Defender of the First

President Bush yesterday joined forces with Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, to mount legal and legislative challenges to third-party attack ads, including those that question Sen. John Kerry’s Vietnam record.

The move came as new polls by Gallup, the Los Angeles Times and Rasmussen showed Mr. Bush edging ahead of the Massachusetts Democrat in advance of next week’s Republican National Convention. The first two polls attributed the shift to a series of anti-Kerry ads by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. But the president wants to stop the ads, along with other spots by third-party groups, known as 527s because of their tax designation. Yesterday, he telephoned Mr. McCain, a former Vietnam prisoner of war, from Air Force One and enlisted him in a planned lawsuit to force the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to quash the ads.

“Since the FEC failed to act, we would now be asking the courts to force the FEC to act to shut down all this activity,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. “There would be a lawsuit. The president said if the court action doesn’t work, then he would be willing to pursue legislative action and work with Senator McCain on that.”

What was that about “Congress shall make no law?” I never believed that George Bush signed the violation of free speech known as “campaign-finance reform” into law hoping that it would be rejected as Constitutional. His marked enthusiasm for curbing free speech, even that which assists him, seems to support my initial skepticism.

I can just hear the Republican media whores now. “Sure, he’s eradicating free speech, but don’t you know there’s a war on!” Yeah, no one’s ever used that excuse before.