Tuesday, August 24, 2004

BUSH GETS A PASS Here's George W. Bush yesterday (via Digby):
QUESTION: But why won't you denounce the charges that your supporters are making against Kerry?

BUSH: I'm denouncing all the stuff being on TV, all the 527s. That's what I've said.

I said this kind of unregulated soft money is wrong for the process. And I asked Senator Kerry to join me in getting rid of all that kind of soft money, not only on TV, but to use for other purposes as well.

I, frankly, thought we'd gotten rid of that when I signed the McCain-Feingold bill. I thought we were going to once and for all get rid of a system where people could just pour tons of money in and not be held to account for the advertising.


BUSH: I don't think we ought to have 527s.

I can't be more plain about it. And I wish -- I hope my opponent joins me in saying -- condemning these activities of the 527s. It's -- I think they're bad for the system. That's why I signed the bill, McCain-Feingold.
Here's George W. Bush on McCain-Feingold at the bill's signing (via Atrios):
However, the bill does have flaws. Certain provisions present serious constitutional concerns. In particular, H.R. 2356 goes farther than I originally proposed by preventing all individuals, not just unions and corporations, from making donations to political parties in connection with Federal elections.

I believe individual freedom to participate in elections should be expanded, not diminished; and when individual freedoms are restricted, questions arise under the First Amendment.
What are we supposed to take away from this?

George W. Bush originally thought that McCain-Feingold (whatever its virtues) was overbroad--a threat to individual freedom. He now professes to believe that the law doesn't go far enough.

This kind of radical shift is important, newsworthy stuff.

Has the President's understanding of the First Amendment evolved? Is he planning legislation to ban advertising by 527s? Will he counsel other Republicans not to get invovled with these organizations?

White House reporter aren't likely, of course, to cover Bush's remarks from a policy angle. Even The New York Times--which fronts the story in today's editions--focuses just about exclusively on the anti-Kerry veterans context.

But the fact that we're in the middle of a campaign isn't the only reason Bush will get away with such a transparent contradiction: Part of the reason members of the press will give him a pass, surely, is that they don't believe he's truly in charge.

"He's just gone off the talking points," the thinking goes. "He doesn't really know what's going on. Better check with Scott McClellan for the 'official' line."

Sad but true. The lower the media's opinion of an officeholder's intellect, the more leeway the official has to play fast and loose with the facts.

Don't expect a President Kerry to get this kind wiggle room.

AND ANOTHER THING: It's difficult to pin a precise meaning on the following turn of phrase:

I asked Senator Kerry to join me in getting rid of all that kind of soft money.
Was this a slip? Is Bush suggesting--as he seems to be--that he's prepared to call off his dogs if Kerry would agree to do the same?

Isn't this an implicit admission that the Bushies and the anti-Kerry veterans are less independent of each other than the law requires?

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.