John McCain, Traitor

by | Apr 2, 2001

It is time to put the John McCain myth to rest. For years, the national media and a gullible grass-roots following have glorified McCain as a man of integrity who deals in “straight talk.” They have promoted his image as a hero who fought bravely for his country in Vietnam and who is now fighting […]

It is time to put the John McCain myth to rest.

For years, the national media and a gullible grass-roots following have glorified McCain as a man of integrity who deals in “straight talk.” They have promoted his image as a hero who fought bravely for his country in Vietnam and who is now fighting to save politics from corruption by special interests.

I don’t dispute McCain’s war record. In Vietnam, he endured beatings and torture for the sake of his country. But the hero has since become a traitor. Today, for the sake of his own populist self-aggrandizement, McCain is betraying one of his country’s most basic principles: the freedom of political expression.

The most obvious form of this betrayal is McCain’s proposed ban on political ads by independent groups within 60 days of an election.

What does this mean? Imagine that it is Oct. 1, 2002, and John McCain is running for re-election. You and a group of like-minded friends pool together your money to buy a television spot in Phoenix saying “Don’t Vote for John McCain.” Under the McCain-Feingold bill, you would be breaking the law.

When asked whether this would suppress free speech, McCain and his followers glibly assert that “money is not speech.” But how can you have the right to speak — unless you have the right to use your own money and resources to broadcast your ideas? That’s like telling a publisher he can print whatever he wants — so long as he doesn’t spend money to buy printing presses.

The most brazen aspect of this proposal is the fact that McCain would suppress political speech specifically in an election season — precisely when a citizen’s freedom to express his political views is most crucially needed. Such a provision is patently unconstitutional — and patently un-American.

But McCain doesn’t stop there. He was adamantly opposed to any increase in “hard money” limits on direct contributions to candidates, and he managed to cut the proposed increase by half. It is well known that hard money limits — set at $1,000 in 1974 and never increased despite decades of inflation — favor incumbents, who have built up extensive fund-raising networks. Maverick challengers, who rely on a smaller pool of donors, are starved out.

But what if a challenger is wealthy enough to finance his own campaign? McCain-Feingold has that covered, too. In that case, the incumbent’s contribution limits are lifted to $6,000, helping him stave off the challenger.

And then, as icing on the cake, McCain led our public-spirited senators in voting themselves a new government-enforced discount on television advertising time.

McCain says that campaign finance reform is needed to safeguard the integrity of our politicians. It looks more as if it is intended to safeguard their political careers by shutting out challengers and muzzling independent critics.

McCain’s tactics are as dubious as his goals. He has demanded that his whole package of campaign finance controls be “severable” — that is, if one part of the bill is struck down by the courts, the others will remain. So this avatar of integrity is asking his fellow senators to pass a bill whose exact content they cannot know, since it is almost certain to be revised by the Supreme Court.

Consider also the collateral damage from McCain’s crusade. For the past two weeks, McCain’s quest for campaign finance controls has sidelined a tax cut proposal that is an important step toward curbing the growth of government.

This is a crucial time. The Democrats are in full disarray on taxes, as demonstrated by their appeal to such lame counter-proposals as a one-time tax rebate — a failed idea resurrected from the failed Carter administration.

Now is the time for Senate Republicans to push president Bush’s tax cut. Instead, McCain is handing Bush a political booby-trap. If he vetoes McCain-Feingold — as he should — Bush risks being pilloried as a lackey of special interests. Bush should have the courage to face down this slander and reject McCain-Feingold as unconstitutional. But the damage will still be done — and McCain’s fellow Republicans should remember it.

Jack Wakeland summed it up best last year in an article in my magazine, The Intellectual Activist. McCain, he wrote, “has raised every conceivable concern about constituents’ improper influence over their government, while expressing little or no concern about the government’s improper power over its constituents.”

That is McCain’s act of treason. He fought for liberty in Vietnam — only to fight against liberty in the Senate.

Related Articles: The McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Fraud

Robert Tracinski was a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute from 2000 to 2004. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Mr. Tracinski is editor and publisher of The Intellectual Activist and TIADaily, which offer daily news and analysis from a pro-reason, pro-individualist perspective. To receive a free 30-day trial of the TIA Daily and a FREE pdf issue of the Intellectual Activist please go to and enter your email address.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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