“He [Michael Graham] also mentioned my abridgement of First Amendment rights, i.e. talking about campaign finance reform …. I would rather have a clean government than one where quote ‘First Amendment rights’ are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I’d rather have the clean government.”

—Sen. John McCain on the Imus in the Morning program

In April of 2000, John McCain came to Columbia and gave a speech apologizing for lying about his position on the Confederate Flag during his South Carolina campaign. Many local Republicans found his speech offensive.

When John McCain speaks at a South Carolina GOP fundraiser in Columbia next week, he could offend even more Republicans. This time, by telling the truth.

While the New York Times and Newsweek magazine are seized with the fantods whenever they hear the phrase “McCain-Feingold,” few Republicans are likely to cheer Sen. McCain’s overt abandonment of their right to free speech. Will he remind GOP voters — who have night sweats pondering the possibility of a President Hillary — of his stated desire to criminalize all “negative” political ads? I doubt it.

Personally, I was stunned when Sen. McCain responded to my criticisms on the Imus show by actually admitting that the “quote (as in “so-called”) First Amendment” isn’t as important to him as “clean government,” (as in “John McCain gets to censor your speech.”) His “Constitution, Schmonstitution — Bah!” argument is certainly breathtaking in its candor, if not its cogency.

If Howard Dean or Hillary Clinton ever made such an admission, Republicans would be flinging themselves in front of motorcades to keep these radicals away from the Supreme Court. So don’t expect to hear much about McCain’s First Amendment radicalism next week.

Nor will Mr. “Straight Talk Express” be using the word “marriage” in any nonbiographical context. When the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would allow we, the people to decide what the definition of marriage should be, came before the Senate, McCain voted “no.” If, as the mainstream media keep telling us, John McCain is a populist, maybe he can reconcile “Man of the People!” with “I just voted to let unelected judges in Massachusetts force same-sex marriage on Mississippi, Montana, and Marion County, S.C.”

There are many interesting reasons why a politician would deny us the right to decide for ourselves whether marriage should remain a “one man, one woman” proposition. Maybe that politician thinks we’re too stupid. Maybe he believes we’re bigots. Maybe, like the First Amendment, democracy itself — make that “quote ‘democracy itself'” — is overrated.

Which one is it, Sen. McCain? I doubt we’ll find out next week.

Oh, and if you’re planning to shell out the $250 to hear what Sen. McCain has to say about illegal immigration — save your money. McCain is unlikely to repeat his recent crack comparing amnesty opponents to Jim Crow racists who tell illegals “to ride in the back of the bus” before an audience of 2,000 white people in Columbia, South Carolina.

There is nothing Sen. McCain can say about his position on border security and illegal immigration that is simultaneously true and inoffensive to Republican voters.

He can’t argue in favor of increased enforcement of immigration laws because hiring illegal immigrants has been a crime every single day McCain’s been in the Senate, but he’s never urged anyone to enforce them.

He can’t argue that his amnesty program reduces the level of immigration crime, either. In fact, there’s been a surge in illegal immigration since he and President Bush began pushing for amnesty. And a new report by the Center for Immigration Studies estimates that one-fourth (2.6 million) of the 9.9 million illegals receiving amnesty would do so fraudulently.

McCain can’t even admit that his amnesty plan is, in fact, “amnesty.” But as GOP Congressman James Sensenbrenner points out, under the McCain plan “an American who commits Social Security fraud ends up going to jail. An American who fails to pay taxes for two years ends up in the federal penitentiary. An illegal alien who does this gets citizenship.”

Sen. McCain, if you really think that’s a good idea, you might be better off giving another speech about the Confederate Flag.