Thursday, August 19, 2004

Well, this would be crushing of dissent 

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan went insane, I think, in yesterday's Press Gaggle. Under repeated questioning about the battle between the Swifties and MoveOn and requests to disavow the fight over Kerry's fitness for command, as it were, McClellan seemed to call for a complete ban on the spending of money for political speech:
We've called on Senator Kerry to join us and call for an end to all of this unregulated soft money activity. And so we continue to call on him to join us in condemning all these ads and calling for an end to all of this activity.

Was this out of context? I don't think so, since he repeated himself moments later:
The President has condemned all of this kind of activity, and he should join us in doing the same and calling for an end to all of it. Apparently he was against soft money before he was for it. And the President thought he got rid of all of this unregulated soft money activity when he signed the bipartisan campaign finance reforms into law.

Say what? McClellan is claiming that Bush wants to ban all "unregulated soft money activity"? How can that mean anything other than proposing a ban on all money spent on political speech? If he doesn't mean that, what is McClellan, and presumably Bush, calling for? Under the McClellan proposal, wouldn't that mean that any political speech requiring the expenditure of any money (such as cash for blog bandwidth) be unlawful? I trust even the current Supreme Court would have a hard time signing off on such a statute.

Of course, as one of the commenters at Crooked Timbers points out, calling for an end to something is not the same thing as calling for a law to ban that thing, but that little escape hatch doesn't make McClellan's argument any less ill-advised. Or stupid.

Suffice it to say, the crack reporters in the White House press corps did not appear to notice that the Press Secretary had called for an end to the First Amendment as we know it.


By Blogger Dave, at Thu Aug 19, 11:49:00 PM:

I think McClellan was speaking of W's desire to regulate 527 organizations like the Swift Boat people or for that matter Moveon.org. During the recent interview with Larry King Bush made clear his belief that he had alead signed a law to regulate such organizations, but it hasn't worked out as hoped.  

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