January 23, 2001
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When someone in politics starts talking about "wealthy special interests," it's time to watch out. Especially when the one doing the talking is itself a wealthy special interest.
Such is the case with the New York Times, which, in a stunning example of hypocritical disregard for the First Amendment, today runs an editorial in favor of a dangerous and unconstitutional attempt to limit free speech under the guise of campaign finance "reform." The Times editorial says the McCain-Feingold proposal "would end the hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions from wealthy special interests that have corrupted the election process."
Where's the corruption? The Times doesn't say. But from past Times editorials, Smartertimes.com has gathered that the Times seems to consider it corrupting whenever a group of citizens, whether it is the Sierra Club, the AFL-CIO, the National Rifle Association or the Christian Coalition, pitches in to buy a television commercial that makes that group's political case directly to the voters without a filter imposed by the editors at the New York Times.
The Times leaves out the fact that the new restrictions would apply, according to the McCain-Feingold bill, only to "any broadcast, cable or satellite communication which refers to a clearly identified candidate for federal office." In other words, the groups would be free to buy unregulated ads in newspapers, such as, say, the New York Times. And despite the onerous new restrictions on "electioneering communications" by individuals who don't own newspapers, the McCain-Feingold view contains no new restrictions on "electioneering communications" that take place in the news and editorial columns of the New York Times.
In other words, the Times is backing a huge erosion of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, while the First Amendment right to freedom of the press is untrammeled. That is in the newspaper's short-term financial interest. But in the long run, an erosion in any aspect of the First Amendment will threaten the Times and the freedom of all Americans.
Most Americans realize that. The Times editorial claims, "Mr. McCain is reflecting what voters said they wanted: a cleanup of the corruption that has stifled the democratic process in recent years." What voters said they wanted? Mr. McCain lost the presidential election. In fact, in the Republican primary, the Democratic primary and the general election, the candidate who more strongly favored additional McCain-style infringements on the First Amendment lost. Voters are concerned about corruption, but the corruption was the failure to comply with existing laws banning, for instance, contributions from Chinese Communist agents, not the imaginary New York Times-McCain style "corruption" that emanates from the lawful exercise by Americans of the free-speech rights they are guaranteed under the First Amendment.
Veterans: A front-page article in today's New York Times about education policy says, "In addition, poor children inspire more sympathy than other subjects of ambitious social programs, like welfare mothers, drug addicts, the unemployed, or veterans of the criminal justice system." What a fine euphemism that is, "veterans of the criminal justice system." The term "veterans," with its associations of military service, carries an air of rectitude with it. The phrase would seem to include retired prosecutors and judges. Instead of writing "veterans of the criminal justice system," the Times might have saved five words and just written "criminals" or "ex-convicts."
Unapologetic: An article about Senator Miller's decision to co-sponsor George W. Bush's tax plan runs in today's New York Times under the headline "Georgia Democratic Senator Unapologetic in Aiding Bush." Why should he apologize? No one in the article is quoted suggesting that Mr. Miller should apologize. The overly critical tone of the headline suggests the Times thinks a senator should have to apologize for supporting a tax cut.
Regulatory Bloat: The New York Times in its national section today prints a wonderful chart tracking the number of pages published each year in the Federal Register. The chart is shaded according to whether there is a Republican or Democratic president, and it is a neat quantitative indicator of the fact that, with the exceptions of Nixon and Ford, the Republicans are the party of less regulation. It's worth actually going out and buying a copy of the Times to clip and save this chart. Seriously. It's only rarely that Smartertimes.com actually praises the Times, but that chart is a gem.
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