George Will’s revisionism

WillGeorge Will’s column today ostensibly describes obstacles blocking Lindsey Graham’s path to the Republican Presidential nomination. But it’s really an attack on Hillary Clinton. Will criticizes the South Carolina Senator for agreement with Clinton on two important issues: her strong support, as Secretary of State, for intervention in Libya in February and March 2011 and the anti-democratic implications of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision which reversed nearly all restrictions on campaign financing.

Will’s column contains glaring errors that undermine his criticisms of Graham (and Clinton).  Regarding the decision to bomb Gaddafi’s forces as they steamed towards east Libya, Will characterizes it as a “protracted assassination attempt” that led to disaster.  In fact, the administration deployed forces because it feared that Gaddafi was likely to massacre hundreds of thousands in Benghazi for supporting regime change and briefly liberating the city.

Will can’t be bothered to mention this inarguably humanitarian motive.  He might respond that insurgents (and the President) overstated the threat of mass slaughter.  But Human Rights Watch’s Tom Malinowsky, a critic of the Obama Administration’s use of drones to kill people in Yemen, defended the decision as “preventing” an atrocity.

Will’s second mistake is equally clear.  He describes the rationale behind Citizens United as a simple recognition “that Americans do not forfeit their First Amendment rights when they join together to magnify their political speech.”  The most significant effect of Citizens United is that corporations can spend virtually unlimited amounts of money to advocate specific political positions – generally positions that one candidate for office supports and his or her opponent opposes.

Contrary to Will’s assertion, campaign finance laws have never deprived any corporate officer or founder of First Amendment rights.  Through laws struck down by Citizens United, legislators were attempting to limit the ability of top managers to wield corporate money (not their own) in ways that fundamentally distort the political process.  Moreover, corporations are not formed by individuals seeking to magnify their voice in politics.  They are formed by people seeking to get rich.

Simply put, Will’s factual and logical errors render his column worthless.

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9 Responses to George Will’s revisionism

  1. jeff linder says:

    Why does the New York Times Company, a corporation, get to spend unlimited money in support of a candidate?

    I propose that Corporations be limited in how much newsprint they can buy, and how many visits they can have to their website on a given day. I also propose that TV networks and radio stations be limited to 5 minutes of news a day and they can’t support a candidate or any political position.

  2. halginsberg says:

    Jeff – Is the New York Times Corporation drowning out other opinions or are there lots of other newspapers even in New York City like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post presenting diametrically opposing views? Is the NYT overwhelming the voice of poor, working, and middle-income Americans the way corporate super-PAC money is?

  3. jeff linder says:

    Hal, I can’t seem to recall any wording in the 1st amendment that mentions “drowning out”. Could you point that part out to the less enlightened? I’ll copy it right here so it will be easier for you to point out:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

  4. halginsberg says:

    Jeff – to your specific point, the Constitution guarantees “freedom of speech”. That guarantee is worthless if the speech is unheard because those spending more money overwhelm it. To my general point, do you have any concern for those whose circumstances render them figuratively mute? After all there are no poor billionaires are there? Do you care that those who don’t have billions can’t effectively be heard unless a billionaire decides to amplify their voice?

  5. jeff linder says:

    Hal – Since you were unable to show us where “drowning out” is mentioned in the first amendment. Does that mean you couldn’t? As to your point…can you point to the part of the first amendment that guarantees all speech must be heard? Can you point out where some speech must be suppressed so that other speech can be heard? By that standard the New York Times MUST be limited in its distribution because they are drowning out the Queens Tribune and the New York Observer.

    Would you like me to post the 1st amendment again? You can use HTML tags to highlight the parts you’re alluding to…or you could just quote them.

    • halginsberg says:

      Well, we disagree as to whether the Constitution protects CEOs who direct millions of corporate funds to defeat any particular candidate. I won’t convince you that it doesn’t. So be it. Now can you answer my question: “Do you find it problematic that those who don’t have billions can’t effectively be heard unless a billionaire decides to amplify their voice?”

      • jeff linder says:

        Disagree? You can’t point to ANYTHING in the 1st amendment that supports your reasoning as to why you think its OK to restrict speech. OK.
        In answer to you inane question. No. Just as I don’t have a problem with the New York Time drowning out the voice of the Queens Tribune.

        • halginsberg says:

          Jeff – you say that “freedom of speech” means that corporate chieftains can spend millions of the company’s (not their) money on elections. Where is that in the Constitution? Also, you set up a false equivalency. The NYT doesn’t stop the Queen’s Tribune from publishing. But when billionaires bid up and buy up all the air time on radio and TV stations, mere millionaires as well as the hoi polloi are left on the sidelines. Why doesn’t that bother you? Is it because you believe only billionaires are suited to rule?

  6. jeff linder says:

    Hal do you need a civics lesson? The constitution doesn’t address what the people can and can’t do. The constitution is a document that cedes powers to the government and also sets prohibitions on what the government can do. So of course its not in the Constitution. The constitution doesn’t give you the right to put peanut butter on ice cream either. Now there is also another amendment…the ninth. I suggest you read that too:

    “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

    I also would suggest you familiarize yourself with FEC regulations regarding the price media outlets are allowed to charge for air time. Section 73.1942 [47 CFR §73.1942] and Section 76.205 [47 CFR §76.205].

    So…what excuse are you going to present next in order to justify your desire to silence people you don’t agree with?

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