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Campaign reform counter-punch

By Bruce Walker
web posted February 18, 2002

President Bush should take the long, meandering silliness of "campaign finance reform" and counter-punch. First, the President should note that the George Washington, whose birth we celebrate this month, considered the only proper use of the presidential veto to prevent unconstitutional laws.

Then the President should say that he truly believes that this law, however popular, violates the Constitution. If its proponents want to amend the Constitution, then President Bush should offer his help in formulating a good amendment, which he will then support. But without an amendment, any reform will well run the risk of being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, and so accomplish nothing. He should ask respected historians and jurists whether they believe this is constitutional, and cite their support.

Will the President's veto be sustained? Easily. There are so many safe Republican seats in the House of Representatives that even if this issue cost Republicans nominal control of the House of Representatives - which it would not - the political fallout would not reduce the number of loyal conservative Republicans below about 210 seats, more than enough to sustain any veto).

A gutsy veto vigorously defended will also put his opponents on the defensive and remind them that they must deal with him. That is an important point not only for this issue but for a raft of issues he will face over the next seven years. Once Democrats understand that he will take tough stands and that he holds most of the federal power, then he can begin to accomplish other things.

No one but Washington insider really care about "campaign finance reform" and all the weird polls that are presented as "proof" of this will alter this reality. Americans care first about their safety in a dangerous world, and if terrorism seems to have fallen down a bit right now, that is only because we are not battling the axis of evil as conspicuously now. Democrats who do not openly support the President on these issues are dead ducks.

Next, however, the President should go on the attack and bluntly tell the American people that this whole manufactured issue is the product of power hungry liberal elitists who wish to shut up the people. He has been conspicuously carrying around a copy of BIAS, the best seller by Bernard Goldberg, and now is the time - in conjunction with a veto - for the President to say that multi-billion dollar corporations effectively provide Democrats with an ongoing political campaigns.

The President should also remind Americans that there is nothing wrong with partisan press. When print media was the primary means of informing the public, newspapers were typically considered partisan. The names of some very old newspapers still very much alive and kicking show the political party affiliation of the American news media: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Democrat Missourian, Brown County Democrat, Decatur County Democrat, News Democrat & Leader, Foster's Daily Democrat, Bureau County Republican and the Times-Republican.

Can purported campaign finance reform put these newspapers out of business or make them a form of regulated political contribution? This is exactly what the First Amendment was intended to prevent. No serious person considers these overtly partisan newspapers - so much a part of American political history - to be a danger to good government. Quite the contrary, their very openness is much more honest and decent that the deliberately misleading names liberals choose for everything they subvert.

The President should invite the editors and publishers of these small, independent, and partisan newspapers to the White House and thank them for their honor and their work to make political debate open and honest. Schedule a conference of these small "Democrat" and "Republican" newspapers, and highlight the noble causes they have championed. Many of these date back to the 1840s, and the tough editors and reporters of these small newspapers were often the voice of conscience in our political history.

Compare publicly the courage of these old, small newspapers with the craven corporate groupthink of the major networks. Ask how long it took these newspapers to cover the Gary Condit story, and mock the obvious partisanship of the ostensibly non-partisan Dan Rather. Make the real villains of campaign finance reform - giant conglomerates which reach into information, entertainment, and other types of manipulation of public opinion - the focus of attention.

Proclaim that the power of the press was intended to preserve the voices of average citizens and small businesses, and not grant a legal monopoly to a few giant corporations. The President should say that he will consider a law which limits what private citizens can do in the political arena with their money only if the bosses of those giant corporations will appear under oath to ask questions about how they decide to present the news and if the records of these corporations are made open for public inspection by the FBI and the Anti-Trust Division of the Department of Justice.

Hold up a copy of BIAS and say: "The American people are entitled to answers from corporate America about the charges made in this book. Corporations who want to take away the First Amendment rights of private citizens need to first explain why we should trust them with a legal monopoly on political speech. The First Amendment was not made for the benefit of a few men who control vast corporate empires, but for you and for the average small town newspaper like the Brown County Democrat or the Bureau County Republican."

Will this make liberal elitists hate him more? Sure, and that may make some conservatives skittish (didn't they "bring down Nixon"?). No, Nixon brought down Nixon. The slings and arrows of the left never dented President Reagan, and they hurt former President Bush only when he paid attention to them.

The President is strongest when he is not mincing words and when he is expressing what the vast majority of us know and believe. Liberal bias in the media, academia, institutions, and entertainment is not "news" and it is the very heart of the problems around which campaign finance reform revolves. There are countless flagrant examples he and his advisors can cite. The President should veto the bill and begin the battle against a dishonest and powerful liberal establishment. It is a battle he can win, and it is a battle America must win.

Bruce Walker is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right. He is also a frequent contributor to The Pragmatist and The Common Conservative.

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