Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Hysterical Wailing of the Unreasoning Damned at the NYT
Here is the professor's history of righting the constitutional wrong done by McClain-Feingold's limitation on political speech:
Within just a few years, the Supreme Court and lower federal courts were rolling back not merely McCain-Feingold, but portions of FECA. Probably the two most important decisions were Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which held that corporations and unions could spend money independently on political speech; and SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission, a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision, not appealed by the FEC, that held that individuals and others could combine their funds to engage in independent speech. Although campaigns remain, in many ways, more heavily regulated than at any time in U.S. history prior to 1974, the results of the court-ordered deregulation since 2009 have been quite good: The elections of 2010 saw more competitive seats than any election within most Americans’ memory; the campaigns were also the most issue-oriented in a generation; turnout was up, and is expected to be up again this year; Americans are having the most serious debate about the course of the nation’s politics since the debate over civil rights 50 years ago (before FECA was passed, we might note).
Here are examples of Smith's reasoned snark:
So this week, the Old Gray Lady’s editorial page cries out about “an unrelenting arctic blast of campaign ads stunning in volume and ferocity.” .... What, exactly, does the Times see as the problem?
Well, mainly, it’s that the campaign is just too rowdy. Meeting its burden of proof by claiming that some undetermined number of unnamed “residents” supposedly “say they have never seen anything like the constant negativity,” the Times assures us that the end of democracy is just around the corner. The Times notes with concern that “only a third” of ad dollars are “spent by the candidates themselves.” The Times refers to the groups of citizens who have the effrontery to speak out directly about candidates as “septic tanks.”
He then resorts to historical sleight-of-hand:
For example, one ad actually says, “Rick Perry is a blind, bald, toothless man who wants to start a war with France.” Another says that “Newt Gingrich is a hideous hermaphroditic character.” Yet another says that “if Ron Paul wins, rape, adultery and incest will be openly practiced. Are you prepared to see your dwellings in flames, female chastity violated?” No, wait a minute. I’m sorry, those comments were actually about John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, from the campaign of 1800. No, things are now much worse. The Times is worked up because one ad actually says that “Mr. Gingrich and Rick Perry [are] ‘too liberal on immigration, [and have] too much baggage on ethics.’” Another ad, moans the Times, “urg[es] viewers not to let ‘the liberal Republican establishment pick our candidate.’” Really — those are the two examples the Times provides of the campaign being “stunning in its ferocity.” Oh, the horror of it all! Don’t let your children near the TV.
Good, but here's the big finish:
So let’s sum up: The Times is concerned that 1) there is more political speech than there would be if not for the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United and the appeals-court decision in SpeechNow.org v. FEC; 2) groups of citizens are running their own ads, rather than relying solely on the candidates to run ads; 3) the ads are saying awful things, accusing candidates of “being too liberal on immigration,” or having “ethics baggage,” something the Times would never discuss, except in its news stories on Newt Gingrich’s “ethics” “baggage” on November 28, December 8, December 9, December 14, and December 31; 4) stories about a candidate’s ethics or positions on immigration should be off limits in an “accountable” campaign; and 5) all this citizen speech informing voters about various candidates’ positions, ethics, and endorsements, coming not only from the candidates but from other sources, can be blamed on Citizens United and SpeechNow.org.
These two articles are a good example of hypothesis plus antithesis equals synthesis. Here it was vapid venting (NYT editorial) plus historical context (regular NRO) reveals the first was merely hysterical wailing of the unreasoning damned.