Open Thread: A Liberal in Favor of Free Speech?

Today's starter topic: Liberals fancy themselves to be the best proponents of free speech and tolerance. But when actual political speech is at issue rather than theoretical speech, their boasts are often revealed to be mere posturing. That's why we thought it'd be nice to start off today's OT by giving some well-deserved praise to Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen for mounting a solid defense for political speech against the self-interested censors of the liberal press:

Sheldon Adelson is supposedly a bad man. The gambling mogul gave $5 million to a Newt Gingrich-loving super PAC and this enabled Gingrich to maul Mitt Romney — a touch of opinion here — who had it coming anyway. Adelson is a good friend of Gingrich and a major player in Israeli politics. He owns a newspaper in Israel and supports politicians so far to the right I have to wonder if they are even Jewish. This is Sheldon Adelson, supposedly a bad man. But what about Howard Stein?

The late chairman of the Dreyfus Corp. was a wealthy man but, unlike Adelson, a liberal Democrat. Stein joined with some other rich men — including Martin Peretz, the one-time publisher of the New Republic; Stewart Mott, a GM heir; and Arnold Hiatt of Stride Rite Shoes — to provide about $1.5 million for Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 challenge to Lyndon Johnson. Stein and his colleagues did not raise this money in itsy-bitsy donations but by chipping in large amounts themselves. Peretz told me he kicked in $30,000. That was a huge amount of money at the time.

That sort of donation would now be illegal — unless it was given to a super PAC that swore not to coordinate with the candidate. And until quite recently, even that would have been illegal — the limit being something like $2,400. Many people bemoan that the limit is no more, asserting that elections are now up for sale, as if this was something new. They point to the Adelson contribution and unload invective on the poor right-wing gambling tycoon. I understand, but I do not agree.

Back in 1967, a small group of men gave McCarthy the wherewithal to challenge a sitting president of the United States. The money enabled McCarthy to swiftly set up a New Hampshire operation and — lo and behold — he got 42 percent of the popular vote, an astounding figure. Johnson was rocked. Four days later, Robert F. Kennedy, who at first had declined to do what McCarthy did, jumped in himself. By the end of March 1968, Johnson was on TV, announcing he would not seek a second term.

My guess is that a lot of the people who decry what Adelson has done loved what Stein, Peretz and the others did.

Read the rest. Cohen's right on the money and it's a shame more on the left haven't realized just how important political speech is and why it should be valued. Hat tip: Steven Hayward.

NB Staff
NB Staff