1st Amendment: R.I.P.

By Michael Ackley

Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

Once again, black Chevy Suburbans are seen in the parking lot of an abandoned, rural inn, somewhere in Virginia.

Once again, well-dressed men patrol outside. They are physically fit and preternaturally alert and they talk into the sleeves of their dark suits. Some scan the surrounding woods with night-vision scopes.

Inside, President George W. Bush sits down once again with Sen. John Kerry. The latter cannot conceal his perturbation.

“I thought we were going to lay off bashing each other’s Vietnam records,” he snarls.

“I never did criticize yours, Senator,” Bush replies calmly, “and neither did the Republican National Committee. However, your party chairman certainly enjoyed calling me ‘AWOL,’ among other things.”

“Oh, yeah?” says Kerry, his jaw muscles bulging. “What about those Swiftboat Verterans ads?”

“Whoa!” says the president. “Those guys formed a 527 committee. You know we can’t control them, at least not now. Why don’t we just agree to get rid of them after the election.”

Kerry, relaxing just a bit, attempts a chuckle: “I’ll be happy to sign that law once I’m president.”

“Very funny,” says Bush. “At least we can agree on the issue, if not on who will sign the bill.”

The senator sits back in his chair and muses, “People are going to make a noise about the First Amendment, though.”

“Don’t worry,” Bush replies. “The Supreme Court knocked that in the head when it approved most of the ‘Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.’ You know, McCain Feingold.”

“I think I was there for that vote,” Kerry snaps.

“Anyway,” the president continues, “There’s no reason to believe the justices won’t go along with this, too.”

“I hope you’re right,” says Kerry. “I think we both recognize the danger the 527s pose. Political communication is too important to leave to amateurs.”

The two rise, shake hands and take their leave, archly emphasizing each other’s title:

“Good night, Senator.”

“Good night, Mr. President.”

And let us say, all together: Good night, free speech.

Remember Jerry Brown? Mr. Era of Lower Expectations? Governor Moonbeam?

He’s getting ready to mount another run for statewide office, having taken out nominating papers to become California’s attorney general.

Why would a counterculture figure like this want to be the state’s chief law enforcement officer? He has been mayor of Oakland for half a decade.

Now he’s a regular Mr. Law and Order, boosting the Police Department budget and fighting to put more cops on the street.

The guy whose state Supreme Court appointees so angered the populace with their anti-law-and-order rulings explained his transformation best when he told the Associated Press he had both “seen laws made and had to live under them 25 years later.”

Brown always was a smart guy. Now, at 66, he seems to have matched his intelligence with maturity. Who’d have thought it?

The Republicans have a new battle cry: “Give ’em Zell!” Retiring Democratic Sen. Zell Miller, in his convention keynote address, employed the grossly unfair tactic of citing an opponent’s record. Demo VP candidate John Edwards labeled the rhetoric hateful, which is another way of calling it mean spirited – and we all know what that means: It’s true …

Collective amnesia: After Miller spitted, broiled and sliced John Kerry, we did a bit of channel surfing and heard media commentators wondering whether it was a mistake that the Democrats didn’t use their convention to attack George W. Bush. Maybe they missed Bill Clinton’s speech …

Some pundits thought Miller’s rhetoric would backfire, because of its harsh “tone.” Get these folks some anti-denial pills …

The GOP’s only convention misstep was putting those ditzy lines in the mouths of the Bush twins. Fire the writer.