Andy McCarthy slams Barack Obama and his campaign for its free-speech thuggery of the past few weeks in his latest NRO column.  Forget Islamist encroachment via shari’a, McCarthy advises.  Now we have the tyranny of The One before us, and it may yet prevail:

I’ll be blunt: Sen. Obama and his supporters despise free expression, the bedrock of American self-determinism and hence American democracy. What’s more, like garden-variety despots, they see law not as a means of ensuring liberty but as a tool to intimidate and quell dissent.

We London conferees were fretting over speech codes, “hate speech” restrictions, “Islamophobia” provisions, and “libel tourism” — the use of less journalist-friendly defamation laws in foreign jurisdictions to eviscerate our First Amendment freedom to report, for example, on the nexus between ostensible Islamic charity and the funding of terrorist operations.

All the while, in St. Louis, local law-enforcement authorities, dominated by Democrat-party activists, were threatening libel prosecutions against Obama’s political opposition. County Circuit Attorney Bob McCulloch and City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, abetted by a local sheriff and encouraged by the Obama campaign, warned that members of the public who dared speak out against Obama during the campaign’s crucial final weeks would face criminal libel charges — if, in the judgment of these conflicted officials, such criticism of their champion was “false.”

The chill wind was bracing. The Taliban could not better rig matters. The Prophet of Change is only to be admired, not questioned. In the stretch run of an American election, there is to be no examination of a candidate for the world’s most powerful office — whether about his radical record, the fringe Leftism that lies beneath his thin, centrist veneer, his enabling of infanticide, his history of race-conscious politics, his proposals for unprecedented confiscation and distribution of private property (including a massive transfer of American wealth to third-world dictators through international bureaucrats), his ruinous economic policies that have helped leave Illinois a financial wreck, his place at the vortex of the credit market implosion that has put the U.S. economy on the brink of meltdown, his aggressive push for American withdrawal and defeat in Iraq, his easy gravitation to America-hating activists, be they preachers like Jeremiah Wright, terrorists like Bill Ayers, or Communists like Frank Marshall Davis. Comment on any of this and risk indictment or, at the very least, government harassment and exorbitant legal fees.

The last point bears repeating and enhancing.  Critics of the BCRA (McCain-Feingold) had the same concern over its application, especially when the FEC considered applying its provisions to the blogosphere.  People scoff at warnings such as this from McCarthy and say, “Charges would never stand up in court,” but the prosecutors wouldn’t have to prevail in court in order to win.  If political criticism ran the risk of an expensive criminal defense, how many of us would indulge ourselves in our First Amendment right to speak truth to power?

Some may be tempted to shrug this off as an ironic payback to McCain for the BCRA, but McCarthy rejects that.  In both cases, the true victim isn’t an opposing politician but the Americans who assumed that the First Amendment guaranteed the right to political speech more than the right to dance nude in front of drunk frat boys.  Allowing this kind of legal intimidation to political speech guarantees that we will have less of it.  It also shows a certain tendency towards fascism among Team Obama’s supporters that voters should carefully consider.

McCarthy, a former US Attorney, believes that the Department of Justice should investigate these incidents.  Current federal law prohibits public officials from intimidating people in connection to federal elections.  Obama’s Truth Squad in Missouri may have crossed that line, and McCarthy believes that enough probable cause exists to begin a formal investigation into their actions already.

I’d settle for an honest accounting of this intimidation tactic by the national media.  For an industry that has the most to lose from the election of an administration willing to use thuggery to silence its critics, the national media has been strangely silent.  Perhaps they don’t mind cheering the thugs as long as the thugs sympathize with their policy ideals, one of which is distinctly not the First Amendment and free political speech.