I don't remember the date, but the day that President Bush signed Campaign Finance Reform the wife and I were driving somewhere. We got the word from the radio news.
I told her:
"That's probably the most cynical political move he's ever made, babe. I hope he doesn't regret it down the road."
"You've told me a dozen times that even if he signed it, it would be DOA at the Supreme Court.", said she.
"Yah; CFR regulating who can make what statements or advertisements and when and in what medium... shit, what part of "Congress shall make NO law... abridging freedom of speech..." did they miss in committee? Or at the White House? No way it will make it past a court challenge - maybe not even past lower courts. This is indefensible on its face. Still, it was at the very best dereliction on Bush's part that it's gotten this far. That the congress is just even more duplicitous is no excuse."
The day the USSC upheld CFR as it was written I regarded it as a fuckup trifecta. The Bill Buckner curse has repeated right in the middle of our three branches of government, folks. It took the effort of literally thousands of informed and thoughtful political and legal professionals to blow the CFR play, though. Remember that - they all screwed up. Even worse, a huge chunk of the harm intended was wilfull.
Mark R. Levin, writing in National Review Online back in February 2002, had it exactly right. Here's the tail end of a veto speech he suggested for Bush to deliver:
Some have written that this bill would give me an advantage should I run for reelection in 2004 by allowing my campaign to raise more money. But this isn't about any one candidate. It's about upholding the right of citizens to participate in the democratic process. It's about defending the protections enumerated in the Bill of Rights.
I would no sooner sign this bill than put my signature to a law that would seek to restrict freedom of the press, limit the free exercise of religion, eliminate the right to bear arms, repeal private property rights, or deny an accused his right to counsel and due process.
I recognize that my decision to veto this bill will be unpopular in certain powerful circles. But I must remain faithful to my oath and my conscience.
But that speech didn't happen. Yes, there were some benefits that did accrue to the Republicans in the financial end of the campaign - but it was volunteer networks of connected, grassroots foot troops who were the margin when the polls closed. That political benefit does indeed pale in the shadow cast by the failure of all three branches of government to honor their offices and oaths by crafting and ultimately allowing McCain-Feingold to become law and then be upheld.
Now it's 2005 and the lawyers are circling. The best intended laws are the ones that get abused first, and the FEC (appointed bureaucrats with partisan agendas) are bent on stepping in and dealing with us nasty, unpedigreed bloggers:
(CNet) How can the government place a value on a blog that praises some politician?
(FEC Commissioner Bradley Smith) How do we measure that? Design fees, that sort of thing? The FEC did an advisory opinion in the late 1990s (in the Leo Smith case) that I don't think we'd hold to today, saying that if you owned a computer, you'd have to calculate what percentage of the computer cost and electricity went to political advocacy.
It seems absurd, but that's what the commission did. And that's the direction Judge Kollar-Kotelly (ed - you knew a federal judge would be involved, didn't you?) would have us move in. Line drawing is going to be an inherently very difficult task. And then we'll be pushed to go further. Why can this person do it, but not that person?
It's late here in Utah, and it's been a very full day as far as blogging goes. This story started to break late this afternoon, and I got my first taste on Instapundit. Follow his link to Ed Morrissey at Captains Quarters.
There's already a double- fist full of trackbacks just there, and I think both sides of our political aisle are working up a head of steam to see this attack on individual liberties fought and defeated.
I'm sure I'll be posting more on this subject in the future.
When the campaign season picks up again I will for damn sure fill my blog margins with as many links and banners or logos as I can fit to support my chosen political candidates. On my schedule and regardless of any CFR/FEC dictates otherwise. There may well arise some wildly improbable alliance encompassing everyone from Kos to RedState over this. The issue is that important.
Update: Maybe I'll get a chance to show Roger how to craft a knife out of concrete dust and glue.