June 26, 2007

Gratuitous Politickal Posting: GOP Division

OK, I know I need to temper myself on the politics. It's a subject that burned me out at my old blog and made coming to the Butcher Shop such a therapeutic move for me.

I can't seem to go cold turkey, so I'll do my best to keep it to small doses. Hey, the biggest step is admitting you have a problem, no?

John McCain had a rather peevish reaction to yesterday's Supreme Court ruling on one of the pillars of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Anti-Free Speech/Incumbency Protection Act.

"While I respect their decision in this matter, it is regrettable that a split Supreme Court has carved out a narrow exception by which some corporate and labor expenditures can be used to target a federal candidate in the days and weeks before an election.

"It is important to recognize, however, that the Court's decision does not affect the principal provision of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which bans federal officeholders from soliciting soft money contributions for their parties to spend on their campaigns.

McCain has been riding this pony for six years now and I honestly think he has a mental block as to just how bad this legislation is. I don't believe that he sees it as limiting free speech. I believe he sees it as payback for his 2000 primary defeat.

Let's take a spin on the way-back machine for a moment. In February 2000, the "maverick" candidate for the Republican nomination was riding high off of a New Hampshire victory and was declared by the fawning MSM to be in the driver's seat. As a supporter of his at the time, I admit that I bought into the hype as well. The next big primary - South Carolina - was crucial. Another McCain win would have really caused problems for the Bush campaign. Now South Carolina is not New Hampshire. And in hindsight, I don't see how McCain could have won that state under any circumstances.

But something happened in the lead-up to that primary that I believe changed the Arizona Senator forever. A "special interest group" supporting Bush engaged in some really tasteless push-polls that enraged McCain. The group's actions were indefensible but they weren't illegal. Bush went on to win South Carolina and a string of Super Tuesday primaries that pretty much put an end to McCain's candidacy. While those push-polls probably didn't help McCain, I have a really hard time believing that they made the difference in the ultimate result. McCain, however, was convinced of it and often alludes to it as the reason he lost.

Politics is not for the faint-hearted but McCain took that rough campaign personally - a little too personally as far as I can tell. It was this incident, I believe, that drove him to push for such a sweeping ban on campaign advertising. And of course since McCain-Feingold was such a boon to incumbent politicians, it didn't have a hard time finding "bipartisan" support in both chambers of Congress. President Bush's signature on the bill is the ultimate irony and one of the biggest mistakes of his Administration.

Many of the bill's opponents hoped that such blatant infringements on free speech could not possibly be upheld in the courts. Many have, however. Fortunately, this last decision is a step in the right direction.

McCain's stated driver on this issue was getting the money (the big money) out of politics - the "corporate and labor expenditures" that he refers to. That, however, is a foolish assumption as we have since found that the money always finds a way in. And McCain-Feingold effectively shuts out all those who wish to participate in the electoral debate. Many of these "special interest" groups (on both sides) are the only means for individuals to make their voices heard on issues that they care deeply about. And that combined with what is probably his greatest motivation for this crusade - a personal vendetta against those who attacked him - really makes you call into question the Senator's judgment. It's something that has since caused reservations for me about supporting him for President.

I don't see any maliciousness behind McCain's actions the way some do. I think in his mind he is following a principle as he sees it and sticking by it. While that itself is an admirable quality, his adherence to this particular principle is part of the reason why he would be my last choice among the major GOP candidates for the 2008 Presidential nomination.

Posted by Gary at June 26, 2007 10:15 AM | TrackBack