Freedom of Speech - Not!
By John D. Turner
22 Dec 2003

Congress shall make no law …abridging the freedom of speech... – Amendment 1, U.S. Constitution.

With all the euphoria (or angst, depending on who you are) over the capture of Saddam Hussain, an event of the gravest significance to American Liberty has been almost completely ignored; the recent Supreme Court decision concerning campaign finance reform as it relates to the freedom of speech, and, more importantly, political freedom of speech.

It just goes to show the danger of passing “feel good” legislation under the supposition that the Supreme Court will declare it unconstitutional anyway. On the face of it, the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 is unconstitutional, restricting as it does, freedom of speech during an election campaign. It should not take a legal scholar to determine that; a cursorily reading is all that is required. It is a bill that should never have been passed by the Congress, and which, once passed, should have been vetoed by the President, who took an oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, to wit:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States – Article II, Section I, U.S. Constitution

Evidently however, the best of the President’s ability to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution rested on his passing the buck to the Supreme Court, overlooking Truman’s sage observation that at the desk of the President “the buck stops here”. Trying, in effect, to politically have it both ways; being able to say you were for campaign finance reform, but silently breathing a sigh of relief that the Supremes would carry your water for you and strike down that which you should have vetoed in the first place.

Except of course, that it didn’t. Somehow, the Supreme Court, which is supposed to rule on the Constitutionality of laws brought before them, managed to read the 1st Amendment’s plain language and discover a heretofor unnoticed exception concerning, of all things, political speech! One wonders, what part of “Congress shall make no law” they didn’t understand! Or perhaps they didn’t consider making it illegal to criticize your congressman before an election to be “abridging” your freedom of speech!

So now, in America, a country which has enjoyed freedom of speech for 227 years, who’s founders felt it of such importance that they enshrined it in the first amendment to the Constitution, the beginning of the Bill of Rights, it is now illegal for TV or radio stations to air issue ads paid for by independent individuals or groups 30 days before a congressional primary election or 60 days prior to a federal general election.

You could go to jail. For “speaking ill” of your elected officials, or those who aspire to become such. Not in Russia, or China, or Iran. Here. In. America.

This is what happens when judges legislate from the bench. This is what happens when those charged with preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution shirk their sworn duty for perceived political gain. It’s a tough job, Mr. President, but you know what? It’s what you signed up for!

Corrupt politicians must be breathing a sigh of relief. Their dirty laundry can no longer be aired in public before an election. It wouldn’t be “nice” after all. Heaven forbid that the public, who will be casting ballots for those they think best for the job, find out about some scandal just before the election. They won’t now, that’s for sure, unless some brave soul decides to go to jail to let them know.

And what is so sacroscent about 30 days before a primary, or 60 days before a general election? If it is “bad” to criticize 30 days prior, why is it ok 31 days prior? If it is bad to do so on TV or radio, why isn’t it bad to do so in a newspaper, or over the internet? This is just the start, my friends. As Justice Clarence Thomas stated concerning this decision, “The chilling endpoint of the Court’s reasoning is not difficult to see: outright regulation of the press…the press now operates at the whim of Congress”. Freedom of the press – another of our rights enshrined in the first Amendment, along with freedom of religion (which can’t be practiced in any public venue), the freedom of peaceable assembly, or to petition the Government for a redress of grievances, another of our rights that Congress shall pass no law abridging.

The answer of course, is that there is no logical reason why 31 days prior to the election is ok but 30 is not. There is no logical reason to restrict TV and radio, but not the print media or the Internet. Those will be next, and the time periods will be lengthened, ultimately to 365 days a year. It is after all, impossible to regulate some political speech without regulating all political speech.

If there was any kind of free speech the founders intended to protect, it was political free speech. How can one expect a democratic republic to function without such free speech? It can’t, not as a free republic at any rate. The only people this benefits are incumbent office holders. It certainly doesn’t benefit the people at large.

Yet another thread separates. The Constitution is hanging. Is anyone out there interested in saving it? Or shall we just sit back and watch it fall.