The Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in a case involving the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law, and touching on basic issues of freedom of speech and of the press.
I read about it in the New York Times in an article by Linda Greenhouse, whose credibility as an objective reporter of the Supreme Court’s doings was forever shredded, at least for me, by a speech she gave at Harvard last summer lamenting, among other things, the Right’s “sustained assault on women’s reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism.”
Still, even if Greenhouse came out of the ideological closet in a way that makes a mockery of the Times’s posture of political neutrality, as best I can tell she did a creditable job in the basic task of laying out the facts of who said what in the case that was before the Court yesterday. The provision of McCain-Feingold in question, which prohibits certain kinds of advertisements just before an election, had been upheld by the Supremes by a margin of 5 to 4 in a December 2003 decision, which is now being revisited.
In his excellent new book about the Battle of Lepanto of 1571, Victory of the West, Niccoló Capponi describes the reaction of the Ottoman Sultan, Selim II, when his courtiers finally dared to tell him the news of the Turkish defeat. Everyone else in Edirne had known about the disaster for two days, and the sultan had repeatedly inquired about the cause of the cries and lamentations to be heard outside the palace. Capponi quotes an account given by Don Cesare Carafa to the Duke of Urbino, based on information from Venetian spies:
The third night, with the whole city wailing and screaming because no one could hide any more the grief for such a loss, the Great Turk, concerned and irked by all the moans and tears, demanded to hear the truth. It was answered that it was impossible now to hide the news that his fleet had been all burnt, sunk and taken by the Christians, with the death of all his great soldiers, captains and his General. Hearing this he gave a deep sigh and said, “So, these treacherous Jews have deceived me!” And having the Lord’s utterance spread through the palace and the streets, everyone started shouting, “Death to the Jews; death to the Jews!” and there was much fear that this would degenerate into a general massacre.
Christians defeat Muslims; Muslims blame the Jews. Haven’t we heard this somewhere before? The creation of Israel by the United Nations was followed by the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Jews from the Muslim world. In the first Gulf war, an American-led coalition expelled Iraqi forces from Kuwait, so Saddam Hussein fired missiles at Israel. The destruction of al Qaeda’s base in Afghanistan was followed by attacks on Jewish targets. In the second Gulf war, Iraq was liberated by an American-led coalition, so Ahmadinejad threatened to wipe Israel off the map.