NYT: Sen. Mitch McConnell's 'Incendiary Defense' of Free Speech?

New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman relayed useful information in Saturday's "McConnell Accuses Obama and Aides of Schemes to Curtail Free Speech" from Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell about the Obama campaign's intimidation of individual citizens.

But Weisman described the mild-mannered Mitch McConnell's defense of free speech in politics (what Weisman pejoratively termed "the free flow of campaign cash") as "incendiary." That's the same adjective the paper fixed upon Brooklyn councilman turned Democratic congressional candidate James Barron, a former Black Panther who has called Thomas Jefferson a pedophile, compared Gaza to a ''concentration death camp'' and said he wants to slap ''the closest white person." Was Minority Leader McConnell's defense of free speech really comparable to Barron's radical rhetoric?

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Friday accused President Obama, his campaign and his administration of engaging in Nixonian dirty tricks, including keeping an enemies list, inciting “mob” attacks on its critics and leaking confidential tax information, in a concerted effort to curtail the free speech of his opponents.

The same week that the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson contributed $10 million to an anti-Obama “super PAC,” Mr. McConnell went to the conservative American Enterprise Institute to defend what he called the right of free speech. He also delivered a broadside against a president he said is “attempting to change the First Amendment.”

“Not only did his campaign publish a list of eight private citizens it regards as enemies -- an actual old-school enemies list -- it recently doubled down on the effort when some began to call these thuggish tactics into question,” he said, referring to a campaign “truth team” document that went after eight affluent donors to Mitt Romney. “The tactics I’m describing extend well beyond the campaign headquarters in Chicago. To an extent not seen since the Nixon administration, they extend deep into the administration itself.”

In his low-key monotone, Mr. McConnell did not sound like a bomb-thrower, but his speech was an incendiary defense of the free flow of campaign cash in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.


Democrats noted that Mr. McConnell had not denounced the Romney campaign’s organized heckling of a news conference by David Axelrod, an Obama campaign adviser, or the Tea Party‘s efforts to shout down Democrats at town hall meetings throughout the country.


Mr. McConnell does have a policy agenda: Stop the Democrats’ DISCLOSE Act, which seeks to speed up and broaden disclosure of campaign contributions. As American television screens are saturated with political attack ads in record numbers, Democratic senators have said the public will turn against the free-for-all turned loose by Citizens United and embrace forced disclosure.

Mr. McConnell called that “perhaps the most prominent” attack on free speech confronting policy makers.

Already, he said, an Idaho businessman has become “a personal target” of the president’s.

“People were digging through his divorce records, cable television hosts were going after him on air, and bloggers were harassing his kids,” he said, referring to Frank VanderSloot of Idaho Falls, the founder and chief executive officer of Melaleuca Inc., and a national finance co-chairman for Mr. Romney. Mr.VanderSloot said he was smeared by the Obama campaign as “a bitter foe of the gay rights movement” after he and his company gave $1 million to Restore Our Future, the Romney super PAC.