George Will

``More and more, it is meant to regulate any money with the potential of influencing elections; and so any unregulated but influential money, in whichever way its influence is felt or achieved, is unfair. This explains the hand-wringing horror with which the reform community approached the Internet's fast-growing use and limitless potential.''

This is why the banner of ``campaign reform'' is no longer waved only by insurgents from outside the political establishment. Washington's most powerful people carry the banner: Led by Speaker Dennis Hastert, and with the president's approval, the Republican-controlled House recently voted to cripple the ability of citizens' groups called 527s (named after the provision of the tax code under which they are organized) to conduct independent advocacy that Washington's ruling class considers ``unfair.''

Which highlights the stark contradiction in McCain's doctrine and the media's applause of it. He and they assume, simultaneously, the following two propositions:

Proof that incumbent politicians are highly susceptible to corruption is the fact that the government they control is shot through with it. Yet that government should be regarded as a disinterested arbiter, untainted by politics and therefore qualified to regulate the content, quantity and timing of speech in campaigns that determine who controls the government. In the language of McCain's Imus   appearance, the government is very much not ``clean,'' but is so clean it can be trusted to regulate speech about itself.

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?

McCain told Imus that he would, if necessary, sacrifice ``quote First Amendment rights'' to achieve ``clean'' government. If on Jan. 20, 2009, he were to swear to defend the Constitution, would he be thinking that the oath refers only to ``the quote Constitution''? And what would that mean?


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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