The Corner

Cheap Date

Ramesh, as the conservative movement’s chief apologist for Senator McCain, the guy who repealed the First Amendment and would, given the chance, impose federal government ovesight on professional baseball, maybe cheap-date jokes about us Giuliani supporters are not your best approach.

By the way, I noticed that in your NR cover article about how McCain is moving rightward, you assert that “[e]ven campaign-finance reform isn’t the issue it once was. President Bush signed McCain’s bill, and the senator says he doesn’t want any more legislation.” I wondered why you didn’t mention that, just three weeks from now, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Senator McCain’s lawsuit against a pro-life advocacy group, Wisconsin Right to Life.

McCain’s brief in McCain v. Wisconsin Right to Life is available here. Nothing new in this, of course — earlier in the litigation, seeking to muzzle the group’s pro-life message, Senator McCain filed an amicus brief, in Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission, which can be found here.

Worried about whether Giuliani is sincere about appointing originalist judges? Fair enough … but read McCain’s briefs. The Senator — who was instrumental in preventing a parliamentary reform to end Democratic filibusters against the Bush judicial nominees back when the Republicans had a sizable senate majority — apparently thinks it’s a violation of law if an interest group advocates in favor of originalist judicial nominees merely getting an up-or-down confirmation vote … at least if such advocacy would make it harder for pro-abortion incumbents like Senator Russ Feingold to be re-elected.

I’m not kidding. McCain contends (pp. 2-3 of the most recent brief) that Wisconsin Right to Life’s ads were objectionable because they were “express advocacy” and “explicit electioneering.” And he actually elaborates as follows:

The undisputed facts demonstrate that the advertisements Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. [(WRTL)] sought to broadcast in this case fall squarely into that [electioneering] category. All of WRTL’s ads denounced a “group of Senators” for filibustering judicial nominees and “causing gridlock” [me: The horror!]…; two of the ads emphasized that the Senators were “backing up some of our courts to a state of emergency[.]” … The ads then urged the audience to contact Senator Feingold—then a candidate for federal office [me: Can you imagine?]—and Senator Kohl to tell them to oppose the filibusters. … It was public knowledge that Feingold was one of the “group of Senators” to whom the ads referred. Indeed, WRTL itself had publicized Senator Feingold’s involvement in the filibusters (an important issue in the election) and called for his defeat on that ground. [me: How dare they!] Although the ads asked the audience to contact Senators Feingold and Kohl, they provided no contact information for them, instead directing viewers to a website criticizing them for their role in the filibusters. WRTL sought to run its ads immediately before the 2004 election (while Congress was in recess and no vote on the filibuster was imminent) [me: and when voters might have been paying the most attention to which senators were blocking pro-life judges] and did not run them after the election (when the filibuster controversy came to a head)….

If, as Ramesh asserts, Senator McCain seeks no further anti-free-speech legislation, one might suggest that this is because, having gotten his noxious law on the books, he can now resort more easily to Big Government’s best friend, the federal courts, to fill in the blanks — even if that means shutting down the political speech of pro-life groups.

But such a suggestion would be cynical. Anyway, I guess you can always tell a pro-life conservative when you see one.

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