Well, the guy who speaks Chinese is out, and the guys who talk trash showed up in force.
Debate #16. Which I’m not going to belabor here today. I’m going to use this post to belabor something else instead.
The debate was full of arguing. Real, acrimonious, barely civil arguing. (I don’t care what you think politically about Newt Gingrich; the man is a condescending, sanctimonious, know-it-all pr–k. And that’s not a word I ever use. Ever.) The stuff that’s been happening up until now? That was just warm-up. And I think it’s going to be worse this year than ever, because of two relatively small words.
It sounds so lovely, doesn’t it? Citizenship and unity? Kumbaya. Ha. Yeah. Not likely. Citizens United was the legal case that wound up in front of the Supreme Court in which that illustrious body decided that corporations were people and would be allowed to donate as much money as they wanted to support a candidate indirectly (i.e., not going straight into the candidate’s campaign coffers).
I thought only “liberal” judges were “activist.”
This was the decision, you may recall, that led to President Obama’s eyebrow-raising hand-slap of the Supreme Court during last year’s State of the Union speech. (That was the one in which a United States Congressman did not yell “You lie!” The You Lie speech was the year before.) But the reason the president upbraided the Court for making the decision is becoming oh, just so crystal clear now.
The Super-PAC. It’s going to become the thing you hate most about Campaign 2012, whether you know it or not.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to be a critical enough consumer in the next ten months to read that little print at the bottom of the TV commercials for or against any one candidate or the other. If it says “paid for by” anybody other than the name of a candidate, you’re being snowed by a PAC or a super-PAC. If you have to choose the more evil of the two, it, predictably, is the super-PAC. That’s the one that’s built of ridiculously high donations and contributions, largely from companies that won’t be listed at the bottom of the screen.
Comedy Central standout Stephen Colbert was not invited to last night’s debate in Myrtle Beach, hosted by Fox News Channel (again). But he is running for “president of South Carolina.” He saw a poll that said, even without his name in the race, he was ranked ahead of poor, sad Jon Huntsman in South Carolina. Recognizing the patent ridiculousness of that particular situation, and some other stuff, Huntsman dropped out of the race officially yesterday. I’m sad about that, because even though there was no chance he’d be the nominee, I’d enjoyed watching him develop as a campaigner and yelling at him to please, for the love of all that is holy, drive the point home about China owning so much American debt already. Alas, it is not to be. But Colbert (who is telling media outlets he’s formed an exploratory committee to be on the SC ballot) is doing his thing not to make a mockery of the system, but rather, quite the opposite. He’s doing it to make a point that super-PACs are damaging the already mangled political system in a big, big way.
If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you check out his breakdown of how a super-PAC, full of money and its own misguided virtue (regardless of whose side it’s on), can be run in veeeeerrrry close proximity to a candidate who is not technically allowed to talk to it. Like when your brother would stand with his finger an inch from you and chant, “I’m not touching yoouuuuu…” (First you have to understand that Colbert created his own legitimate super-PAC as the beginning of this point he’s making. And you have to know that some super-PACs are run by candidates’ former staffers.) It may be comedy, but it’s an accurate explanation of how it can legally work. And yes, that guy on the left really is Colbert’s lawyer.
Upshot: super-PACs can say anything they want, about anyone they want, while giving the candidate they purport to back a complete pass on responsibility for the content because they’re not legally allowed to be involved in the ad. And when I say “anything,” I don’t just mean they can put a nasty negative spin on true stuff. I mean they can literally say whatever they want. They can make it up entirely, should they care to court libel law. And nobody can stop them. Even if they did draw a lawsuit, the message would have already been out – that’s the only way the lawsuit could be filed. Begging forgiveness instead of asking permission. And the stations and channels that run the ads are prohibited by FCC law from altering the ads. Remember the anti-Dukakis Willie Horton ads of 1988? It’ll be worse than that.
Are you pickin’ up what I’m layin’ down, here?
Super-PACs are awful. Regardless of who the ad is for or against. Nothing is off-limits. The only thing that reins them in is the judgment of their own people.
And whose fault is it? Not the candidates’. Not really. We all know they’re in it to win, but they don’t totally love the concept of these groups because A) it makes them look like terrible people when an ad from one of their super-PACs runs; and 2) they don’t want to see anyone else run an ad like that against them. They have already – all of them – spent so much time explaining or defending or disavowing what a given super-PAC ad says that it drove a major portion of last night’s debate. Mitt Romney said flat-out that he’d love to get rid of super-PACs entirely. Everyone has said (publicly) that if an ad contains falsehoods it should be removed – but they can’t demand the removal because they’re not allowed to coordinate with the super-PACs. So it’s really not their fault.
It’s the Supreme Court’s fault.
“Corporations are people.” This is what that means.
This is why it’s increasingly important to be informed. Watch the real candidates and listen to what they say. C-SPAN TV and radio are great for this. It’s unedited, so you get the full context. Check out the candidates’ websites, but remember they’re biased and spin-crazy. Read credible sources instead of just the first thing that pops up on Google. Read a lot of stuff, so you get a better overall sense. Read my Political Snark category for all my posts since the dawn of time (aka long-ago beginning of this campaign season). Most of them contain direct breakdowns of debates and candidates’ positions, even if I do use humor and snark here or there. (I make it a serious priority to tell you what the candidates truly said – and in some cases did not say – about a given topic, so you really will know where they stand.)
In case you haven’t figured it out yet… I’m never going to stop telling you it’s important to be active in your citizenry.
The transcript from last night’s debate: http://foxnewsinsider.com/2012/01/17/transcript-fox-news-channel-wall-street-journal-debate-in-south-carolina/