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After John McCain made a statement last week on the Don Imus Show that he would trade the First Amendment for "clean government", one would have expected the industry enabled by that portion of the Bill of Rights to speak out against such talk. Oddly, not one major newspaper addressed the issue until today, when the Washington Examiner takes the Senator to task for his minimization of free political speech:
James Madison, the prime mover behind the U.S. Constitution, and his colleagues among the Founders rightly feared arrogant men like Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., so they limited the central government to a few, well-defined powers. As further protection, Madison and the first Congress approved the First Amendment to the Constitution to protect forever the right of every American to freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition. ...
McCain incited a blogstorm Friday with this comment, which epitomizes political arrogance:
“I know that money corrupts … I would rather have a clean government than one where, quote, First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I’d rather have the clean government.” ...
Who decides when government is “clean” enough? How “clean” must government be before politicians like McCain will let the rest of us regain our First Amendment rights? Why does McCain think he knows what’s best for Americans better than we Americans do? History teaches the lesson our founders knew so well — those who put their private political vision above everybody else’s essential freedoms cannot be trusted with the reins of power.
The national media has absented themselves from this discussion, and one has to wonder why. It's not the first abstention on free speech issues, either; the media maintained a strange sense of detachment when the FEC got forced into promulgating restrictions on Internet speech, which threatened political blogs of all stripes. For an industry that gets almost hysterical in its self-defense on First Amendment grounds, it appears to have little use for anyone else's free speech rights.
One explanation is that John McCain provided them with an exemption to the worst abridgement of political speech rights in a century. The BCRA specifically exempted newspapers and other media from restrictions on corporate commentary about candidates and referenda within the sixty days of an election. The media seems to want to protect McCain from his own statements by not reporting them or commenting on them, perhaps to keep its two-month monopoly on election commentary intact. After all, if this statement got enough press, people would realize exactly what McCain tried to do with the BCRA -- and it might finally get repealed, allowing everyone to speak out on elections and campaigns regardless of the calendar.
Regardless of the reason, the media's silence on McCain's statement should shame them all. Only the Examiner -- whose editorial pages are run by Mark Tapscott, a blogger -- had the courage to expose McCain.Sphere It View blog reactions
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