22 January 2010

A Big Day For Free Speech In The U.S.

The United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision yesterday, struck down a number of provision of the McCain-Feingold Act, a law which was intended, say its authors, to restrict the amount of money coming into political campaigns from corporations, organizations, unions and other advocacy groups.

A majority of the justices on Supreme Court, rightfully, said without question the provisions overturned are clearly an unconstitutional violation of free speech.

To that, NY Sen. Chuck Shumer said the justices who favored free speech were unpatriotic. WTF?

He is all about stifling speech of ordinary Americans, most of whom only have a voice through unions and organizations like the National Rifle Association.

More frightening are details from two sessions of oral arguments held before the high court. In each case, a justice asked the Solicitor General if the content had been in a book, instead of a movie, would they still have moved to ban its distribution. The answer was yes. Every court watcher has said you could have heard a pin drop at that point, for the Obama administration representative had just admitted -- whether or not she intended to -- that it was okay for the government to ban books.

In a subsequent and unprecedented second oral argument before the Court on the same subject, Justice Ginsburg gave the Solicitor General a chance to recant. She noted that the Court had been troubled by the statement about movies vs. books and asked if the administration still held by the same standard, the same opinion. The Solicitor General answered "yes."

That, in essence, is what put the nail in the coffin of most of McCain-Feingold.

Justice Kennedy, far from being a conservative but probably the most vigorous defender of free speech, authored the opinion for the majority. But there lies a far larger worry -- and disgust on my part. Specifically, that four of the justices to the United States Supreme Court think its okay to ban a book. THAT, in essence, is part of what they are saying with their dissent, IMHO. What should be equally frightening to most Americans is that Justice Stevens, in his dissent, argues that corporations should have sharply reduced constitutional rights regarding free speech, at least when it comes to speech about political candidates.

Sadly, President Obama is seeking legislation in Congress that would undermine -- nay, undercut -- the opinion of the Supreme Court. Interestingly, in his remarks yesterday about how outraged he was, he made special note of his belief that banks, financial giants and other ginormous (my word) corporations that make obscene profits would have a hayday turning our elections upside down with their unfettered financial power to donate. Nowhere did he mention that unions, by far his largest supporters, also greatly benefited from the High Court decision.

This is no over. Just as when the District of Columbia hurriedly passed new draconian restrictions on firearms ownership, just after the Supreme Court ordered them to reverse their ban on owning handguns, Obama seems poised to try to prod Congress to pass laws similar to McCain Feingold that will stifle speech -- even though a slim majority of the Court said "you can't do that."

Is he thinking that because it wasn't an overwhelming majority he can cajole, browbeat, guilt, force or otherwise blackmail members of Congress into supporting such legislation? I don't think so. This time, especially after the disastrous week the Left has had in the U.S.:

-- The dems loss of its supermajority due to the upset senatorial election in Massachusetts;
-- The bankruptcy of Air America;
-- The revelation that the Copenhagen Environmental Accord is going down the drain;
-- The Supreme Court decision overturning supression of free speech via campaign finance restrictions; and
-- The death (for now) of plans to turn the best healthcare system in the world upside down.

All in one week.

Americans are worried about the economy and jobs. Not punishing insurance companies over healthcare, not listening to global warming Chicken Littles touting what we now all know is junk science, not ). To continue an assault on speech by usurping our rights will be an uphill battle. At least for now . . .

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