Jeffrey Toobin had an extremely long, extremely wrong, story on the Citizens United case in the New Yorker a few weeks back. I have no real desire to re-litigate the merits of the piece—Adam J. White does an admirable job dismantling Toobin’s piece here—but I would like to draw attention to two things that Toobin wrote. Thing the first:
[Theodore] Olson was a titanic figure in conservative legal circles. [David] Bossie first met him in the nineties, when Olson and his wife, Barbara, were outspoken fellow-critics of Bill Clinton. (Barbara Olson was killed on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.)
Now look: Maybe I’m just being pedantic here, but that parenthetical really rubbed me the wrong way. It’s the passive way it is written—”Oh, the plane just crashed into the Pentagon, did it? Fell right out of the sky and onto the building. How unlucky.”—that gets to me. Here would be a more accurate way to write it: “(Barbara Olson was killed on the plane that was flown into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.)” Here would be an even more accurate way to write it: “(Barbara Olson was killed on the plane that was flown into the Pentagon during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.)” Here would be an EVEN MORE accurate way to write it: “(Barbara Olson was killed by murderous jihadis on 9/11 when she and a planeload of American citizens were flown into the Pentagon on a kamikaze run perpetrated by bloodthirsty Arab terrorists.)”
(Okay, sure, the New Yorker was never going to run the last version. But still.)
Thing the second is slightly more complicated, so allow me to set the scene. Toobin spends thousands of words arguing that John Roberts is an activist poopy-head who is overturning a century of precedents in order to let rich people and corporations buy elections. Letting rich people buy elections is bad! Here’s his proof:
In any event, the implications of Citizens United were quickly apparent. In March, 2010, the D.C. Circuit ruled that individuals could make unlimited contributions to so-called Super PACs, which supported individual candidates. This opened the door for Presidential campaigns in 2012 that were essentially underwritten by single individuals. Sheldon Adelson, the gambling entrepreneur, gave about fifteen million dollars to support Newt Gingrich, and Foster Friess, a Wyoming financier, donated almost two million dollars to Rick Santorum’s Super PAC. Karl Rove organized a Super PAC that has raised about thirty million dollars in the past several months for use in support of Republicans.
Um, Jeff? Toobz? You realize that all those millions were spent to absolutely fuck-all effect, right? Adelson blew $15 million to net Newt Gingrich a series of humiliating finishes in primaries all over the country. Rick Santorum burned out extremely quickly. If the effect of Citizens United is rich people burning through their money on lost cause candidates, is the Republic really in all that much danger?