"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley

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wMonday, March 04, 2002

CAMPAIGN FINANCE ZZZZ: The last letter of the alphabet (pronounced "zed" in Canada) typifies the average reaction to campaign finance reform but it shouldn't. Since it costs money to buy airtime and microphones and to cover printing costs, restrictions on how much money one can spend on political campaigns are, ipso facto, limits on free - as in "not restrained by the government" - speech.

Andrew Sullivan, who I do not want to make a habit of habitually quoting, urged Bush to sign the campaign finance bill when it hits his desk, even though Sullivan thought that parts of it were likely unconstitutional, on the assumption that the Supreme Court would set bad provisions aside.

Responding to an avalanche of criticism, Sullivan wrote (scroll down to CFR HYSTERIA ANTIDOTE) that if Congress knew "as a metaphysical certainty" that those provisions were unconstitutional, then it shouldn't have passed them. However, since such certainty doesn't exist in politics, it is wholly "legitimate for the Congress to say what it wants to happen, but [pass] it off" to the Supremes to sort it out.

It's such a vacuous response that I'm almost tempted to say that only a former editor of The New Republic could have written it. Only "tempted" because current editor Peter Beinart (and the 3/04 issue in general) appears to have done Sullivan one better. In the typical snarky TNR fashion, Beinart argues that many Republicans are not opposing the bill because of a principled stand on behalf free speech, because, you see, “in private, congressional Republicans don't bother with all this free speech talk...” They are instead (gasp!) concerned with winning elections and they think Shays-Meehan will handicap them.

Well so what? What difference (except in a “metaphysical” sense) does it make if a man argues for the right thing from the wrong motives? Oh, you might have suspicions about the man. You might count the silver after he’s gone and advise your daughter not to date him. But unless you are a fool you would not discount what he was saying out of hand. And what “metaphysical certainty” does “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” fail to instill?

Using Sullivan’s and Beinart’s logic, I recommend that Congress restrict celebrity bloggers and left wing for-profit magazines from publishing 60 days before an election. Normally I’d be against such things but I think the Supreme Court should be trusted to sort it all out, especially after a couple of Bush appointments.

posted by Jeremy at 1:26 AM