First things first — I’m not dying. I don’t have beriberi, botulism, or any other disease that comes with using the hand towels at a Haitian hotel. Sid Blumenthal didn’t bite me on the neck, so I am not “turning,” and James Carville didn’t touch my food, so I am not coming down with rickets.
I should not have sounded so dire the other day when talking about my trip to the doctor. And if I waited for the next corrections day, I’d have to start turning away condolence wreaths. Thanks very much for your concern though. My medical condition is neither grave nor life-threatening. It has more to do with the fact that I am growing so heavy, so dense, they’re about to add my initials to the periodic table right after Lawrencium (just now about a half dozen physicists blew Diet Coke out of their noses).
Let’s just leave it there for now — though I expect some rich column fodder in the future, stemming from my impending travails with the American medical system:
“Nurse! More pudding, please.”
“Mr. Goldberg, that’s not pudding.”
That sort of thing.
In the meantime, I thought I would be more life-affirming by kicking it old-school and running an old-fashioned, take-no-prisoners, not-without-my-daughter, kind of G-File. It’s very long, but there won’t be one tomorrow, so make it last.
BOOOORIIIIIING!! WHAT THE REFORMERS REALLY WANT
The Supreme Court handed a huge victory to the campaign finance “reformers” this week. In a 6 to 3 ruling, the Court concluded that states may limit contributions to political campaigns. This is a huge disappointment for the forces of free speech and a triumph for elite pointy-heads who believe that experts and professionals should be allowed to “approve” some speech while barring other views. I don’t want to get too bogged down on why there should be no limits on political contributions (but if you do, see this G-File from last September). Instead, one should see this as another example of how the good-government elite wants to make politics more polite, more “professional,” more “serious,” more predictable, and most of all, more dull.
Which is very odd considering the endless whining we hear about how voters are too apathetic. Has it ever occurred to these worry-warts that in a world where the New York Times editorial board sets the tone and agenda for political discourse a lot of people are going to tune out?
But this is precisely what the campaign-finance reformers want after all. They want to bar certain segments of society from making their views known and having them represented. People who spend zillions of dollars of their own money on politics do so because they feel their views are getting short shrift from more conventional media and politics. There’s no need to spend millions to confirm the conventional wisdom set by the New York Times and the networks.
Which is what is so annoying about the Supreme Court’s decision. “Money is property; it is not speech. . . . The right to use one’s money to hire gladiators, or to fund ‘speech by proxy,’ certainly merits significant constitutional protection,” Justice Stevens wrote this week. “These property rights, however, are not entitled to the same protection as the right to say what one pleases.”
So, if Jay Leno decides to have George W. Bush on the Tonight show every night for a month, that’s free speech. Even though the dollar-value of that speech would literally be in the hundreds of millions. But if I give Alan Keyes a hundred million dollars to take out infomercials every night to compete with Bush’s appearances, I would go to jail.
That is precisely the situation the reformers have set up. CBS can run puff-pieces on Hillary Clinton ad nauseam, the New York Times can call the illegality of gay marriage the moral equivalent of slavery, CNN can run endless bits of population-control propaganda, the labor unions can serve as a shadow Democratic party, and it will be, in effect, illegal for anybody to spend their own money on a candidate who speaks out against these things. For those crazy left-wingers who believe that corporations are “right-wing” this should be troubling, since it is the reviled corporations which own all the major-media outlets.
… FURTHERMOREAnd for anybody growing tired of Steve Forbes’s cadaverous campaign style, you should realize he’s in the race solely because he couldn’t spend his money on a politician who represents his views. Then again, that politician probably would have been Jack Kemp, so maybe that isn’t the best point.
IT AIN’T NEGATIVE IF IT’S TRUEJust as there should be more speech in American politics, not less, there should be more screaming and yelling too. As the incomparable Andrew Ferguson points out in the current issue of The Weekly Standard (I’d give you the link, but apparently they can’t get their flints and stone knives to make a website capable of running more than a couple of articles at a time), there should be a lot more negative campaigning out there. “This is an election, not a tea party” he says. This is a point that “the last conservative” at Harvard, Harvey Mansfield, has been making for a long time. Democracy is about differences, not agreement.
Ferguson recounts how John McCain attacked George Bush by issuing a press release accusing George Bush of offering a “political” budget. Good Lord! If true, such a monstrosity, such an abomination — a political budget proposal during a presidential campaign — The National Enquirer would be expected to run a photo of the document alongside three-headed babies, weeping Madonna oatmeal cookies, James Carville, and other freaks of nature. So horrendous was the accusation, that the Bushies called it an “attack flier.” And, the McCain forces, coming to their senses, withdrew the accusation. Senator McCain apologized and reprimanded his staff, calling the “political” assault a “cheap shot.”
Or consider the recent episode when Bill Bradley reminded an audience that Al Gore voted in favor the tobacco companies a long time ago. “This smacks of the most desperate kind of negative campaigning,” Gore whined. Gore’s campaign spokesman called Bradley “the professor of petulance” in response to this horrible smear.
This is negative campaigning? Leaving aside the fact that Gore lies about and smears Bradley’s (already miserable) record with impunity — in a perfect world Bradley would be going much farther.
“The tobacky-farming, spoon-fed Senator’s son from ‘Tennessee’ prostituted the memory of his dead sister for political expedience by glossing over the fact that the former round-the-clock pothead and wartime barracks correspondent was the on-call boy-toy of the tobacco industry for years,” should be the opening line of every Bradley speech. Bradley should also point out that the “demagoguing Luddite’s only real accomplishment was concocting the tie-on-the-doorknob system in the Oval Office.”
And that isn’t even negative campaigning in my book, because it happens to be true.
Screaming, yelling, accusations of treason, fraud, etc. — everything short of biting and hair-pulling are fair game (I’d guess that Gary Bauer is a hair-puller). Treat Americans as grown-ups and let them sort out who’s a buffoon or a liar. Justice will be done.
DOING BUSINESS, THE GOVERNMENT WAYMy second favorite story of the week was in the Washington Post. They reported that the U.S. Postal Service is in trouble. The Internet is taking more and more of its business away. They could lose up to $17 billion in first-class-mail revenues to e-commerce over the next few years alone. “We’re in no different a position than every company in America,” Postmaster General William Henderson told the Washington Post. Now I very rarely put my full-blown libertarian hat on — it’s so frilly and the pom-poms clash with my shoes. But let’s be very clear about something in the way only libertarians can be clear. The United States Postal Service is not like “every company in America.” Every company in America does not operate tax-free. Every company in America was not given billions upon billions of dollars in free real estate. Every company is not permitted by federal statute to borrow up to $10 billion, interest free, from the general public. And every company does not have a legal monopoly on its primary product line — in the case of the USPS, it is against the law to use another mail carrier for first-class mail, a law the Postal Service has enforced at gunpoint.
(Actually readers could help me here. Last night, my really cool friends and I had a big argument about who has more valuable real-estate, McDonald’s or the Postal Service. If someone has guidance about how to determine that, let me know. The question is pure real-estate value, nothing more clever than that).
The government is supposed to take over a market function only when there is a market failure. Instead, the USPS is coming up with make-work. They want to run cyber-auctions. They want to give every American an email address — which, I admit, doesn’t sound that bad. But, additionally, if you don’t have a computer to go with your e-mail address, they will print out your e-mails and hand-deliver them to you. How psyched will you be to get a ream of printed porn-solicitations, chain-letters, and other bits of assorted Spam, in your mailbox everyday?
So, why does the Postal Service think it should be coming up with new ways to compete with the free-market? The answer, I think, is that the Postal Service believes its primary duty is to employ postal workers. Delivering the mail is merely the means by which it fulfills this mission. If they could maintain their payroll of 600,000 without delivering the mail, they probably would. This is not how “any company” operates. But what would be so wrong with opening up the market to first-class mail? What would be so wrong if the Postal Service disappeared entirely?
The government has an obligation to see to it that certain public goods are delivered — roads, sanitation, prisons, and yes, more prisons. It does not have obligation to provide them itself. Do you care if it is a government garbage truck or a private garbage truck, so long as your pile of Clinton promises is hauled away in a timely fashion? The Postal Service was created out of necessity. If the necessity is gone, then the Postal Service should go with it.
(In this vein, I’ve got to write a piece for Brill’s Content on PBS — if anybody has confirmable horror stories or articles I should read, let me know.)
NEWS & NOTES
And finally, some housecleaning. As you know if you spend any time at NR Online these days, we are constantly upgrading and improving — look around, please — but if you break it, you bought it. As part of this effort we call Redesign Part Deux, we are installing a new, daily poll. It is called Vox Populi. Personally, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about what the people think — the masses are asses as they say at Gore headquarters — but we actually do care what the crème de la crème (which means, “I surrender, and would you like cream in your coffee, mein General?) of the web world think — and that’s you. So today, our poll question is “The most important qualification a Republican Presidential candidate can possess is”. You can find the link on the home page. Also, one last item. There are zillions of online lists ranking various sites. We at NR usually ignore them. But Townhall is running one [Link defunct]. And, maybe it’s because they’re part of the family, or maybe it’s because I’m starting to get a bunker mentality, but this one really bugs me. It’s supposed to be a list of the best conservative websites, and NRO comes in 13th! Some — I’m sure wonderful — magazine called American Renaissance is number one, and such illustrious sites as the “Northern Virginia Republican PAC,” “Ray Haynes for U.S. Senate (California)” and “Youth for Allen” out-rank us.
Now feel free to cast your vote for the timely and always entertaining Ray Haynes site. But if you think that perhaps NRO is a bit more deserving than “Eagle’s Up — Robbie Noel’s Radio Show,” I’d be much obliged for your vote.
See you Friday, and seriously, look around.