Matt Lewis

McConnell previews speech on Obama First Amendment violations

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Matt K. Lewis
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      Matt K. Lewis

      Matt K. Lewis is a senior contributor to The Daily Caller, and a contributing editor for The Week. He is a respected commentator on politics and cultural issues, and has been cited by major publications such as The Washington Post and The New York Times. Matt is from Myersville, MD and currently resides in Alexandria, VA. Follow Matt K. Lewis on Twitter <a>@mattklewis</a>.

Mitch McConnell warned us this would happen.

Almost exactly a year ago, on June 15th, 2012, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, outlining what he described then as “growing threats to our First Amendment rights.” Remarkably, he also condemned the harassment that Tea Party groups had endured from the IRS (this, of course, was months before the scandal drew national attention.)

On Thursday, McConnell gave The Daily Caller an exclusive preview of remarks he plans to deliver at AEI on Friday. Regarding his prescience last year, McConnell joked, “I’m going to resist the temptation to say I told you so… but I told you so.”

The temptation is likely heightened by the fact that McConnell’s warnings were ridiculed by the press at the time. As he noted, the left dismissed his defense of the First Amendment as “making up red herrings.”

McConnell stated that tomorrow he intends to “come out a year later to review where we are,” in the wake of several scandals in which the Obama Administration used its power to harass and silence political opponents.

While previewing his remarks, McConnell condemned the Obama administration’s “across the board” attacks on free speech, noting that the Department of Health and Human Services, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Federal Communications Commission are all run by unelected officials — the “people pushing the attacks are Barack Obama appointees,” he said.

HHS, the SEC and the FCC — and obviously the IRS as well — have all found themselves embroiled in scandal after it became apparent that the agencies’ powers were used to silence the voices of those who disagreed with White House.

McConnell refused to give credence to President Obama’s supposed ignorance of the scandals. Obama “doesn’t need to pick up the phone and talk to Lois Lerner” to provoke such treatment of the president’s opponents, McConnell said. ”The president and his allies set the tone, and created a culture of intimidation and harassment that gave … permission to do these things,” he added.

Ultimately, McConnell said, the administration seems to take the view that “the ends justify the means” and that their goals are important enough to warrant behavior that he politely categorized as “heavy-handedness.”

McConnell also said he would address the topic of unions and the public sector tomorrow.

Alec Hill contributed to this report.

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Update: This post originally quoted McConnell as saying Obama “just needs to pick up the phone.” He actually said Obama doesn’t need to pick up the phone.