McCain-Feingold is “a federal enactment designed to prevent ‘big money’ from unfairly influencing federal elections-which, among other things, prohibits corporate financing of ‘electioneering communications’ and imposes mandatory disclosure and disclaimer requirements on such communications.”
Robert Barnes, in a Washington Post article of September 8, “Reversal of Precedents at Issue,” complains that the Supreme Court, under Chief Justice John G. Roberts, may well “defy the decisions of Congress and to set aside its own precedents.”
This raises ageless questions about the role of stare decisis -- the court’s custom of standing by its previous decisions. But it also raises new ones about the boldness of a court that has moved to the right with the addition of Roberts and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
It seems that while liberals are all for trashing customs and traditions in the march to an egalitarian, collectivist society -- not to mention reason and justice -- some traditions become sacred to them if the trashing or violation jeopardizes the advances of the collectivists. Thus, Barnes’s worry that the precedent of the Supreme Court upholding McCain-Feingold in December 2003 may in turn be subjected to an unprecedented volte-face. Justices Roberts, Alito, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas could well be the majority that reverses the Citizens United v. FEC and McConnell v. FEC rulings.
[For details concerning these and other McCain-Feingold and FEC-related cases, see The Campaign Finance Institute here.]
“Overruling Austin or McConnell in this case would be unwarranted and unseemly,” former solicitor general Seth P. Waxman told the court on behalf of McCain and other congressional sponsors. “Stare decisis requires respect for precedents absent a special justification for overruling tem. No such justification exists.”
Unwarranted? Unseemly? What old-fashioned terms! They sound almost “Republican.“
Yes, such a justification exists -- the First Amendment -- but no Supreme Court justice will cite it without paragraphs of rationalistic legal babble, or at least understand, adhere to, and expound its absoluteness: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The language is clear; that is justification enough.
The Court was wrong to uphold McCain-Feingold. It ought to have declared it unconstitutional at the first opportunity and in the strongest terms in December 2003. That was a precedent that should never have been made, and which should be corrected now-- in the strongest terms. But, we should not count on Chief Justice Roberts et al. to rule absolutely in upholding the First Amendment. Rationalizations and procedural niceties, going by their past decisions, will likely befog or obstruct their thinking.
On the other side of the freedom of speech coin is the issue of an attempt by the administration to co-opt the National Endowment for the Arts as a branch of the White House and convert it into a Joseph Goebbels-style Ministry of Propaganda (or as an American style, Orwellian Ministry of Truth). This development has given liberals painful stomach flutters, especially in those who campaigned for Obama.
It is a little too late for them to worry about the encroachment now. If they believed in and endorsed Obama’s campaign promises to undertake a radical “change” of the country to unadulterated socialism, they should have realized that it meant the “socialization” of everything, including art, which is protected by the First Amendment. One wonders why artists and writers believe themselves exempt from the slavery and servitude they advocate should be imposed on everyone else.
On August 25, Patrick C. Courrielche, columnist for Big Hollywood, reported on an unusual but unreported teleconference that occurred on August 5.
On Thursday August 6th, I was invited by the National Endowment for the Arts to attend a conference call scheduled for Monday August 10th hosted by the NEA, the White House Office of Public Engagement, and United We Serve. The call would include “a group of artists, producers, promoters, organizers, influencers, marketers, taste-makers, leaders or just plain cool people to join together and work together to promote a more civically engaged America and celebrate how the arts can be used for a positive change!”
Courrielche goes on to reveal:
The people running the conference call and rallying the group to get active on these issues were Yosi Sergant, the Director of Communications for the National Endowment for the Arts; Buffy Wicks, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; Nell Abernathy, Director of Outreach for United We Serve; Thomas Bates, Vice President of Civic Engagement for Rock the Vote; and Michael Skolnik, Political Director for Russell Simmons.
We were encouraged to bring the same sense of enthusiasm to these “focus areas” as we had brought to Obama’s presidential campaign, and we were encouraged to create art and art initiatives that brought awareness to these issues. Throughout the conversation, we were reminded of our ability as artists and art professionals to “shape the lives” of those around us. The now famous Obama “Hope” poster, created by artist Shepard Fairey and promoted by many of those on the phone call, and will.i.am’s “Yes We Can” song and music video were presented as shining examples of our group’s clear role in the election.
Courrielche expresses his qualms and reservations about this event, which went mostly unreported by the MSM. In a follow-up to his column, he writes that it is doubtful that the NEA’s action has any legal basis for such recruitment, and reports further that when its role in the White House teleconference was revealed, the NEA denied any responsibility, and fobbed off that responsibility on a “third party.”
Courrielche believes in the existence of the NEA. He will not question the rightness of its existence. Government, he believes, has a responsibility to support and encourage the arts. So, he wonders:
The NEA is the nation’s largest annual funder of the arts. That is right, the largest funder of the arts in the nation – a fact that I’m sure was not lost on those that were on the call, including myself. One of the NEA’s major functions is providing grants to artists and arts organizations. The NEA has also historically shown the ability to attract “matching funds” for the art projects and foundations that they select. So we have the nation’s largest arts funder, which is a federal agency staffed by the administration, with those that they potentially fund together on a conference call discussing taking action on issues under vigorous national debate. Does there appear to be any potential for conflict here?
Yes, there is a major conflict of interest here: taxpayers coerced into paying for the “free expression” of dependent writers and artists. They must be satisfied with being involuntary donors to sustain the country’s “culture.“ But, this is the government calling in its loans and markers. He and his subsidized colleagues in the arts benefited from the looting of other taxpayers. He protests too much:
I’m not a “right-wing nut job.” It just goes against my core beliefs to sit quietly while the art community is used by the NEA and the administration to push an agenda other than the one for which it was created. It is not within the National Endowment for the Arts’ original charter to initiate, organize, and tap into the art community to help bring awareness to health care, or energy & environmental issues for that matter; and especially not at a time when it is being vehemently debated. Artists shouldn’t be used as tools of the state to help create a climate amenable to their positions, which is what appears to be happening in this instance. If the art community wants to tackle those issues on its own then fine. But tackling them shouldn’t come as an encouragement from the NEA to those they potentially fund at this coincidental time.
It is hardly “coincidental” that the NEA would become a party to the current White House plan to bombard Americans with leftist propaganda. It was in the cards. It does not occur to Courrielche that taxpayers should not be used as tools of the state to promote the careers of writers and artists, whatever the degree of their competence or lack of it.
And if you think that my fear regarding the arts becoming a tool of the state is still unfounded, I leave you with a few statements made by the NEA to the art community participants on the conference call. “This is just the beginning. This is the first telephone call of a brand new conversation. We are just now learning how to really bring this community together to speak with the government. What that looks like legally?…bare [sic] with us as we learn the language so that we can speak to each other safely… “
Safely? Isn’t that the first concern of a thief contemplating a crime? Of a bureaucrat “overreaching” his mandate, as Courrielche puts it? Isn’t usage of that term indicative of a mind habituated to felony? He ought to have known better. He was a former employee of the NEA and learned first-hand that since political pull governs who gets how much in taxpayer money to “support the arts,” it cannot be limited to that species of theft. When all the stops have been removed, as they have been throughout Obama’s administration, the practice will necessarily expand into other realms of political action.
Including drafting writers and artists into a White House-directed propaganda blitz to persuade Americans that the administration means no harm and that its goals are benign and glorious. The White House and the NEA do not give a fig about Courrielche’s “core beliefs.” They are irrelevant to power-lusters. You ate my bread. Now, sing my song. Or you get no more donuts. That is the message of the benefactors to the beneficiaries.
The Supreme Court should never have upheld McCain-Feingold. And Patrick Courrielche and his colleagues should never have taken government money to subsidize their careers, nor endorsed any government program that did. Robert Barnes is fearful that a modicum of reason might move the Court to reverse its stand on the selective censorship of McCain-Feingold. Courrielche, also allowing a quantum of reason to stir his own fears, is concerned that Obama, together with the NEA, is out to corrupt the integrity of tax-supported artists in whom integrity never existed.
Neither Barnes, nor the Supreme Court, nor Courrielche has ever grasped that reason is forever -- it is the indispensable means of man for his survival and happiness -- and that it cannot be discarded or evaded, in the short term or the long term. It will ultimately overtake and dispel the illusion that it can be dispensed with.
Speaking of freedom of speech, something moved Joe Wilson, Republican representative from South Carolina who has opposed the health care bill, to shout “You lie!” to Obama on September 9th as he addressed a joint session of Congress to plead for passage of the health care bill. Obama had just claimed that illegal immigrants would not be eligible for government-run health care insurance. He replied, “That’s not true.“ Well, why should anyone believe what Obama says is true or untrue? Wilson was immediately condemned by Democrats and Republicans for the “outburst.” Wilson should not be condemned, nor should he have apologized.
One newspaper reported that “Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi directed a fierce frown at him…Vice President Joe Biden looked down and shook his head….” But, in the CNN video, which can be seen here, Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi glance sharply in the direction of Wilson -- like a pair of liars surprised in the act and their expressions full of malice for the person who surprised them.
One may ask: Wasn’t Wilson’s outburst disrespectful, unwarranted and unseemly? Hardly. How else was he to call to the country’s attention with any drama that the whole health care bill is a lie, and that Obama and Congressional supporters of it have lied about it from the very beginning? Wilson chose to not sit quietly while the President of the United States lied, and while his fellow Congressmen sanctioned what they knew was a lie with their silence.
In the face of falsehood, and in the presence of a falsifier, decorum and respect should be one's last concern.
Perhaps Wilson, too, grasped for a moment that reason is forever.