Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 7, 2006
POLITICS: Champions of Free Speech

You know, if you compare the roll call votes, only two Senators voted against the flag burning amendment and voted against the free-speech-suppressing McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform" bill: Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Robert Bennett. If you are looking for an example of Senators truly and consistently committed to free speech even when it's not popular, that's the whole list right there.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:46 AM | Politics 2006 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)

I'm not exactly crazy about McCain Feingold, but I don't equate it with the Flag Burning nonsense, which is a strictly political move, totally ignorant of the first amendment (and the morons who try to make hay out of that are perjurers who ignore their oath of office, in my view).

McCain Feingold is like Watergate, trying to do SOMETHING about a situation that is simply wrong. It is almost impossible to acheive high office without selling your soul to a couple of Pacs and/or special interests. While that has always gone on, and always will, the PERCEPTION (which is sadly what politics always is) is that this is a tuna that needs to go. And that is true--so the question, "Is free speech truly free when you can buy more of it?" what McCain Feingold has tried to address. Maybe there is a better way, but this isn't it.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at July 7, 2006 9:57 AM

Yeah, I don't equate the two either because while flag burning is only on the broadest level "speech" of any kind, the McCain-Feingold bill was a much more egregious violation of the true principles of the first amendment. The type of speech being impinged is precisely the type of speech the crafters of the First Amendment were trying to protect - political speech.

Posted by: paul zummo at July 7, 2006 10:19 AM

Well, obviously the two are different animals. Like a lot of conservatives I was only mildly against the flag burning amendment but appalled by McCain-Feingold. A lot of liberals took the opposite emphasis, and of course many people on each side supported one or the other. The key point is, you need a real commitment to free speech to be against both of them.

Posted by: The Crank at July 7, 2006 10:24 AM

Only mildly against the flag burning amendment? This means you could live with it. We cannot amend the Constitution as a means to cater to frivolous political whims over a non-existent problem. We have never amended the bill of rights and this is no time to start. Such an amendment would be comparable to prohibition, but only worse, because, again, its a political amendment with no meaning other than to tar and feather those who oppose the amendment.

Posted by: Steve at July 7, 2006 10:32 AM


I understand what you meant, and I'm basically in the same camp. I was just chiding Darryl a little bit because he seemed more bothered by the flag-burning amendment (though perhaps I just misread his point).

The flag burning amendment was completely stupid, but hardly a symbol of the creation of some Gestapo-like regime trampling on civil liberties. Compare that to the stifling of political speech leading up to an election - that is truly the egregious violation of fundamental political rights.

Posted by: paul zummo at July 7, 2006 10:59 AM

Is bribing a congressman protected by the First Amendment?

Is it a bribe to buy a Senator 15 million dollars worth of paid advertisements in exchange for future favors?

Campaign finance reform does tread towards 1st Amendment issues -- what if that wealthy businessperson simply thought the Senator was the best guy available for the job?

But it also involves criminal behavior -- bribing our elected leaders.

And the Supreme Court has said repeatedly that criminal behavior is not protected by the First Amendment even when its done to convey a message. Remember the case about the draftee who burnt his draft card -- sorry, not a protected action because it was government property.

But the flag burning amendment allowed Congress to criminalize a specific type of speech that otherwise involved no criminal behavior.

Hilary's attempt at political cover on the Flag issue outlawed criminal behavior associated with flagburning -- endangering persons on federal property, etc.

Posted by: patrick at July 7, 2006 11:14 AM


My concern about the flag burning amendment is not that it would actually prevent anyone from expressing themselves. After all no one burns the flag. But the problem is the symbolism of such an amendment. It is unprecedented to amend the Constitution this way. I can't make up my mind on McCain-Feingold (except that I had a problem with certain provisions like the 60 day no advertisement rule) but at least McCain Faingold dealt with a real problem: money in elections. The flag burning amendment does not address a real problem, but we would amend the national charter for all eternity for political reasons.

Posted by: Steve at July 7, 2006 11:16 AM

Contributing money to political campaigns is not "bribing" someone. But that's not even the point. The act specifically prohibited certain groups from airing television ads thirty days or less before an election. That is the part of the law that is most violitive of first amendement rights.

Posted by: paul zummo at July 7, 2006 11:22 AM

Paul, I must have written poorly. The flag burning amendment was idiocy from the start, and to me, any congressman who voted for it deserves to lose a race for dog catcher.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at July 7, 2006 11:36 AM

ok paul -- now what if I want to bribe a senator and he tells me to buy all of these ads and in turn, I'll get what I that a bribe?

Legislators have determined that his type of criminal behavor is so awful but so hard to detect that they've addressed the problem with a broad brush. That's perfectly constitutional.

Posted by: patrick at July 7, 2006 11:42 AM
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