Only Republicans are Obligated to Censor Their Supporters

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Chris Matthews apparently thinks Bush has a moral obligation not just to say that John Kerry served honorably, not just to distance himself from all 527 groups that run independently of his campaign, but to call these groups and tell them to stop exercising their right to free speech. In other words, Chris Matthews is recommending government censorship. It doesn't matter that he didn't expect Kerry to do the same when Bush's military record was being attacked, something that all the major news media fully realized was a non-story after exploring it to death in hope that it would turn out to ruin him. They apparently think that about the Kerry story without at all exploring it. It doesn't matter that he didn't expect Kerry to tell Michael Moore not to released his film. So even though Kerry never had such an obligation, Bush still has that obligation now, I guess. People have been telling me that Chris Matthews has gone off the deep end, but I didn't believe it until today. Here's the transcript:

MATTHEWS: When the president says publicly that he has no problem with John Kerry's war record, in fact he finds it noble, is that hypocritical or is that honest?

MALKIN: I think it is absolutely honest.

MATTHEWS: Because what? What makes it honest?

Because how they are attacking Kerry?

MALKIN: He can't -- he did not control these -- there was no -- can you show me directive that said, Swift Boat Veterans do this.

MATTHEWS: I'm waiting for the phone call that said stop doing it, buddies.

Update: By the way, if you want to see how much of a jerk Matthews was with Michelle Malkin, read her account of it. He belittled her because of her youthful appearance, didn't prepare for the conversation, misrepresented her a number of times without letting her explain why his representation of her was wrong, and kept insisting on the idiocy and irresponsibilty of the claim that he thought she was making that she wasn't making. Then he pulled her from the second segment of the show that she'd been scheduled for when her original purposed for being there was to talk about her book, the only reason FOX News had given permission for her to go on his show. Matthews only briefly mentioned the book when he said they'd get to it later, which they didn't do. I used to respect this guy. He's going to have to do a lot to regain that respect.

I'm not even going to get into the racist and misogynist comments (and pictures making fun of her) I've seen around the blogosphere about Michelle since this appearance on MS-NBC. Atrios links to them if you want to try to find them. I won't link to them or to Atrios (partly because Atrios was willing to link to them, which I consider immoral). She's the only person who I think has the moral standing to decide whether to link to it, and she does, so you can follow her link to Atrios and go from there.

3 Comments

Chris Matthews apparently thinks Bush has a moral obligation not just to say that John Kerry served honorably, not just to distance himself from all 527 groups that run independently of his campaign, but to call these groups and tell them to stop exercising their right to free speech. In other words, Chris Matthews is recommending government censorship.

Well, no, he isn't recommending government censorship. Matthews, like John McCain, is calling on Bush as a candidate to ask those guys to cut out these "dishonorable" (in McCain's apt word) ads, not to come down on them with the power of the state to force them to stop. If anybody's calling for government censorship here, it's Bush, whose response is that he wants these 527 ads generally to be banned. I actually agree with Bush on this, so of course I think the act may be justified. This would be an instance of justified government censorship. But Matthews isn't calling for it -- Bush is (and I am, I guess, for what that's worth).

not just to distance himself from all 527 groups that run independently of his campaign,

I hope you're right that these really are independent of the Bush campaign. But the connections, especially to Rove, look fairly tight right now. We'll have to see how it pans out. But there are good grounds for suspicion -- Though it didn't happen on such a national basis, we can all remember a bit more than 4 years ago when a Bush campaign was hitting a rough patch against McCain, another Viet Nam vet (and a war hero if anyone is), how all of a sudden an extremely well-financed group of veterans appeared denouncing McCain as unfit for office before the S. Carolina primary. Coincidence? Was poor W & his campaign just an innocent bystander in both of these incidents? I actually hope so. But I must say I doubt it. We'll see...I hope

P.S. Those interested can look at a fairly in-depth article on this in the NYTimes. It's at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/20/politics/campaign/20swift.html

Oh, and I should add that the new ad -- the one focussing on some of the things Kerry said about Viet Nam soon after returning home -- doesn't strike me as similarly "dishonorable." (Not in the way that the first one was slime from hell.) The new one is a very tough ad (and whatever connections there may be between the funders of it & the Bush campaign should be brought to light), but Kerry did say some things that were too strong, and it certainly seems fair to call him on that.

Keith, I think you're right. I misunderstood him to be calling on Bush to use presidential powers to silence the ads somehow. I think you're right that he didn't intend that, but that creates another problem. The reason I thought he meant that was because he seems so sure that if Bush said something these guys would stop, despite Malkin's objection that they wouldn't. I tend to think she's right, and he's wrong. They wouldn't just stop if Bush told them not to. Their purpose here is not to abide by every statement of Bush but to undermine Kerry's support.

I guess my more general point is that there isn't equal treatment here. Most of the people complaining about Bush's possible connections here and the need to investigate them said nothing about the Kerry campaign's strategy of going silent for the month of August to allow room for the 527s like MoveOn.org to do whatever they wanted for a month. Some people on the right were suspicious of that, and I can't help but think there was a deliberate decision to encourage those groups to do their strongest anti-Bush stuff in anticipation of the Republican convention. The potential for connections there is at least as strong as with Bush and Swift Boat Vets. Yet few of the mainstream people I've seen commenting on it have seen the parallel, and therefore they haven't noticed that they strongly encourage investigating and talking about it in Bush's case but sort of dismissing it out-of-hand with Kerry's case or merely seeing it as a good strategy, as some have even acknowledged that it is without questioning its morality.

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