They Just Don’t Abuse Civil Liberties Like They Used To

Feeling a little nostalgia for the old days when you could count on some robust civil liberties’ abuse. You look at Geoffrey R. Stone’s 2004 book “Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism” and it just tells you what a sissy liberties’ abuser W is. I mean John Adams jailed a congressman for criticizing his “continual grasp for power.” Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and had the army arrest up to 38,000 civilians suspected of undermining the Union cause. Woodrow Wilson imprisoned Socialist Party leader Eugene Debs for opposing U.S. entry into World War I. And then FDR packed 120,000 Japanese Americans off to detention camps.

Presidents from FDR to Richard Nixon used the FBI to spy on, blackmail and harass their political opponents. The Senate’s Church Committee in 1976 blew the whistle on decades of misconduct, including FBI investigations of such nefarious characters as Eleanor Roosevelt, William O. Douglas, Barry Goldwater and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

And what has W done? As I understand he’s jailed Michael Moore, blackmailed Nancy Pelosi and threatened Al Gore and others who have used defamatory language against him…. wait, sorry, none of that? You mean all he’s done is intercept communications between terrorists and their American connections without a court order?

As Max Boot says today:

“The anti-Bush brigade hasn’t had any luck in turning up actual instances of abuse, despite no end of effort. The ACLU compiled a list of supposed victims of the Patriot Act. After examining each case, however, Sen. Dianne Feinstein — no friend of the administration — said “it does not appear that these charges rose to the level of ‘abuse.’ “

Yes, Ms Pelosi, apparently the bar has been lowered for “impeachable offenses.”



  1. *Yawn* This is apparently the new W defense– “<>other<> Presidents did bad things, and what’s a little warantless searching, anyow?” NPR already had a few intereviews today with Bush people using this talking point, so I guess the RNC fax machine was working overtime during the weekend.


  2. Dunno Lancer. As someone who didn’t vote for Bush I’m not really hooked up to the RNC fax machine.You might try, for once, addressing the merits of the arguments. I.E. address the suggestion that the Democratic leadership’s attack on the wiretapping policy is petty, disingenuous and WAY (as demonstrated by center-left fixture Joe Klein) out of the American mainstream.


  3. It’s worth adding that, very far from the RNC fax machine, I got the key points in my message from a book by a distinguished U of Chicago law professor, Geoffrey Stone. Bottom line stands unchallenged–no one without a political agenda is making much of an issue of the wiretapping. And the community of legal scholars are evenly split on the consitutional merits of the question. To consider it, therefore, an “impeachable offense” is just a bit of Congressional burlesque with Nancy Pelosi kicking it up in a chorus line.


  4. Ugh. Forget it. Let’s see– when I posted earlier about potential Constituional problems on this matter, it was suggested that “my boys” at the <>New York Times<> didn’t know what they were talking about because it was a Constitutional issue (even though it was an open letter printed in the <>New York Review of Books<> written by legal scholars of some repute, as well as former FBI directors, Justice Department members, etc. about the Constitutional issues). In other situations, my comments on “the merits” of arguments were dismissed because, apparently, it isn’t enough to be skeptical of one’s methodology. In still other situations, when I asked for clarification, I was told to look it upmyself because, hey, this is a blog, and that’s what people do on blogs.So eff it. From here on out, Stu, I am done talking politics. Go cheer on Bush, or Lieberman, or whomever. Doubtless they’re better candidates than I could ever hope to pick. Democrates are worthless and their arguments never have merit. The media are woefully biased towards the left; it’s a miracle from Yahweh that he ever beat Gore given the <>harsh<> treatment he got! Liberals Love Terrorists, though the right never actually <>says<> that. And I’m an idiot. I guess that’s how these things are supposed to go, eh?Oh well.


  5. Stu, The thing is that even if Bush is the world’s most moral dude and if he would never and will never abuse the wire-tap, it sets a bad precedent. If we decide that it is perfectly acceptable for him to evade the legal superstructure for doing something that can be viewed as a breach of constitutional rights, what is to stop the next president, ummm President Hitler, from doing the same thing? I appreciate that he spoke with several legal scholars regarding whether or not it was illegal; I am more curious as to whether or not it was wise.Everything the Bush administration does is couched in terms of, “Trust us. We wouldn’t do anything bad. We’re good people.” Be that as it may, I haven’t yet stumbled upon many reasons to trust them and their assurances worry me more than their actions do.


  6. There is still debate about whether anything Bush did was actually illegal. Just because partisan dems say it was because that fits their political agenda does not make it so. It might or might not have been illegal. But what I am seeing from some individuals here is the display of a firm belief that it was illegal.Law school taught me a few things, thankfully, considering the time and expense. One of them is that you would be surprised what is and is not illegal in the field of constitutional law. Acting like Bush’s actions here are cut-and-dry illegal doesn’t contribute anything because that determination is not clear under constitutional law. The scope of executive power continues to be debated. This course of events might eventually serve to further define the contours of executive power in either direction.


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