Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review April 13, 2001 / 20 Nissan, 5761

George Will

George Will
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Liberalism: The thrill of being startled by the unanticipated? -- WHAT is liberalism's appeal? Surely less its plausibility than the surprises it provides. Liberals constantly experience the excitement of the unexpected, the thrill of being startled by the unanticipated -- if only by them -- consequences of their actions.

After Senate passage of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill became a foregone conclusion, The Post, which adores the bill, carried this front-page headline: "Campaign Bill Could Shift Power Away From Parties." Could? McCain-Feingold would ban soft money contributions to political parties, so of course money diverted from that channel will flow into unblocked channels. The Post considers this news?

Do reformers consider this progress? Since when? Not long ago political action committees were the root of all evil -- refusing PAC contributions was, indeed still is, a form of moral grandstanding by some candidates.

Disregard the rhetoric by McCain-Feingold enthusiasts about their bill curing the "problem" of "too much money in politics." Here are two safe bets: There will be more money spent in the 2001-2002 off-year election cycle than was spent in 1997-1998, and more spent in 2003-2004 than in 1999-2000.

The realistic way to reduce the amount of money in politics is to reduce the amount of politics in money -- the importance of government in allocating wealth and opportunity. Does The Post advocate less government as a path to less political money? No.

The day after The Post's story, the New York Times, a McCain-Feingold zealot, trumpeted this "news": "Campaign Finance Overhaul May Enhance Influence of Big Political Action Committees" May? This is not a close call.

Alighting upon the obvious with a self-congratulatory sense of original discovery, the Times reports that "suddenly, the large labor groups, corporations, trade associations and ideological organizations that funnel their political largess through PACs may find that they are the largest players on the field because their soft-money competitors can no longer participate." Then the Times, constantly liberal and thus incessantly surprised, used the U-word, "unexpected": "The prospect that PACs will become only more influential marks an unexpected turn because for years those committees were portrayed as the villains."

If McCain-Feingold becomes law, by next year liberals, and McCain, will be describing PACs the way they describe all sources of political communication not yet rationed by regulations -- as "loopholes" to be closed. They will propose closing the loophole by banning (their favorite word) PACs, or narrowing the loophole by, say, limiting the proportion of a candidate's contributions that PACs can provide.

Three days after that Times story, the lead story in Roll Call, the newspaper that covers Congress, was headlined: "Soft-Money PACs Banned." Do tell.

More than 40 House and Senate members operate so-called "leadership PACs" funded by soft money. But some members seem to have been too busy praising McCain-Feingold to read that bill. While voting for its ban on soft-money fundraising by the national party committees, they neglected to read what Roll Call calls "a little-noticed provision" prohibiting federal legislators or candidates for federal office from raising unregulated money for their PACs.

Roll Call -- written, mind you, for professional legislators and their staffs -- says dryly: "That came as news to some Senate leaders who have opened leadership political action committees that operate outside of federal regulations." On March 19, the day debate on the bill began, Joseph Lieberman, a McCain-Feingold supporter, filed papers with the Federal Election Commission for his new leadership PAC. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, who says "the Senate passed a good bill," recently launched a soft-money PAC. Senators and representatives might have assumed, understandably, that they would be exempt from a soft-money ban because Congress has often exempted itself from regulations it imposes on others.

The governors' associations of both parties have been funded substantially by soft money. Both parties' conventions are funded in part by ad hoc entities that raise large amounts of soft money that may or may not be affected by McCain-Feingold. Now what?

Common Cause, the League of Women Voters and many of the other liberal lobbies backing McCain-Feingold candidly say that it is inadequate, other than as a step toward public funding of all campaigns. That is, a system in which the only permissible political communication by parties and candidates would be what the government pays for.

If McCain-Feingold becomes law, liberals (and McCain, a conservative infected by liberalism's faith that good intentions, cleverly codified, can scrub the naughtiness from this fallen world) will soon demand more reforms to correct the unanticipated (by them) consequences of their reforms. That, too, is part of liberalism's appeal: It provides steady work.

Comment on JWR contributor George Will's column by clicking here.


04/10/01: Enduring Arthur Miller: Oh, the Humanities!
04/06/01: Reading China
03/30/01: The Senate's Comic Opera
03/26/01: A second decade of economic trouble?
03/22/01: McCainism, the McCarthyism of today's "progressives"
03/19/01: Skirting what the First Amendment says
03/16/01: The SAT's thankless task
03/12/01: Fending Off the Speech Police
03/08/01: Democrat turnabout?
03/05/01: Let us hope not!
03/01/01: Duck! Our racial and ethnic spoils system is spinning out of control
02/26/01: Common Sense and the Constitution
02/22/01: Brooklyn's Artsy Dodgers
02/20/01: Whose surplus is it, anyway?
02/16/01: A truly inclusive holiday
02/12/01: Within the realm of Bush's tax cut
02/08/01: A season spoiled
02/05/01: Keeping faith behind initiatives
02/01/01: Tall order for a few federal dollars
01/29/01: You ain't seen nothin' yet
01/26/01: 'Art' Unburdened by Excellence
01/22/01: The monkey that could mean the end
01/19/01: The real enemy in the drug war
01/15/01: Congress just isn't big enough
01/12/01: Clinton's mark
01/08/01: All that is jazz
01/04/01: Bush's picks reveal Right attitude
01/02/01: Prosperity in perspective
12/28/00: Soft landing in a spoiled nation
12/26/00: When laws replace common sense
12/21/00: Beware the 'Bipartisanship'
12/18/00: ... A Brief Moment
12/13/00: Judicial activism on trial
12/11/00: Truth optional
12/06/00: A Chastened Court
12/01/00: Counting on some slippery language
11/28/00: Florida's rogue court
11/27/00: This willful court
11/22/00: Ferocity gap
11/17/00: Slow-motion larceny
11/13/00: Gore, Hungry for Power
11/09/00: No, the System Worked
11/06/00: The case for Bush
11/03/00: The Framers' Electoral wisdom
10/30/00: Political astronomy
10/27/00: Candidates condescending
10/23/00: No Partners For Peace
10/20/00: Talking peace with thugs
10/11/00: A feast of retreats
10/10/00: .. And what's gotten into the Danes?
10/05/00: The Agony of Debate
10/02/00: Senate Canvas
09/28/00: Milosevic: Not Another Saddam
09/25/00: Blaming the Voters
09/22/00: Saying No to the Euro
09/18/00: Farewell, Mr. Moynihan
09/14/00: When 'Choice' Rules
09/12/00: Colombia Illusions
09/08/00: Will He Spend It All?
09/04/00: Back in the U.S.S.R.
08/31/00: Stonewalling School Reform
08/28/00: Uphill for a California Republican
08/24/00: Sauerkraut Ice Cream
08/21/00: The Partial-Birth Censors
08/18/00: A Party to Prosperity
08/14/00: The National Scold on the Stump
08/10/00: The Thinking Person's Choice
08/07/00: The GOP of Powell And Rice
08/03/00: Panic in the Gore Camp
07/27/00: . . . Both Radical and Reassuring
07/06/00: Harry Potter: A Wizard's Return
07/03/00: Recalling the Revolution
06/29/00: An Act of Judicial Infamy
06/26/00: Life, Liberty and ... the Pursuit of Foxes
06/21/00: Fumble on Prayer
06/19/00: The unified field theory of culture
06/15/00: Schools Beset by Lawyers And Shrinks
06/12/00: Missile Defense Charade
06/07/00: The Grandparent Dissent
06/05/00: Liberal Condescension
06/01/00: Great Awakenings
05/30/00: Suddenly Social Security
05/25/00: Forget Values, Let's Talk Virtues
05/22/00: AlGore the Hysteric
05/15/00: Majestic Avenue
05/11/00: Just How Irrational Is the Exuberance?
05/08/00: Home-Run Glut
05/04/00: A Lesson Plan for Gore
05/01/00: The Hijacking of the Primaries
04/28/00: The Raid in Little Havana
04/24/00: Tinkering Again
04/17/00: A Judgment Against Hate
04/13/00: Tech- Stock Joy Ride
04/10/00: What the bobos are buying
04/06/00: A must-read horror book
04/03/00: 'Improving' the Bill of Rights
03/30/00: Sleaze, The Sequel
03/27/00: How new 'rights' will destroy freedom
03/23/00: Death and the Liveliest Writing
03/20/00: Powell is Dubyah's best bet
03/16/00: Free to Be Politically Intense
03/13/00: Runnin', Gunnin' and Gambling
03/09/00: And Now Back to Republican Business
03/06/00: As the Clock Runs Out on Bradley
03/02/00: Island of Equal Protection
02/28/00: . . . The Right Response
02/24/00: Federal Swelling
02/22/00: Greenspan Tweaks
02/17/00: Crucial Carolina (and Montana and . . .)
02/10/00: McCain's Distortions
02/10/00: The Disciplining of Austria
02/07/00: Free to Speak, Free to Give
02/02/00: Conservatives in a Changing Market
01/31/00: America's true unity day
01/27/00: For the Voter Who Can't Be Bothered
01/25/00: The FBI and the golden age of child pornography
01/20/00: Scruples and Science
01/18/00: Bradley: Better for What Ails Us
01/13/00: O'Brian Rules the Waves
01/10/00: Patron of the boom
01/06/00: In Cactus Jack's Footsteps
01/03/00: The long year
12/31/99: A Stark Perspective On a Radical Century
12/20/99: Soldiers' Snapshots of the Hell They Created
12/16/99: Star-Crossed Banner
12/13/99: Hubert Humphrey Wannabe
12/09/99: Stupidity in Seattle
12/06/99: Bradley's most important vote
12/03/99: Boys will be boys --- or you can always drug 'em
12/01/99: Confidence in the Gore Camp
11/29/99: Busing's End
11/22/99: When We Enjoyed Politics
11/18/99: Ever the Global Gloomster
11/15/99: The Politics of Sanctimony
11/10/99: Risks of Restraining
11/08/99: Willie Brown Besieged
11/04/99: One-House Town
11/01/99: Crack and Cant
10/28/99: Tax Break for the Yachting Class
10/25/99: Ready for The Big Leagues?
10/21/99: Where honor and responsibility still exist
10/18/99: Is Free Speech Only for the Media?
10/14/99: A Beguiling Amateur
10/11/99: Money in Politics: Where's the Problem?
10/08/99: Soft Thinking On Soft Money

© 2000, Washington Post Writer's Group