Jewish World Review Jan. 5, 2000 /26 Teves, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- The war of words between Sen. John McCain and conservative activists is heating up. In attacking movement stalwart Grover Norquist, McCain has made the type of strategic blunder an Annapolis graduate should know enough to avoid.
Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, is running TV spots in New Hampshire blasting the Arizonan's campaign-finance proposal. The ads note that Clinton, Gore and big labor all love McCain-Feingold because it would work to their advantage.
In responding -- besides its chronic complaint about only "Washington lobbyists" opposing the measure -- the McCain campaign added a nasty twist, charging that Norquist is a "registered agent for the Marxist president of the Republic of the Seychelles (islands located in the Indian Ocean)."
Norquist replies, "I represented the Seychelles briefly after democratic elections, which I worked with the democratic party in exile to secure. I have never represented a Marxist."
In September, The National Right to Life Committee, National Rifle Association, National Right to Work Committee, American Conservative Union and Christian Coalition joined Norquist's group in denouncing McCain-Feingold at a New Hampshire press conference.
These organizations, representing millions of grass-roots members, are convinced the bill would effectively bar them from advertising on their issues.
McCain-Feingold blocks advocacy groups from running ads that mention a candidate or officeholder by name within 60 days of an election, unless they follow all of the rules for political action committees, including making they donor lists public and not taking more than $5,000 annually from individual contributors.
If they don't reorganize as PACs, the bill would stop them from such appeals at any time if the ad was of value to a candidate and they had been in communication with him. Since groups like the NRA regularly talk to legislators, urging them to vote for or against specific bills, this is another trip wire that would compel advocacy groups to become PACs.
By making their donor lists public, the groups would be surrendering their most valuable asset. The $5,000 limit on individual donations would make fund raising infinitely harder. Thus, the real purpose of these provisions is to effectively prohibit issue groups from commenting on politicians.
Is it surprising that every Senate Democrat supports McCain-Feingold? With the exception of five of the most liberal Republicans, every GOP senator is opposed.
Like Senate Democrats, the media are excited by the prospect of crippling the opposition. Media patronage -- including editorial endorsements and favorable coverage for a candidate or cause -- is worth millions of dollars.
The right must outspend the left just to overcome the latter's media advantage.
"I can't hold a press conference two weeks before the election and say, 'These candidates signed the taxpayers' pledge (a commitment not to raise taxes) and these didn't.' The media won't cover it," Norquist comments. "On the other hand, they find everything the pro-abortion movement does fascinating and will report on it in detail."
Norquist speculates: "There's a reason why liberal columnists and editorial pages that hate McCain's pro-life and pro-gun positions admire him. They know that the pro-life and pro-Second Amendment activists will be silenced and later crushed if McCain (campaign reform) triumphs."
Instead of responding to arguments with smears, the McCain camp would be better off ignoring conservative criticism.
As long as McCain-Feingold is vaguely understood as an effort to stop bad "special interests" from "buying elections," the public favors it. But when conservatives who dominate the early Republican primaries understand its impact on the issues they care about most, both the legislation and its principal sponsor lose their luster.
If he could, McCain would go much further than his signature legislation. On Dec. 22, the senator told The Associated Press, "If I could think of a way constitutionally, I would ban negative ads" -- by anyone at anytime. "Negative" is here defined as critical of a politician.
Is McCain running for president of the United States, or Reich's
chancellor? If he could find a way around the First Amendment, would he ban
negative political columns,