Paul Greenberg

Anthony M. Kennedy seems to have caught on. He's the associate justice and swing man of the U.S. Supreme Court who made a pertinent point when the court was hearing arguments for and against the government's attempt to keep an anti-Hillary Clinton docudrama from being shown shortly before the last election.

If the court is going to declare such an attempt to suppress free speech unconstitutional, asked Mr. Justice Kennedy, what does that say about the law on which it is based -- the McCain-Feingold law, aka the Campaign Reform Act?

"If we think the application of this [law] to a 90-minute film is unconstitutional," Mr. Justice Kennedy reasoned, quite correctly, "then the whole statute should fail."

To adapt a phrase from Professor 'Enry 'Iggins in "My Fair Lady," I think he's got it!

This whole abomination of a law needs to go -- and the First Amendment restored to its original, unstained beauty. The court's original sin was to approve the McCain-Feingold Act in the first place in the guise of an election reform.

This is supposed to be a free country. So what are we doing banning free speech when it's most needed -- just before supposedly free elections?

Under this law, Chief Justice John Roberts asked in his mischievous way, may Wal-Mart still sell an action figure of a candidate within 30 days of election?

Or will that section of the supercenter have to be closed off, like the beer and wine in Arkansas grocery stores on Sundays?

If a film can be banned just before an election, why not books? Or Amazon's virtual library, Kindle?

Quick, call the fire brigade from Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451," whose job it was to burn books. ("Monday burn Millay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, burn 'em to ashes, then burn the ashes. That's our official slogan.")

It's remarkable how quickly bad law becomes ridiculous law. McCain-Feingold has been an abomination since its inception, and now it's being applied to even more political speech. The thing just keeps on spreading, like an oil stain.

John McCain has made a number of heroic contributions to American politics and life, but this law isn't one of them. How in the world did he ever wind up sponsoring this monstrosity?

The only excuse I can come up with is that he got involved with bad company. Namely, the very epitome of liberal -- excuse me, progressive -- excess, Russ Feingold. Sen. Feingold's proposals regularly disappoint, but by now they no longer surprise.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


 

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