The margin of victory in the 2008 presidential race was so wide — and the election of Barack Obama so historic — that we rarely stop to imagine what it would have been like were we now well into the third year of John McCain’s presidency.
Needless to say, we’d be better off on a wide variety of fronts. McCain, a consistent fiscal hawk, not only wouldn’t have indulged in a record-setting debt binge like Barack Obama, he may well have made a serious run at entitlement reform. And as a stalwart advocate for a strong national defense, it seems overwhelmingly obvious that McCain would have taken a harder line with Iran than the “diplomacy at all costs” approach embraced by the Obama Administration.
In other areas, however, McCain would have been an utter nightmare. Can anyone imagine how one of the namesakes of the McCain-Feingold political speech law would have reacted to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision? Based on this report from the New York Times, it may have been even worse than Obama:
In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama roundly criticized the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, arguing that it had “reversed a century of law.” That practically sounds like a hymn of praise compared to what Senator John McCain had to say on “Meet the Press” this weekend. He called Citizens United: “arrogant, uninformed, naïve.” …
“I think there will be scandals associated with the worst decision of the United States Supreme Court in the 21st century,” he said. Referring to the justices on the Court, he added, “I just wish one of them had run for county sheriff.”
This was on the heels of McCain criticizing casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s contributions to Republican causes, saying that the fact that he owns a gaming facility in Macau could mean that “foreign money is coming into American political campaigns.”
This serves as one more reminder that, as McCain himself essentially told us four years ago, he’s basically an economic illiterate. Someone with foreign business interests donating to a political campaign is subversive of the integrity of domestic elections? Does Merrill Lynch, McCain’s biggest donor in 2008, only invest in domestic entities? Does Fed-Ex, another major donor, only ship within the 50 states? Since the obvious answer is no, how was McCain able to escape the corrupting influence of foreign money?
The point here is not to hammer those companies; quite the contrary. They were completely within their rights to give political donations, as is Adelson. The point is that McCain’s fetish for regulating political speech is both hypocritical and inimical to a free society. Giving government the power to regulate what free citizens may say about the government (and when and where they may say it) is a fundamental threat to liberty.
On this one front, at least, we can be happy that McCain was never able to bring the powers of the White House to bear.