Jewish World Review August 30, 2004 / 13 Elul, 5764

Tucker Carlson

Tucker Carlson
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Here's a scary thought: Political expression has been criminalized and nobody seems to care | John Kerry and George W. Bush came to a rare point of agreement this week. Both agreed that the television ads attacking Kerry's Vietnam service are illegal, and ought to be pulled off the air.

Needless to say, there's some politics going on here. Kerry is being hurt by the content of the ads. Bush is being hurt by the perception he's behind them. Both have incentive to seem outraged. So far so ordinary.

But here's an amazing part: the ads really may be illegal. Under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act, certain political advertising is against the law. Those who run it may be subject to criminal penalties.

In other words, the government now explicitly controls who can speak during an election, and what they can say. And hardly anyone complains about it. Even the usual guardians of civil liberties — the ones who are so quick to defend the rights of Nazis and Hamas leaders — stare at their shoes when you bring it up.

You'll hear a lot of clever explanations for why banning political ads doesn't violate the first amendment: money isn't speech; special interests are corrupting the political process, and so on.

These may be serious points. But none of them changes the basic fact of it all: political expression has been criminalized. And that's scary.

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JWR contributor Tucker Carlson is a journalist, college instructor, public speaker and host and managing editor of the PBS show "Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered." His first book is "Politicians, Partisans, and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News."(Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) Comment by clicking here.

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© 2004, Tucker Carlson