UPDATE: On reflection I realized that this post requires more than smarm. Is this position so unreasonable? There are, after all, certain things more fundamental to government than even constitutional principles, aren’t there? What good is a constitutional protection that is rendered meaningless by corrupt government? Many nation states have constitutions that promise the moon, but because government is operated by a single party or power bloc, or because police or politicians are so obviously corrupt, these promises are meaningless.
Presumably Senator McCain meant something along these lines. The problem is that he did not, and in my view cannot, make the argument that the U.S. is in the category of countries where government simply cannot function fairly because of corruption (at least of this sort). It merely operates in a way that he and others find frustrating, even noxious. Furthermore, his solution is an absurd, cynical joke, because it regulates the political speech — the purest First Amendment interest — of everyone except those in the media business, who already control the most powerful and influential speech of all. (In other words, “in kind contributions” by the New York Times are not regulated, but political advertising in the New York Times are.) There is no policy basis for such a distinction; in fact logic dictates that this is actually a bad policy, and that merely expressing frustration with the way things are is a mighty slender reed for abrogating the First Amendment.
In fact, the McCain-Feingold Anti-Sedition Act actually gives more power to the one political power bloc–the mainstream media–that at once has elected itself to a branch of government (“the fourth estate”) and yet which recognizes neither check nor balance on its power.
But perhaps we’re wrong about this, in which case hopefully two things will happen. One is that the new Supreme Court will, as we fervently hope, reverse the perverse rulings upholding this law. And the second is that the good Senator will put the issue before the people and put his name on a proposed Constitutional amendment to actually and explicitly curtail the First Amendment in favor of “clean government” and, as we have said, a mainstream media monopoly on expression — and the democratic debate, and process, can work as intended.