Thursday, July 17, 2008

John McCain: Pseudo-Maverick III

About the controversial New Yorker cover that burlesqued "right wing" allegations against Barack and Michelle Obama, Senator John McCain might have observed:

"In another, saner time, a satirical, unflattering caricature of anyone, especially of a presidential candidate, would not be newsworthy or anything to make a fuss about in public. Think of all the cartoons and comedy skits that mocked JFK and Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. Certainly I've been lampooned and depicted as an aging mummer - and some of those cartoons are very clever - but I've seen much worse caricatures of Senator Obama in the press here and overseas than what I saw on the cover of The New Yorker, and no one objected to them. So I don't understand the uproar over it. The irony is that The New Yorker is Senator Obama's friend, not mine, and the cover was meant to help him, do him a favor. And now everyone's expecting the magazine to apologize. Well, maybe too many people are just slow-witted or thin-skinned to get the cover's joke, but that shouldn't be an obstacle to anyone's freedom of expression or speech. I'm reminded of British Prime Minister Robert Walpole lustily joining in one of the choruses when he attended John Gay's The Beggar's Opera in 1728, in many respects an unflattering, critical musical satire on him and his own government...."
Unfortunately, McCain did not say it. Instead, he and his campaign spokesman agreed with the Obama campaign that the cover was "tasteless and offensive" and "totally inappropriate." It would not be far from the truth to say that, for the ire it provoked, the cover of The New Yorker is the American version of the Danish Mohammad cartoons. The reaction to it lends some substance to retired Senator Phil Gramm's remark that America has become a "nation of whiners."

But, deeper than that, the fact that the left - nearly everyone in the Obama camp - was incensed by the cover, is a clue to the hostility to freedom of speech, and to freedom in general, that simmers beneath the patina of "hope and change."

Of course, the cover of The New Yorker is an example of the First Amendment in action. John McCain is no friend of the First Amendment. He and his partners in the Senate and House would like to see it reinterpreted - that is, circumvented in a campaign of special pleading - so that any group of citizens that does not meet their perception of a legitimate organization as defined by the byzantine logic of the McCain-Feingold or Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act will be denied the right to criticize candidates, incumbent candidates, and even oppose or endorse issues if a certain amount of money is or is not spent in an arbitrarily specified way. The Supreme Court in June 2007 ruled one of the Act's strictures "invalid," when it ought to have found the entire act in violation of the First Amendment.

As one blogger summed up the peril while discussing the efforts of another organization caught red-handed minding its First Amendment business:

" wants to criticize politicians who support restrictions on political speech. But first it has to get permission from the government."

A Human Events article of June 28, 2007, discussed the Supreme Court ruling in clearer terms than the wording of the McCain-Feingold Act and more or less said that the ruling was just a slap on the wrist of the Federal Election Commission, the entity charged with enforcement of the campaign finance law. The Court in a majority opinion decided "to abolish the absolute prohibition against radio-TV ads referencing or depicting a federal officeholder/candidate on any topic in the days before an election."

"Sen. McCain...issued a statement calling the Supreme Court's decision 'regrettable,' fearing no doubt that the ruling could well result in TV and radio ads castigating him for his efforts on a myriad of issues he is promoting that conservatives find wholly distasteful."
The article also upbraids Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi for "lamenting...the undue influence of conservative radio talk show hosts in opposing the Senate's proposed immigration legislation," and Senator Diane Feinstein of California, who proposed that the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated "to mute the voices of conservative radio talk show hosts." Just as importantly, a revival of the Fairness Doctrine would leave listeners no choice but to endure the opposing opinions of speakers they would rather not listen to, but which Feinstein and company want to force them to hear, and which the stations and programs would be forced to accommodate under penalty of fines and the revocation of their licenses.

In the meantime, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of California would like to muzzle the speech of "grassroots lobbyists" who seek a hearing from or an audience with politicians by making it too expensive and cumbersome.

A Human Events article from December 2006 reports that Pelosi's bill, which failed to pass committee,

"...would apply to those who have no Washington-based lobbyists, who provide no money or gifts to members of Congress, and who merely seek to speak, associate and petition the government...[I]t is targeted directly at the First Amendment rights of citizens and their voluntary associations."
Make no mistake about it: There are moves in Congress, in concurrence with the stated objectives of both presidential candidates (and even with those of some who have since dropped out of the race) to "reform" government and Congress by silencing or side-lining any opposition to their actions. McCain has been a prominent point man in that effort since 1994. The First Amendment has already been suborned, nullified, or violated in numerous ways by Congress and the White House in regards to tobacco companies, pharmaceutical companies and other producers. There is no reason to believe a McCain administration would not completely scrap the First Amendment under the guise of "change."

McCain poses as a "fiscal conservative," endorsing permanent tax cuts, reducing the corporate tax rate, and offering tax credits for research and development, and other scale-backs in government spending. George Bush, however, also posed as a fiscal conservative, but under his watch the federal government has rung up the biggest federal deficit in the nation's history. If McCain faces a Congress controlled by the tax-and-spend-and-live-for-the-state Democrats next year, all those promises he has made and will continue to make between now and November will have been just hot air. Surely he realizes that.

As for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, McCain has advocated withdrawing troops from Iraq by 2013, once the altruist, self-sacrificing mission of leaving behind a "stable" government there is accomplished, and increasing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan to fight a resurgent Taliban. He endorsed President Bush's war policies in those countries. But there has been no hint in his rhetoric that perhaps those wars were the wrong ones to fight, that our actual enemies are Iran and Saudi Arabia, the true financial and political enablers of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has shown no evidence that he has "followed the money," or, if he has, that it makes any difference to him.

McCain has accused Obama of wanting to sit down and talk with "rogue states" to solve conflicts. But in 2006 he told a British journalist quite another story concerning Hamas:

"They're the government [of the Palestinians]; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so...but it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that."
The Palestinians got democracy. They voted for Hamas, a stateless "rogue state." And if "reality" keeps changing in the Mideast, it is because of the U.S.'s vacillating, pragmatic policies in that region.

McCain, during a primary debate in May 2007, claimed that he would track down Osama bin Laden. "We will capture him. We will bring him to justice, and I will follow him to the gates of hell." Well, Bush made the same promise, but then hamstrung our military with "humanitarian" rules of engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq and allied the U.S. with another rogue state: Pakistan.

The true character of McCain's proposed foreign policy can be deduced from his advocacy of a "league of democracies," much like what Theodore Roosevelt favored (with whom McCain, incidentally, identifies, which is not to his credit if one knows anything about Roosevelt), a group of "like-minded nations working together in the cause of peace."

But, was that not the original purpose of the United Nations?

"McCain is careful to note that his proposed multinational organization would not be like Woodrow Wilson's failed 'League of Nations.'"

McCain claimed, "It could act where the U.N. fails to act."

Has McCain ever bothered to learn why the League of Nations failed to prevent World War II? Has he ever grasped why the U.N. fails to act, such as in its recent non-condemnation of Robert Mugabe and his tyranny in Zimbabwe (China and Russia, those two monuments to "democracy," vetoed the resolution), or when it does act, why it always fails, such as in Darfur or any other killing ground in the world?

The altruist, self-sacrificing moral character of his "league of democracies" becomes evident.

"Such a new body, he says, could help relieve suffering in Darfur, fight the AIDS epidemic in Africa, develop better environmental policies, and provide 'unimpeded market access' to countries sharing 'the values of economic and political freedom.'"
Such as the economic and political freedom he advocates for this country? Barack Obama could express a similar "ideal" and it would not conflict with what he proposes to do about our remaining economic and political freedoms - which is not dissimilar from what McCain proposes to do about them.

In conclusion, and to paraphrase someone's observation about the current presidential campaign: Barack Obama and the Democrats are pursuing the overthrow of the American Revolution, while John McCain and the Republicans are trying to forget that it had ever happened.

Who is committing the graver treason?


Tim said...

I have no doubt that both candidates are no friend of the Constitution, but to date I haven't heard the Obama campaign issue any statement pursuing the censorship of the New Yorker cover. Are you really equating being offended by an (quite obviously offensive) image to being a sworn enemy of free speech?

Burgess Laughlin said...

Tim, do you have any reason to believe that Obama (or for that matter, McCain) supports freedom of speech? I have seen no evidence such a position.

Do you expect a politician to make specific statements such as the following?

"I, Barack Obama, call on Congress to pass a law forcing this magazine's editors to submit their covers to Congress for prior review--and if they don't I want to force these editors to live their lives in prison. Aggression is the answer."

All the elements of support for censorship by Obama-McCain are in place: They detest the basic rights to life, liberty, and property. They have already supported censorship in political contributions. Nothing that they have said, supports an explicit right to freedom of speech.

I would urge you to reject the fragmented empiricist approach. Induce generalizations from facts.

kaicevy said...

He has shown no evidence that he has "followed the money," or, if he has, that it makes any difference to him