Monday, August 23, 2004

Not quite burning the Reichstag, yet...

Utterly outrageous. John Kerry doesn't seem all that bothered by the attack dogs at MoveOn or by Moore the Mendacious, but he wants the FEC to silence the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, claiming they are coordinating with the Bush White House.

The SwiftVets are saying that Kerry is unfit to be Commander in Chief. His response is to attempt to use the machinery of government to silence his critics. It's just as many had feared: McCain-Feingold would not reform the election process, but it would abridge freedom of speech.

In this instance. what everyone ought to ask themself is: If candidate Kerry doesn't hesitate to use the coercive power of the state to silence his critics, then to what extent would President Kerry be willing to go in that regard? Three and a half years into a Kerry presidency, how could anyone criticize the man or his policies without being called a Republican front group and shut down on that basis? Who would complain of such an arrangement, without being silenced themselves merely for calling attention to it?

True, this is just about fining the SwiftVets initially, but a lawsuit can follow. The problem is not the degree of the threat to free expression but the nature of it: government alone may decide if government has overstepped the bounds of the Constitution and ceased to be accountable to the people. The people may petition the government for redress of grievances... as long as the Federal Elections Commission doesn't deem them politically affiliated. One given to cynicism might even evision a future president deliberately precipitating a Constitutional crisis in the executive branch merely to draw out the political opposition and put them down.

Now I am neither a lawyer nor a Constitutional expert. What it looks like to this layman, bottom line, is that John Kerry wants to use political affiliation --real or imagined-- to be the criterion of who may speak in an election season. His pledge to uphold and defend the Constitution would be nuanced, to be sure.