President Obama took some fire for playing pool before the cameras in Denver and speaking at fundraisers in Colorado and Texas last week while crises were breaking out at home and abroad. The border with Mexico was being flooded by illegal immigrants, many of them minors, ISIS terrorists kept slicing up Iraq, Russia continued to threaten Ukraine with "irreversible consequences" and Hamas was launching hundreds of missiles into Israel seeking to kill innocent women and children.
But give Obama a break - he may be doing slightly less harm than his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill. For as the world burns and the U.S. economy limps, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Senate Democrats are trying to chip away at two of America's most cherished freedoms.
Both involve stunts aimed at the First Amendment. One was the introduction of a bill to reverse the recent Hobby Lobby decision in order to deprive businessmen of the freedom to conduct business according to their personal religious beliefs.
The other comes in the form of a proposed amendment to the Constitution that would gut freedom of speech – yes, you read that correctly. Democrats hope to replace the evil of money in politics with something far worse – plenary power for Congress and state legislatures to limit political expression. Named for its chief sponsor, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., the proposal is on a fast track to a Senate vote.
This amendment would take a hammer to the cornerstone of the original Bill of Rights – and a liberal First Amendment expert of no less stature than Floyd Abrams himself pointed this out in committee testimony. The amendment would grant Congress unlimited power over speech that “includes” but is not limited to capping the amount of money that can be raised or spent to convey a political message. Thus, it would forbid many forms of expression currently protected by the First Amendment. Even worse, it probably opens to door to congressional and state regulation of topics and messages of political speech. In the best-case scenario, it leaves this priceless freedom to the whims of incumbents in Congress and federal judges.
But Democrats know their attempt to destroy a foundational principle of the American republic is dead on arrival. No one expects their amendment to win a two-thirds majority or ratification by three-fourths of the states. They are proposing it solely for political gain. Democrats expect to be rewarded by a class of donors who are thoroughly ignorant of constitutional basics and foolishly obsessed with campaign finance law as the cause of and solution to all of America’s ills.
House Republicans have passed more than 30 major bills to deal with America's economic problems. Reid has not allowed any of them to be debated or voted on by the Senate (which also hasn't passed a budget in years). But he has ample time to jerk Americans around with cheap election-year political stunts that threaten basic constitutional freedoms. Thanks to Reid, it's a Congress that does nothing but make mischief.