As the district court said on remand: ``The FEC seeks to broaden the definition of corruption to the point that it intersects with the very framework of representative government." The FEC is a bureaucracy. Bureaucracies have a metabolic urge to maximize their missions. The FEC's mission is to regulate political discourse. A president's primary mission, stated in his oath of office, is different--to defend the Constitution. Bush understands the conflict between his duty and the FEC's urge. Around 7 a.m., Jan. 23, 2000, the day before the Iowa caucuses, candidate Bush was in Des Moines preparing to appear on ABC's ``This Week." One of those who was to question him (this columnist), not wanting to ambush him with unfamiliar material, and wanting from him a considered judgment, took the unusual step of telling Bush he would be asked if he agreed with a particular proposition from an opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas. The proposition, given to Bush on a 3-by-5 card, was: ``There is no constitutionally significant distinction between campaign contributions and expenditures. Both forms of speech are central to the First Amendment." Asked if he agreed that there is something ``inherently hostile to the First Amendment" in limiting participation in politics by means of contributions by individuals (Bush favors banning ``collective speech" by corporations, or by unions without members' prior written consent), he briskly replied: ``I agree." And asked if he thinks a president has a duty to make an independent judgment about the constitutionality of bills and to veto those he considers unconstitutional, he replied: ``I do." This puts Bush on a collision course with much of the political class and most of the media. It may become the first disruption of his serene relations with them, but there eventually must be a first, and the stake--the First Amendment--is worth a fight. Bush has served himself and the country well by his congeniality efforts, but he will serve neither by continuing them until it costs him respect. It will cost him that if he signs McCain-Feingold. Genius, said Bismarck, involves knowing when to stop. He had in mind waging war, but the same is true of waging niceness.