Just A Note To E-mailers

I believe that self-promotion has a key role in the success of a blog. E-mailing other bloggers when one has a particularly good post, or one that complements a post at another’s blog, makes good sense and is always welcome. However, when a blogger sends out multiple mass e-mails a day heralding every post and update, it clogs my inbox and makes it impossible for me to actually respond to anything good they may have to offer.
E-mailers who do that end up in my spam killfile, because I’ve learned not to ask them to stop. That usually generates a query as to why I suddenly hate conservative thought or an apology that somehow fails to end the mass e-mails. I’d rather hear from CQ readers on what they think is important rather than get added to listservs for which I never registered.
Yes, I’ve been buried in these messages recently, and it’s almost as irritating as the rash of stock tips that some idiot spammers think will sell shares in their pet ventures. Sorry for the cranky post, but I can’t keep up with e-mail as it is, and it just reached a breaking point tonight. I’ll be perkier tomorrow.

Movie Review: Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against The West

During last weekend’s appearances at the Minnesota State Fair, I met Vince Muzik of Minnesotans Against Terrorism, who told me of a new feature-length documentary MAT had assisted in producing. He agreed to send me a copy of the film on DVD for an opportunity to preview it ahead of its Minneapolis premiere next week, and we watched it tonight.
Based on Vince’s casual introduction of it at the fair, I didn’t know what to expect from Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against The West, the film produced by Wayne Kopping and Raphael Shore. It actually is quite an impressive production. Obsession, according to IMDB, had its release last year and has won several film festival awards, notably the Best Feature Film at the Liberty Film Festival and awards in Houston and Newport Beach festivals as well. Kopping’s previous effort, Relentless: The Struggle For Peace In The Middle East, provided a critical look at the Oslo accords, but Kopping opts for a much broader view in Obsession.
The film takes care to differentiate between mainstream Islam and radical Islamism, and it does so for a reason. Several of the commentators featured in the film, notably former jihadist Walid Shoebat, Nonie Darwish, Prof. Khaleel Mohammed, and others are in fact moderate Muslims. They argue that mainstream Islam has to stand up and put an end to the perversion of Islamism, and only that will stop the genocides waiting to happen. It’s a theme that returns over and over again. In fact, the movie begins and ends with the famous quotation from the great Irish statesman Edmund Burke about how the triumph of evil only requires that good men do nothing. Muslims such as Brigitte Gabriel make this point explicitly, especially at the end.
The opening sequence of the film takes up more time than I think it needs, and it delays one of the film’s most important themes from developing until almost midway through, which is the correlations between Islamism and Naziism. To this purpose, the film makes excellent use of Alfons Heck, an elderly German academic who once served as a high-ranking officer in the Hitler Youth. Heck points out that a worldy and sophisticated German people fell for the crudest kind of anti-Semitic propaganda — so why should anyone expect the Arabs to resist their own government-produced propaganda? Indeed, Obsession fills itself with television clips gleaned from all over the Arab world, giving American viewers perhaps their first real taste of how pervasive the paranoia gets in Arab culture.
This connection with Naziism goes beyond the hordes of jihadis sporting salutes that look suspiciously like Sieg Heils. Obession also reviews the historical connections between Adolf Hitler and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, whom Hitler embraced to the bemusement of his race-baiting followers. Heck recalls questioning why HItler allied with a non-Aryan group, and getting the answer that Nazis and Arabs wanted the same thing: the annihilation of the Jews. The Mufti later went to Bosnia and created an SS regiment of Muslims, one of the reasons that the Serbians — who fought the Nazis — felt betrayed by the West’s alliance with the Bosnians in the 1990s.
Quite a few scholars and experts make appearances in this film, such as Prof. Robert Wistrich, Daniel Pipes, Salim Mansur, Khaled Abu Toameh, and Itamar Marcus. Other notables appear as well, although not by choice: Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Abu Hamza al-Masri, and an assortment of imams and jihadis. The film even outs one British Muslim who posed as a moderate by denouncing the 9/11 attacks, and then catches him using the second anniversary of the attacks to praise the 19 hijackers at a conference of Muslims.
Obsession is well worth the 75 minutes viewers invest. If you happen to be in Minneapolis, it can be seen at the Oak Street Cinema twice a night between September 8th and 15th. I do not know how Kopping intends on putting this into wider release, but I will try to get more information on it later.

Let’s Form An Emergency Study Commission!

In a further sign that the UN Security Council has little resolve with which to confront Iran over its nuclear program, the British UN ambassador says the body will need another month to get a report from the IAEA in order to translate “NO!” from Iran’s Farsi language:

The U.N. Security Council will need until mid-September before acting on its threat to punish Iran if Tehran’s leaders flout a Thursday deadline to suspend uranium enrichment as is widely expected, Britain’s U.N. ambassador said Tuesday.
Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry’s prediction seemed to rule out the immediate threat of sanctions against Iran if it disregards the council’s demands – spelled out in a resolution adopted this month – to suspend enrichment by Thursday. Iran has already said it would reject the deadline.
Jones-Parry said that before it can act, the Security Council will need to receive a report from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, on Iran’s compliance with the resolution.
“Once we’ve had the report from the agency, had a further chance to discuss that, capitals will have a clearer view of exactly how this should be carried forward, but I would expect activity here to resume toward the middle of September,” Jones-Parry said.

Perhaps we’re just that much smarter than the UNSC, but we understood what Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meant when he said that Iran would never agree to suspend its uranium-enrichment programs. We understood it when Ayatollah Ali Khameini said it. We understood it when Iranian nuclear negotiator Ari Larijani said it. If the UNSC needs further clarification, we can set it to music and have someone provide sign-language interpretation. It shouldn’t take much effort to provide the latter; only one finger would be required.
It’s precisely this kind of diplomatic obtuseness that frustrates those of us who get lectured on the benefits of working through the League of United Nations. It doesn’t take a study commission to understand all of the ramifications of Iranian intransigence. No means no, even in diplomacy, especially when repeated endlessly and celebrated in grand openings of heavy-water processing plants.
Daniel Freedman puts it more succinctly at It Shines For All — “Read Ahmadinejad’s lips: NO!” At this rate, the global community may find the testicular fortitude to confront Ahmadinejad in October … of 2012.

Olmert And The Fixed Buffet

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has shrugged off repeated calls by UN head Kofi Annan to lift the military blockade of Lebanon, telling reporters that he sees the cease-fire agreement as a “fixed buffet” and, presumably, not a smorgasbord:

Mr Annan said the blockade should be lifted to help Lebanon recover from the month-long conflict.
But Mr Olmert said only that Israel would pull out of the Lebanon once UN resolution 1701 was implemented.
“[The resolution] is not a buffet where you pick up one item and leave others,” he said.
“So far as we’re concerned we entirely accept this, this is a fixed buffet and everything will be implemented including the lifting of the blockade as part of an entire implementation of the different articles.”
Mr Olmert said unless two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah on 12 July were freed, the UN resolution “cannot be considered as fully implemented”.

Olmert may have mentioned that the cease-fire’s failures go beyond the two soldiers that Hezbollah has still not freed. UNSC Resolution 1701 calls for the implementation of UNSCR 1559, which directs Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah. Lebanon, so far, has refused, which puts them in direct violation of both resolutions. Israel has no responsibility to lift the blockade while the Fuad Siniora government refuses to even attempt to meet the requirements of 1701.
The UN hasn’t demonstrated any inclination to effect the terms of the resolution, either. Annan has said that the UNIFIL mandate will not extend to disarming Hezbollah; in fact he assured the Shi’ites in southern Lebanon that the UNIFIL forces will not look for arms at all. More to the point, Annan has also stated that UNIFIL will not perform interdiction missions to keep arms from flowing into Lebanon and back to the Hezbollah terrorists who find themselves critically short on missiles and rockets after the war. Olmert has to apply the blockade in order to do the tasks in 1701 that Lebanon and the UN refuse to do.
Olmert may have botched the military mission in Lebanon, but he has done much better in protecting Israeli interests in the post-1701 environment. The Israeli insistence on full compliance with 1701 will be the only way that either the Israelis realize their goals in the sub-Litani region or expose the global community for the appeasers they obviously are. The blockade must continue until Siniora and Annan understand the concept of the “fixed buffet”. If they want Israel to abide by 1701, then they cannot expect to get a pass on its full implementation. If they are unable to meet that standard, then neither should have insisted on the cease-fire at all.

California Adopts HillaryCare

The California Assembly passed a bill on a party-line vote yesterday that would eliminate private health care and force Californians into a single-payer state-run medical system. It now falls to Arnold Schwarzenegger to determine whether he will reverse his previous stand against state-run health care or adopt the Golden State version of HillaryCare (via CQ reader Kurt K):

The Democratic-controlled Legislature is on the verge of sending Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a bill that would create a state-run universal health care system, testing him on an issue that voters rate as one of their top concerns in this election year.
On a largely party-line 43-30 vote, the Assembly approved a bill by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, that would eliminate private medical insurance plans and establish a statewide health insurance system that would provide coverage to all Californians. The state Senate has already approved the plan once and is expected this week to approve changes that the Assembly made to the bill.
Schwarzenegger has said he opposes a single-payer plan like the one Kuehl’s bill would create, but the governor has not offered his own alternatives for fixing the state’s health care system. As many as 7 million people are uninsured in the state, and spiraling costs have put pressure on business and consumers. …
“I don’t believe that government should be getting in there and should start running a health care system that is kind of done and worked on by government,” Schwarzenegger said in July at a speech at the Commonwealth Club. “I think that what we should do is be a facilitator, to make the health care costs come down. The sad story in America is that our health care costs are too high, that everyone cannot afford health care.”

Previous California legislation on workers-comp protection and workplace regulation helped start an exodus of corporate headquarters for better business environments. Creating a whole new bureaucracy for health management and putting rationing decisions in the hands of bureaucrats may start a new exodus of healthy people looking for less-intrusive and less-costly tax regimes. Despite the long wait times for anything but primary care issues in single-payer nations such as Canada and the UK — the latter of which has to destroy organs for lack of doctors to transplant them — California wants to add to its already top-heavy bureaucracies and add more budget-busting entitlements to a budget that resembles science fiction.
Hillary Clinton tried to foist the same system onto the entire country, and the nation reacted by ending forty years of Democratic domination in the House. Perhaps the same result could come from this irresponsible social engineering project. When people start to understand that they just created a DMV for health care, California voters may just revolt against the entrenched Democratic power structure. Even the Democratic nominee for goverrnor won’t endorse the Kuehl bill. Phil Angelides wanted to push more health-care mandates onto the private sector instead, a bad idea but nowhere near as disastrous as this.
In a move typical of the myopic state legislature, the bill doesn’t even address the costs that the new bureaucracy will create. The Assembly noted that it will take several years to implement the mandate — which means that they’re going to pass the buck to another group of legislators. Term limits keeps Assembly members from serving more than six years, which means damned few of the culprits will be around to account for the massive bill that will come. However, they have considered revenue streams for the new regime — an additional 8 percent on the payroll tax that businesses pay and a 3 point hike on the state income tax. That will come before the sunset of the health-care plans that businesses and their employees buy, creating an overlap of costs — and that assumes that the revenue stream will be enough to pay for the massive spending necessary for the state-run system.
People around the country may shrug this off, figuring that it’s just California. However, don’t be surprised to see utopians in your neighborhood heralding the coming Brave New World in the Golden State and agitating for the same system where you live.

Did Coburn Out Stevens As The Secret Holder?

TPM Muckraker found a story in an Arkansas newspaper that reported on a speech by Senator Tom Coburn on his bill to create an online federal budget database, where Coburn fingers the Secret Holder among his colleagues. The culprit? Pretty much whom you’d expect:

One of the senators most criticized for his personal projects, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, has a hold of his own on Coburn’s bill to make public the spending patterns of the government. Called the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, the legislation calls for the creation of a database open to the public where citizens can track government spending.
“He’s the only senator blocking it,” Coburn said of Stevens.

Of course, I’m still waiting for a reply to Steven’s office on whether Stevens put the hold on the bill. And one of the points raised by TPMM sounds familiar as well:

Stevens has been the odds-on favorite since the hunt for the Holder Who Dare Not Speak His Name began.
But did he really do it? Well, he had a motive: As the paper and others have noted, Stevens and Coburn have clashed before — in particular over Stevens’ now-legendary “bridge to nowhere.” Coburn attempted (and failed) to block the $233 million boondoggle. And revenge certainly fits the senior Alaskan’s m.o. “Stevens can play rough,” the Seattle Times noted in June. “Despite denials from his staff, he retaliates – and doesn’t mind waiting years to do so.”

Interesting, especially if one considers this comment from my interview with Bill Frist yesterday:

Typically they don’t put a hold on because they don’t like the bill – it’s because they don’t like something else someone’s doing. It’s petty politics.

In this case, petty politics may have coincided with a healthy dose of self-preservation. I’d guess we have our culprit.

Carter Trying Private Diplomacy Again?

Former President Jimmy Carter has a long record of involving himself in foreign affairs long after voters revoked his mandate for such activity. His intervention with North Korea forced the Clinton Administration — which had wanted to take a tough stand against Kim Jong-Il — to accept the Agreed Framework, which the North Koreans proceeded to violate immediately and continue their progress towards nuclear weapons unhindered. Now it looks like Carter may lend his considerable talent for deadly mischief towards the Iranian nuclear standoff by reaching out to the former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami:

For an event that would turn a page in American history, former president Jimmy Carter has agreed in principle to host former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami for talks during his visit to the United States starting this week. …
Iranians made the overture for the meeting, and the Carter Center in Atlanta is working on the possible timing, said Phil Wise, the former president’s aide.
“President Carter, in his role since leaving the White House, has made his office and services and center available to basically anybody who wants to talk. He believes that it is much better to be talking to people who you have problems with than not to, and that’s the approach he takes now,” Wise said. “I can confirm that President Carter is open to a meeting if the former president of Iran would like to have one.”

Carter believes in dialogue so much that he did nothing else when Khatami’s movement seized power in Teheran 27 years ago, and when Khatami and his fellow revolutionaries seized and held the American embassy and over 50 of our representatives for 444 days. Carter’s belief in dialogue did not extend to the revolution’s preceding government, the Shah, which Carter undermined for its human-rights violations. The fall of the Shah set off a chain reaction of Islamist momentum, creating competing radical Arab/Persian visions for a new Caliphate which not only exponentially increased human-rights violations but resulted in a wave of state-sponsored terrorism from the Islamic Republic.
Carter’s belief in dialogue mirrors the utopian vision of the Left, a moral-relativist existence where all people are reasonable and all conflict results from simple misunderstandings. Carter has never understood the nature of evil, even while confronted with it in office; his post-presidential career has not provided him with an education, either. Years of diplomatic and economic engagement with Iran by the EU has not brought about a moderation of its policies, despite his sanctimonious statement on “talking to people who you have problems with”.
Iran has made it clear, through the mullah’s latest mouthpiece Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, that they intend on eliminating Israel from the Middle East. Their new president talks about it constantly and has demanded that his trading partners in Europe carve out some of their own territory to house the Israelis before Iran fulfills its pledges. Khatami and his moderates have not spoken a word against these constant statements, nor have they lifted a finger to end the grip of the radical mullahs on Iranian government. None of these actions require American dialogue, and none of them would benefit from it as long as that dialogue seeks accommodation with radical nihilists.
As the White House noted, Carter is free to meet with whomever he pleases. However, they should make sure to inform Carter of their intention to enforce the Logan Act in case he gets any notions of repeating the disaster of the Agreed Framework with Iran.

Frist Interview: Iran

Yesterday, Senator Bill Frist sat down for an interview with Scott Johnson, John Hinderaker, and me, and spoke on a range of topics. Yesterday I posted about the secret hold on S. 2590, the federal budget online database, and Frist’s pledge to push the bill regardless of holds. The Senate Majority Leader had more to say about Iran and the security challenges of the Islamic Republic.
SJ: I’d like to follow up on a couple of questions. One of the short-term problems is Iran. I wonder if President Bush has has said it’s unacceptable. Do you think President Bush is going to accept it or do something about it before the end of his term? Can you make any sense of that?
BF: I can’t really go beyond what the President said, because what he has said publicly is what he said privately. The moral suasion of that is strong, but the next question – especially coming off Iraq – is what does that mean. … I think now, what’s happening in Lebanon, what’s passing through Syria, what the President has been saying all along has been happening in Iran, now people understand why it’s important to have all the options on the table. Before, people said “I think the president is going to go in there and militarily take out their nascent nuclear facilities here.” Beyond that, I can’t really say much. Literally, all options are on the table, some of which we haven’t talked a lot about. Who we support, how we support certain people other than the governments.
JH: If it comes to military action, will there be support for that in Congress?
BF: I was implying that a little bit when I said there was a greater understanding of the threats and the lines being drawn now directed by Iran around the world. I think that the preparation and understanding will go a long way into building that support. Right now – I don’t know, it’s so hypothetical. If the President were to say that we have to launch a military strike, I don’t know what the support would be.
JH: My impression is that the Democrats are doing anything rather than take a position on Iran. They’re lying in the weeds, hoping that things go badly.
BF: I think what they’re doing – it’s such a political problem – is that they’re taking the spotlight and doing whatever they can to focus that spotlight on Iraq, and trying to separate Iraq from the larger challenges that we have with the rise of the fundamentalist extremists, and that will be it. When they take that spotlight and put it on Iraq, it takes it off of Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah, plus other areas where terrorism [exists]. What I will do when we come back, I will use two arms, I will spend a lot of time talking about security issues and other issues, one of which will be the Hamdan decision, which raises questions about the military tribunals and these illegal combatants, and we’ll resolve that. We’ll have an opportunity for debate. The other arm will be in all likelihood a discussion of terrorist surveillance and what tools the government should have and legislatively put that on the table. Arlen Specter has an approach that I haven’t seen the final draft of which works with the administration more closely. We’ll use those two arms, those two platforms to address the sorts of issues on war and terrorism, regarding giving the enemy the playbook and threatening the security of the American people.
SJ: Can you tell us whether you believe that the disclosure of the NSA program, the terrorist surveillance programs, [hurt counterterrorism efforts]?
BF: I answer that “yes”, immediately. You’re going to ask me for three concrete examples, and I can’t give them, although that’s a question I ask in my classified briefings. I can tell you unequivocally, whether we’re talking about the original Afghanistan disclosure or the terrorist surveillance program … or the financial terrorism disclosure four months ago. Each of these three have, when openly addressed, have undercut our ability to [stop terrorism].
SJ: We’ve been making that case out there since last January, and I just wanted to come back and ask that.
JH: Is there anything else we can say that is more concrete?
BF: [crosstalk] Let me just think, because I know what you really need are two or three good examples. I know what kind of information was picked up [on the British plot] a couple of weeks ago, but I’m not at liberty to say right now. …
EM: I’d like to ask what non-military action would get some support in the near future in terms of Iran? Maybe some stronger support for democracy activists?
BF: I will continue to introduce resolutions or statements where we continue to support democracy-promoting organizations. … I continually go back and forth, because before Ahmadinejad came in, there was an undercurrent among the young people, with satellite dishes and college campus type activity. And now he’s captured the elite, so we don’t have enough intelligence to answer the question [on support for democratic change]. The question is how much his leadership has penetrated down into the groups that we thought would foment discussion and debate and change from below. I think that in the last two or three weeks that we can do a lot more so that change can come from beneath. I say that because it’s a wealthy, educated, intellectually bright constituency there. I’m also getting word from my doctor friends over there who have been in this country and have connections over there, and it’s interesting because they’re educated – they had to leave back in the late 70s – and their connections are still among the more educated group.
JH: What you say about supporting pro-democracy elements raises the question of why we haven’t done more of that over the last five years. People like Michael Ledeen have been arguing and arguing for that, and it seems like kind of a no-brainer to me.
BF: I can’t really answer that except to say that we should do better.
SJ: The full text of Ahmadinejad’s letter to Angela Merkel was posted on the Internet yesterday. I’ve read his long letter to President Bush, and taking all his public statements together, it’s a little bit hard to figure out what’s going on. One thing is that they’re trying to desensitize the world to the concept of wiping Israel off the map by saying it over and over again. Do you have any thoughts?
BF: I haven’t seen the on-line posting. I’ll tell you what’s interesting about the psychology. You’ve got someone who started as an aberration but has built himself into a populist movement, and at the same time he’s driving back to the 7th century ideologically, and clearly he’s engaging the nuclear imagination. That bothers me, because he’s pulling younger people into his future. He’s making his case for a nuclear supply that will all be for peace, and that dichotomy there, I don’t know how it’s going to play out, but we have to be very careful. That means this whole nuclear issue is an urgency we need to aggressively address or I think his popularity may increase.
The sanctions issue, like energy, will be interesting to see how it plays out. If they didn’t have to import and heavily subsidize gasoline so much … I haven’t followed in the last 24 or 36 hours what the plans will be, but I think that you do have a real opportunity in terms of sanctions, in terms of energy … and a real opportunity in terms of pressure points. The international global markets in banking itself, and you all have been following the discussions on this.
JH: The answer is no, and are we wrong to be cynical about sanctions, and that would just be dithering and not effective?
BF: [pause to consider] I think it’s an important part of our diplomacy. Will it be effective? I think it will be absolutely critical to make the stab, make the effort, use the peculiar situation there that’s very different than just saying you can’t have tourists there. There is a huge chunk of money, parts of the $500 billion I talked about [earlier], pieces of that, the way energy flows, and the peculiar relationship about where the money goes. I think it’s absolutely critical from a diplomatic standpoint that [sanctions] get tried, exhausted, and then … we’ll see.
JH: When you say the way energy flows, do you mean the fact that Iran has no refineries?
BF: They don’t have refineries, and the gas they put in cars all has to be imported. And then they’re heavily subsidizing that as well.
I’ll post more from the Frist interview, and later tonight will have a recap of the luncheon that preceded it.

Frist Interview: Politics

The final part of the Frist interview covered the politics of the Senate in the upcoming session.
SJ: Speaking of holds, John Bolton’s confirmation is coming up. Where are the Democrats on that now?
BF: I don’t know! [Laughs] No, no, no, I have no idea, but it’s coming.
SJ: He’ll be confirmed in September, then.
BF: It depends on what the Democrats do. I’m going to bring it up, we’re going to vote on it, and he’d better be confirmed. I will do port security next – these are my general plans, I haven’t even told my colleagues this – I want to do port security, I want to address the Bolton nomination, I want to address the Hamdan decision on these security issues, I want to address the Specter-FISA compromise. That right there – I’ve only got 15 legislative days, so you can imagine the challenge.
JH: Do you think those things will have an impact in November?
BF: I don’t know, but as I travel around and talk with people, everything gravitates back to security. I think there will be clarification with some people, instead of saying “I’m for the war on terror but I don’t like this.” We’ll look at the tools we need to fight the war on terror, and we’ll look at the issue the Supreme Court gave us. So there will be a lot of discussion of those, which will lead to the clarification. That’s what people want – to feel safer and more secure.
SJ: Since 9/11, it seems that there has been a CIA war on the Bush administration, of which this whole Joe Wilson has been a part. If there were a Democrat in office while this kind of thing went on, it would be a Seven Days In May kind of scandal.
JH: I don’t know if you’ve seen what we’ve written about this, but –
BF: No – [crosstalk] – Let me go back and read more about this. I don’t know, I really don’t.
[Press liaison says only time for one more question]
BF: I’ll look into it. See, I’m at the CIA every week, literally, working with the administration. I want to be very careful about where I say leaks are coming from.
JH: Do you think any of them are coming from the Senate?
BF: I don’t know, I don’t know. Even when we started talking about monitoring phone calls in Afghanistan, Democrat or Republican, where they came from I don’t know. …
SJ: This past December?
BF: No, this was a few years ago. [crosstalk]
EM: One last question, Senator. This whole Fitzgerald investigation has collapsed over the last couple of days with the revelation that the leak of Valerie Plame’s identity came from Richard Armitage, and that the Department of Justice knew about it five days into the investigation. Do you plan to review this investigation to determine if there has been an abuse of power?
BF: Don’t know. I haven’t had a chance to talk to my colleagues.
EM: Yes, this just happened a couple of days ago.
BF: Well, we’ll see what the facts are, and then see if the oversight committees want to look into it. From a practical standpoint, September will be interesting. I’ve been traveling around the country and will continue to do so. We need real clarification on a range of issues of what are the differences between Democrats and Republicans. I’d march down the list: prevailing versus cutting and running, strong border protection versus porous borders, tax cuts versus tax hikes, affordable health care versus predatory trial lawyers driving up costs, energy independence versus energy dependence, common-sense judges versus activist judges.
Floor time I’m going to spend on security. I’ve probably been in 75 meetings in the last three weeks like we just did, where it’s not hard-core politics but just listening to people, and everything keeps gravitating back to that. The questions of giving the playbook to the enemy, how we treat enemy combatants, how we get information has to be fully explored. You’ll see a lot of that on the floor in September.

FEC Kills Political Speech During Elections

As expected, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act has forced the courts to issue a prior restraint against political speech during an election campaign. Mark Tapscott caught the story out of Washington, and laments the corrosive effect that the McCain-Feingold bill has had on freedom of speech:

Federal election regulators refused to ease limits on political advertising Tuesday, blocking an effort to let interest groups run radio and television ads mentioning elected officials within weeks of an election.
The Federal Election Commission voted 3-3 on a proposal that would have allowed such ads as long as they addressed public policy issues and did not promote, support, oppose or attack a sitting member of Congress. Supporters of the change said they wanted to strike a balance between campaign ad restrictions and constitutional free speech guarantees.
The measure failed on a tie vote with the commission’s three Democrats voting against the proposal and the three Republicans backing it.

More than any other action from the BCRA, this demonstrates how the bill operates as a government-imposed safety net for incumbents. Who would have guessed ten years ago that Congress would pass a bill that would silence people who wanted to publish criticisms of incumbent politicians? Ten years ago, people wanted to implement term limits!
Mark believes that this will bury McCain’s chances among conservatives for the presidential nomination in 2008. McCain had a big hill to climb in that regard anyway, but this does serve as a reminder of the kind of policy we will see from a McCain administration. His reformist bent produced the first limits on normal political speech and activity since the Sedition Act of 1918. Oddly, the same people who complain about “chill winds” when the Bush Administration answers its critics fall strangely silent when it comes to the real attack on free political speech that McCain’s twisted approach to campaign finance reform represents.
In the debacle that has become the BCRA, all branches of government has blame. Congress passed it, Bush signed it, and somehow the Supreme Court found nothing unconstitutional about denying people the ability to publish criticisms about sitting politicians. Anyone who supports this legislation has no business in the White House, where they could do even more damage.