goes a little too far and has the sockpuppet say something that’s just not even realistic that a real person would say?

                It’s a sockpuppet. So is shriek. You know because they’re inhumanly perfect characters for enraging libertarians. No real person could or would hit every note, but this sockpuppet does.

                1. You’re to much of a know-nothing to engage in discussion.

                  You are a true anarchist. Stupid but faithful to chaos.

                  1. Epi isn’t stupid. He ignores the sockpuppets.
                    Wait, no he doesn’t. Crap, another hero defrocked.

                  2. You’re to much of a know-nothing to engage in discussion.

                    You are starting to project in your comments, again!

                    1. At least we can ALL agree that I’m the best and greatest commenter here, and deserve your obeisance.

        3. “Tony isn’t so bad. He actually engages in discussion and responds to people’s points.”

          Can you find any logical points in Tony’s four paragraphs? Phrases like ‘undemocratic’ and ‘rich interests’ are not arguments.

        4. Did you not read his series of straw men comment? He’s a troll who occasionally says something cogent. Probably by accident.

    3. Hence why Meg Whitman is now governor of California.

      1. And Ross Perot and Steve Forbes were president, and…

      2. I was actualling going to say ‘and Maria Cantwell (D) Washington is in the Senate’.

        But she actually got into the senate, and then immediately promised to get the money out of politics.

        Remember, always burn your bridges to power.

    4. To acknowledge that wealthy interests should be able to have undue influence over elections

      Begging the question.

      1. With all the shit that I could just pay a politician to do, why would I ever waste any money on advertisements?

    5. So, Space Tony, does the fact that Obama spent 7 times more than McCain mean that he bought the election? And just exactly how effective was spending that much more considering he only one by ~8%?

      1. *won by ~7%

    6. on the broader question of whether money = speech and whether elections should be able to be influenced by large special interest spending

      Yes, when you beg the question, arguments are quite easy to make.

      A commercial, pamphlet, book, podcast, whatever, is speech. Producing and disseminating this speech costs money. Limiting the amount of money spent on this speech is limiting speech. How is this difficult?

    7. broader question of whether money = speech

      If you need some help on the money = speech question, ask yourself this: If I spent $5 billion dollars on radio, print, and internet advertising, encouraging people to eat horse shit, would people go out and do it? Is the power of advertising/marketing so magical and mind-influencing that it overwhelms all reason and moral agency?

    8. Clearly the marketplace is not so ridiculously flawed and advertising does affect opinions.

      The problem with this argument, dude, is that BOTH Chevy AND Honda want me to buy their car, and Chevy spends more on advertising…but I will never, ever, ever buy a Chevy.

      Advertising allows speakers to present their value propositions, but the value propositions still have to exist. There is no amount of advertising the Green party candidate could buy that would get me to vote for them. None. Just like there is no amount of advertising Chevy can buy that will get me to buy their tacky shitbox cars.

      Consider movie advertising. Movie advertising can make me aware of a movie, but in order for that to convert me to a sale (and get me to go) you’ve got to have a movie that I could possibly want to see. You can advertise EAT PRAY LOVE all day long and I’ll be aware of it, but I will not see it. Political advertising is similar. It serves to make people aware of the candidates, but you still need candidates.

  7. It’s really too bad the Viet Cong didn’t rid us of John McCain when they had the chance

    1. That seems mean, even for me.

      I just wish he would go away, politically.

      1. I used to feel this way until he flew back to vote the banks a shitload in taxpayer largesse…..after that I became much more sympathetic to Ryans position!

      2. His record is uniquely bad even by DC standards. He combines the worst parts of the “left” and “right” of the American mainstream, and never met a war or civil liberties infringement he didn’t like. Fuck him

        1. rubbish. he, unlike many repub candidates was strongly against waterboarding and unequivocally said it was torture.

          mccain SUCKS, but you are painting way too broad and deep a brushstroke.

          1. His stance against water boarding is more than made up for by being the biggest pusher of NDAA, his fearmongering over the underwear bomber, etc.

        2. ^this to the nth degree.

      3. I came to this position when he undermined the new tea party congressmen during the whole debt ceiling showdown

        1. I came to that position when he was currying favor for his first run by holding Senatorial inquisitions on tobacco executives in the nineties. Fuck McCain with Dunphy’s dick.

    2. I have to agree with RyanPORNO. McCain is a truly loathsome, not just as a politician but as a human being as well.

  8. John McSame is still dumb as the day is long, always will be.

    http://www.at-privacy.tk

      1. See, stuff like this is why I don’t think this newest iteration of anonbot is necessarily a spammer. It’s comments are much too relevant.

  9. considering that mccain was behind mccain-feingold, and citizen’s united unleashed a hearty bitch-slap to MF, it’s hardly surprising that he made such a stupid statement. remember, this is the guy who referred to MMA as “human cockfighting”.

    CU boils down to this imo. before CU, govt. had the (unconstitutional) authoritah to censor a DOCUMENTARY about hilary clinton because it was released too close to an election. think about that. “legalized” censorship, specifically using the power of govt and the barrel of a gun to prevent the dissemination of speech is odious. and CU righted that wrong. period.

    1. But MONEY ISN’T SPEECH!! EVUL CORPORASHIONZZ!!! YOU CANT BUY DEMOCRACY!! ohwueif iuqwuoi jgqenj

    2. remember, this is the guy who referred to MMA as “human cockfighting”.

      What made that statement even more “WTF” inducing is that it was made after McCain sat ringside and watched as a Jimmy Garcia was beaten to death in a licensed, sanctioned, duly officiated boxing match.

      1. wow. now, THAT is ironic, alanis!

  10. On a side note, some of the best analysis of Citizens United has come from Glenn Greenwald of all people. He debated a Harvard Law Professor a while back who disagreed with the Court’s decision

    1. Greenwald is excellent on civil liberties, consistently. Now, economic liberties…

      1. Greenwald has great principles vis a vis civil liberties, but his reporting on same can be dodgy.

        Really don’t get why he won’t jump ship on economic issues, though. He’s just about fascist whenever he’s writing about money.

        1. I don’t know his problem there either. But he might come around eventually.

        2. He’s just about fascist whenever he’s writing about money

          Duh, because money != speech!

          But remember kids, speech == Money!

          1. Did u not see what I typed Paul? He very much believes that money IS speech, and regularly opposes fellow progs on that issue

        3. How is his reporting dodgy?

          1. Like most lawyers, Greenwald thinks that he sits at the left shoulder of God and that this qualifies him to report with authority on things in which he’s out of his depth. Even avoiding some of what I’d consider to be inaccurate characterizations regarding the military, lots of technical problems abound in his posts — especially when it comes to reporting on drones. Reporting breathlessly about a prototype as if it’s slated to replace the Predator, when the prototype being referred to isn’t even designed to have the same functionality and missions, or is a dead-end model or proof of concept — that sort of thing.

            Greenwald’s principles are for the most part great, don’t get me wrong — but I wish they’d make a version of him that had more real world experience in the areas that he’s covering, that’s all.

            1. He reports breathlessly on prototypes because in our procurement system in 99% of cases capabilities tell you intentions.

              Contractors wouldn’t be developing a system unless they knew we were going to buy it. So if you hear about a prototype, it’s time to start speculating on the policy that prototype is designed to carry out when it gets to production.

              1. Most proofs of concept of any kind in the military get strangled during infancy. Out of those left standing as prototypes, most are eventually abandoned. Even those which get commissioned usually are neglected or never used due to operating costs. Much like war plans, they tend to be make-work for folks who need to impress flag officers. Quite a few of these are there to get some USAF dope to recoup the sunk costs of RD for other, successful models (a good number of the “prototype” drones floating about are based on things that were discovered or rejected while designing the Predator). Bottom line: much of what we end up developing is crap that will never be used, and much of it is based less on unitary and consistent military designs and more on bureaucratic wrangling, make-work, cost recouping, and prestige.

                Being aware of what drones are, their technical capabilities, and how the military works would greatly improve Greenwald’s reporting (and Reason’s for that matter). More often than not, I see articles based on press reports or Officer Grand Poobah’s official statements about such-and-such in the Big Prototype Unveiling. Going by that, you’d come away with the impression that the big tech is a ready-to-go Al Qaeda killer that will end the wars and give you a blowjob before you can say “Jiminy Cricket”. You’d also be wrong.

                1. Proofs of concept get strangled when the technical obstacles are insuperable.

                  But no one sets out to produce a product with a capability nobody wants.

                  Maybe they start building a new prototype and it doesn’t work, or the obstacles to deployment are just too great, or the payoff isn’t sufficient to justify the investment. But nobody’s out there building prototypes with capabilities there’s no market for.

                  So if you spot someone trying to develop a new capability, you can safely assume it has an institutional market.

                  1. The military is not as monolithic as all that.

                    A prototype can be evidence of much more (or much less) than an institutional desire for some capability.

                  2. The military is not as monolithic as all that.

                    A prototype can be evidence of much more (or much less) than an institutional desire for some capability.

  11. Whenever I feel bummed about the Obama administration, I just remember that this enemy of liberty could have been elected instead.

  12. …and he’s my Senator. Ugh.

    On the plus side, Flake will probably be my other Senator in 60 days, so that’s something.

    1. So you have an actual reason to vote?

      1. I almost always vote for local issues and ballot propositions, anyways. I’ll toss a vote Flake’s way this time around, and for Gary Johnson.

  13. Re: Tony,

    the broader question of whether money = speech and whether elections should be able to be influenced by large special interest spending, I think the libertarian position eats itself.

    The decision was not made on libertarian principles but on the obvious fact that the first amendment starts with “Congress shall make NO LAW…” which is pretty much self-explanatory, even for someone that hardly understands plain English – like YOU.

    To acknowledge that wealthy interests should be able to have undue influence over elections is undemocratic and obviously anti-freedom.

    It may be arguably anti-democratic, but democracy is not equal to freedom. Having money to spend on political ads does not mean a person should be precluded from using that money to spend on political ads. How exactly is limiting his actions anything like freedom?

  14. Re: Tony,

    To claim that their advertising spending is merely speech and not a means of unduly influencing the democratic process is to claim that the entire advertising industry is a giant delusion, with delusion-based profits.

    Cripes, what a series of non sequiturs. First of all, the intention behind an action is irrelevant. What counts is the ethics or the morality of the action itself, and so far, no amount of speech takes property from others or inflicts physical harm on others. Your reasoning stems from the presumption that you can know how the mind of some other person operates, otherwise you would not boldly state that advertisement can influence (not merely inform) a person towards an action, something like believing advertisement changes people’s minds like the reprogram card in Zathura reprogrammed the robot. This is utterly ridiculous. You cannot presume to know the operation of someone’s mind, so you cannot contend that advertisement influenced a person to make a purchase. Ads can only purport to inform, not influence.

  15. Re: Tony,

    Clearly the marketplace is not so ridiculously flawed and advertising does affect opinions.

    Of course it affects opinions, just like a book can affect opinions or a piece of journalism can affect opinions. What NONE of them can do is *influence* a person towards an action. Few courts take that defense seriously, so why should anybody else?

    Hence, when spending on political advertising is equated with political speech, rich interests inevitably will have outsize control over the candidates, policy priorities, and outcomes of elections.

    Hogwash. Why exactly would “rich interests” be any different than any other interests? Your hangups are not enough argument to preclude people from expressing their opinions freely.

    Ideally the priorities of a billionaire should carry no more weight in public policy than the priorities of a poor person.

    Why the fuck not? A billionaire has much more to lose than a poor person, just like a Jew had much more to lose from Nazi policy than an Aryan. WHY would someone’s status – in someone’s subjective mind – preclude that person from expressing his or her opinion freely.

  16. The bottom line, Tony, is that there’s no way to “limit the influence of money in elections” unless you want to set up a scenario where John McCain jumps out of the bushes to arrest you if you’ve gone over your quota for political activity that year. And if that happens, at the moment McCain jumps out of the bushes, he’s arresting you for engaging in political activity. And if the courts ever let McCain do that, I hope somebody plants him straight into his fucking plot at Arlington.

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