Jacob Sullum

Instead of addressing the merits of this dangerously misguided precedent, critics of last week's decision, like censors throughout history, worried that freedom of speech would have bad consequences. "It gives the special interest lobbyists new leverage to spend millions on advertising to persuade elected officials to vote their way -- or to punish those who don't," Obama warned. "Any public servant who has the courage to stand up to the special interests and stand up for the American people can find himself or herself under assault come election time."

It was a bit rich for Obama to bemoan the influence of "special interests" the same week Massachusetts voters expressed their anger over bailouts he enthusiastically supported, the week after he cut a deal that exempted union members from a tax everyone else would have to pay, around the same time he was bragging about a spending binge that has stimulated lobbying more than the economy and in the midst of his attempt to salvage health care legislation backed by big corporations.

In any case, democracy is a clash of interests, which we call "special" when we don't like the policies they support, and the election-time "assault" of Obama's nightmares is nothing more than public criticism of politicians.

Obama and other supporters of restrictions on political speech believe voters can't handle clashing versions of the truth, that they need to be shielded, in the name of democracy, from messages that would otherwise mesmerize them into doing the bidding of "powerful interests." The Framers thought otherwise, and that's why we have the First Amendment.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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