Friday, July 25, 2008

John McCain: Steve Huntley on the High Costs of Free Speech

Steve Huntley, the Last Man Standing, at the Chicago Sun Times Opinion and Thought Gallery offers an insight to the basic problem with American reform initiatives - weasels find wiggle room. Is cash donated to political campaigns 'free speech' or private property? I tend to hold with the later point of view. It seems to me that if a candidate can make a compelling case to an individual as well as group-think entity, what's wrong with that individual giving as much as he or she wishes?

Critics argue that the media like campaign finance regulations -- and some of the biggest newspapers editorialize in favor of "reform" -- because they restrict private speech while the press remains unfettered in its expression of political views and news.

That would seem to be the case now. One study found that since June, Obama figured prominently in 78 percent of news stories and McCain in only 51 percent. Another analysis found the big TV networks devoted more than twice as much coverage to the presumptive Democratic nominee as to the Republican contender.

I don't know whether any of this is changing McCain's views on campaign finance "reform," but it should. Money remains the handmaiden of political discourse. He has been at a severe disadvantage in fund-raising in comparison with Obama's success, especially with small donations. If McCain had access to big contributions from the wealthy -- yes, Republicans include many successful, rich entrepreneurs and executives -- he might have been able to turn to them for a major infusion of cash to finance an ad blitz to counter the media blitz for Obama.

The uneven press coverage hasn't been lost on the public. A poll by Rasmussen Reports found 49 percent of voters think reporters will try to help Obama. That's up from 44 percent only a month ago.

With our profession not held in the highest regard by the public, editors, reporters and broadcasters should pay attention to those numbers. Not that poll numbers should drive news coverage. But a fully covered election requires balance. And it calls for a critical look at both candidates. The news media might recall the recriminations that erupted over their perceived failure in 2002-03 to take a critical look at the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq.

Click my post title for Steve Huntley's great thought piece.

No comments: