Gary Harmon Column October 23, 2008

John Obama, Barack McCain see civil liberties the same way

It’s still a hot contest, this presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain.

Each side takes pains to draw distinctions from the other.

McCain, with some justice, calls Obama a socialist.

Obama, with some justice, says McCain represents tired old ways that need to be changed.

But when it comes to civil liberties, this race might as well be between John Obama and Barack McCain.

Based on their track records, the only thing that’s clear about the future is that the flowering of dissent that took root in recent years will wither and die come Jan. 20, either way.

Dissent, as we are oft, if inexactly, reminded, is the highest form of patriotism.

Come the new regime, that statement will become, in its own memorable Nixonian fashion, inoperative.

McCain is the proud author of the McCain-Feingold system that has muzzled and muddled political speech beyond all recognition of the First Amendment.

The simple, direct approach envisioned by the framers — “Vote for me because ...” — has been reduced to the cartoonish image of a candidate saying something and then telling you he approved the message.

Strange creatures called 527s, organizations so identified for the section of the IRS code under which they are established, are better camouflaged than a chameleon, all thanks to John McCain.

The idea was supposedly to reduce the influence of money in politics. There’s a strange justice to
McCain being the second dog in a billion-dollar presidential race of his own creation.

Barack Obama has shown himself to be no more reliable on the prime civil right.

Not content to threaten broadcasters that dared interview prominent Obama critics who drew unwanted attention to Obama’s relationship to domestic terrorist William Ayers, Obama has gone a step further.

He wants the Justice Department to prosecute leakers who told reporters that the FBI was looking into voter fraud by a grass-roots organization called ACORN, which, perhaps not coincidentally, once hired Obama as a lawyer.

Geez, that’s the kind of thing one would expect from the anti-civil-rights Bush administration.

That’s the same administration that, by the way, still can’t bring itself to prosecute leakers of national secrets.

Obama suffers from no such compunctions. He’s sending a strong signal that those who get in his way will have hell to pay, First Amendment or not.

Some might find comfort in knowing that Obama knows how to take the gloves off, even if it’s just on his domestic opponents.

Now if he could summon up a proper cold fury for those who kill his countrymen, he might be on to something.

Barack McCain, John Obama, either one will sign new laws requiring fairness or neutrality as a bulwark against precisely the kind of programming that has bedeviled each of them.

Not far behind will be monitoring of those unfair Web sites. Pick a side. They both have several, maybe hundreds, they’d like to see shut down. And what better way to do that than in the name of “fairness” or “neutrality?”

Today, you can go to the theater and see “W.,” a none-too-flattering portrayal of the sitting president.

If given the chance, neither John Obama nor Barack McCain will stand for that.


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