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Friday, May 12, 2006 

McCain's Constitution

This piece by George Will, linked by Instapundit and in this morning's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, takes on Senator John McCain's views of the Constitution. Will looks at a recent statement by McCain...
On April 28, on Don Imus' radio program, discussing the charge that the McCain-Feingold law abridges freedom of speech by regulating the quantity, content and timing of political speech, John McCain did not really reject the charge:

"I work in Washington and I know that money corrupts. And I and a lot of other people were trying to stop that corruption. Obviously, from what we've been seeing lately, we didn't complete the job. But I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government."
Will then goes on to attack McCain's most famous piece of legislation, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (or "BCRA" if you're into that whole brevity thing or "McCain-Feingold" if you want to stroke these two giant egos some more)...
McCain seems to regard unregulated political speech as an inherent invitation to corruption. And he seems to believe that anything done in the name of "leveling the playing field" for political competition is immune from First Amendment challenges.
Will then wonders why a government that is so corrupt should be trusted to regulate speech about itself. It's a good question, and I don't think I've ever heard an answer from McCain or his sidekick Rusty.

I've spent many posts explaining my list of grievances against BCRA, so I won't rehash them all here. I don't think it's necessary here because Will is just using it as an example. The main point of his piece is a much weightier and a much more interesting question about McCain...
McCain hopes that in 2008 pro-life Republicans will remember his pro-life record. But they will know that, regarding presidents and abortion, what matters are Supreme Court nominees. McCain favors judges who think the Constitution is so radically elastic that government regulation of speech about itself is compatible with the First Amendment. So Republican primary voters will wonder: Can President McCain be counted on to nominate justices who would correct such constitutional elasticities as the court's discovery of a virtually unlimited right -- one unnoticed between 1787 and 1973 -- to abortion?
Will is right. A president's appointments to the Supreme Court are usually their most lasting decisions in office. The Justices that upheld the Constitutionality of BCRA were Stevens, O'Connor, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer (it was basically those five that upheld the bulk of the law, I'm oversimplifying the very long opinion that is McConnell v FEC). I know McCain won't appoint another Ginsburg, but I doubt that he would appoint another Scalia or Thomas. Those two wrote sharp dissents against upholding McCain's law. He's looking for a different kind of Justice, probably one more akin to O'Connor.

Will's point is incredibly important. We are going into an election in 2008 with a wide open field. Both parties have long lists of possible candidates. It's time to take a hard look at these men and women and ask what kind of Justices they would put on the Court.

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