PATRIOT Game, Set and Match

Last year, and earlier this year, I argued that the PATRIOT Act was more unpopular than Washington wags realized and that politicians out in flyover country were getting some mileage out of attacking the Act.

Well, here's proof. Last week Montana's endangered Republican Senator Conrad Burns seized on an applause line Democrat Jon Tester used in a debate - "I don't want to amend the PATRIOT Act, I want to repeal it" - with a hack-ass 60 seconder about how the only thing keeping Osama's henchmen from the citizens of Bozeman and Billings is the government's ability to sneak into library records. Tester, who presided over the state Senate's condemnation of the Act, responded with one of the best ads I've seen all year.

Maybe there's something to this Libertarian Democrat stuff after all. That'd be nice.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Wow. First "cut and run" stops working, now this.

    Finally, some sanity in this country.

  • ||

    Finally, some sanity in this country.

    Except for the part where the President's ratings march in lock step to the price of gasoline...maybe the Patriot Act should be spun as a way to keep gas prices low...

    http://www.leftbusinessobserver.com/BushNGas.html

    (2nd chart)

  • ||

    Maybe there's something to this Libertarian Democrat stuff after all.

    Riiiight. The difference between Democratic support and opposition to something like the Patriot Act is the party of the president in charge of it. If President Kerry were poking into the library records of the Michigan Militia, it'd be an 'essential tool' to Democrats and 'Big Brother' to Republicans.

    There's no reason to believe in a 'Libertarian Democrat,' but plenty of reason to root for divided government.

  • ||

    Josh nailed it. They all practice purest, perfect hypocrisy on all these issues, and our only hope is to prevent one or the other from having total control of the three branches. Luckily, I'm pretty certain the Democrats will be taking back at least one of the legislative bodies.

  • ||

    Luckily, I'm pretty certain the Democrats will be taking back at least one of the legislative bodies

    Just one? I figure there are many elected orifices to fill...and plenty of legislative bodies to mark with bent-over pages.

  • ||

    Luckily, I'm pretty certain the Democrats will be taking back at least one of the legislative bodies

    Just one? I figure there are many elected orifices to fill...and plenty of legislation to be marked using bent-over pages.

  • Stephen Macklin||

    Libertarian Democrat?

    How about a political calculation to draw the votes of disaffected Libertarians who voted Republican on at least the hope for smaller government.

    The modern Democratic party never met a problem that government couldn't solve. And if government wasn't solving enough problems, they'd invent them.

    This is not to say that the present day GOP is any better. Basically when it comes to the major parties it's a coin toss. heads or tails, it still a statist coin.

  • ||

    """Josh nailed it. They all practice purest, perfect hypocrisy on all these issues, and our only hope is to prevent one or the other from having total control of the three branches. Luckily, I'm pretty certain the Democrats will be taking back at least one of the legislative bodies."""

    I vote with that in mind. If the Dems take control of both houses, I'm voting the Republican for President. Unless it's Rudy. I've had enough of him. If the Dems take one, I can vote for whoever I think would be the best President. If the Repubs keep control of Congress, I'll vote Democrat for President. Unless it's Hillary, I can vote for a Clinton, I've had way too much Clinton for one lifetime already.

    Wow, 08 could be a tough decision for me. I can't stand two of the biggest contenders.

  • ||

    "Except for the part where the President's ratings march in lock step to the price of gasoline"

    I said some, gaijin. Not complete. After the last five years, I'll take what I can get.

    As far as libertarian Democrats go, I can understand strict libertarians finding it impossible to support the Democratic Party. What eludes me is how some continue to cling to the belief that the Republican Party is so much more in line with libertarian beliefs than the Democrats that they are worth holding your nose for, rather than voting Third Party.

    Once upon a time, when it was Howard Taft and the American First Commitee vs. the New Dealers, and the Democrats were the party in power needing to be checked, I could see a Republican/libertarian alliance making sense.

    But today, with this Congress and President, I don't see how anyone seeking to advance the libertarian ethos could vote for Burns over Tester, either on the merits, or in an effort to boost the GOP.

  • ||

    ---- The difference between Democratic support and opposition to something like the Patriot Act is the party of the president in charge of it. ----

    Not likely. Aren't we always hearing about how Dems don't have a coherent, consistent message? How they can't agree on a plan for X, Y, or Z?

    I think that, while you arguably MIGHT get them to support this, more likely, they'll object.

    Unlike the GOP now, which seems somehow, in defiance of all common sense, to get lockstep obedience from their members, who seem to forget that they should be representing their constituents first, not their party.

  • Gene Berkman||

    Libertarians are used to thinking of the Democrats as the party of big government. Tt has been clear since Nixon took office in 1969 that the Republicans are committed to big government also. That is why the Libertarian Party was started.

    The Bush cabal has taken firm control of the Republican Party, and imposed unprecendented party discipline to push through the Patriot Act, the Iraq War, No Child Left Behind etc it is clear that libertarians should vote either for Libertarian or for Democrat candidates to stop the Republican led march toward a total state.

    Maybe after Democrats take control of Congress, we will see more limited government Republicans look to the Libertarian Party as an alternative.

  • Larry A||

    Notice, in the ad, the lick against the gun control aspect of the Patriot Act.

    I still think if the Democratic Party did a verifiable 180 on that single issue, they'd control all three houses (Representative, Senate, White) by 2008.

  • ||

    As far as libertarian Democrats go, I can understand strict libertarians finding it impossible to support the Democratic Party. What eludes me is how some continue to cling to the belief that the Republican Party is so much more in line with libertarian beliefs than the Democrats that they are worth holding your nose for, rather than voting Third Party.

    "Quoted for truth" is the phrase the kids are using, I think.

    I don't plan to vote Libertarian at all, aside from one House candidate who impressed me last time by sounding lucid and sane and running while actually serving in Iraq - he gets my vote if he runs again. Otherwise, barring the Republican leadership all dropping dead of mononucleosis and Ron Paul getting the nod, I'm voting for Democrats or nobody for the foreseeable future.

    Libertarians don't have to support the Democratic party and probably shouldn't. They should though, I think, be willing to vote tactically for a lesser evil after the last five years. Or, looking at it another way, pick the critical issues of civil liberties and realize that the differences between the Dems and the Reps on all the other issues are far too small to matter.

    This, of course, requires that the Democrats show themselves to be the lesser evil/show a willingness to address the civil liberties issues. Tester is doing so; the leadership, as shown by Bruce Reed's statements about "libertarian democrats", prefers to dismiss the Dem/Rep distinction civil liberties as a no-brainer (which anyone paying attention knows to be a lie) and focus on other things. One hopes that this will change, or that more candidates will focus on civil liberties despite the drooling uselessness of the DLC and the like.

  • ||

    That should be "the Dem/Rep distinction on civil liberties".

  • ||

    I think Larry nailed it. I'm an independent but lean strongly Democrat. But that dang Rosie anti-gun factor kills the party.

  • thoreau||

    The best/worst thing that the Dems have going for them is that they are not as disciplined as the Republicans.

    This is good because it means that while they will no doubt do bad stuff in office, they just aren't capable of doing as much bad stuff. Not unless another FDR comes along to unite them.

    This is bad because it means that they are not a terribly effective opposition party.

    Remember the investigations of Vince Foster's suicide? Remember the investigations of the White House Travel Office?

    Sure, the Dems lack the power to do anything comparable, but they can't even agree amongst themselves on whether they should at least talk about doing something comparable.

    I want a Democrat in the White House, a 59-41 GOP Senate, and a 218-217 GOP House populated with the craziest wingnuts available. Hell, get the 218 most frequent posters on FreeRepublic.com in the House, for all I care.

    That would be a recipe for the sweetest gridlock imaginable. The 59-41 GOP Senate could keep the President in line but not break a filibuster (best of both worlds) and the 218-217 House would be unable to accomplish anything, so they'd hold hearings on any and all allegations made against the Dem President.

    I'm prepared to donate cold, hard cash to the 218 most frequent FreeRepublic posters if they run for House in 2008. I'll also donate to the Dem who has the best chance of winning the Presidency in 2008.

  • ||

    As someone who grew up in Montana, please remember that Montana is a very libertarian state and also remember that when elected he will most likely be one of the most conservative members of the Democratic party.

  • ||

    This is bad because it means that they are not a terribly effective opposition party.

    hey I already have dibs on calling them "The worse opposition party ever."

  • ||

    It does bear mentioning that we do live in rare times, with one party holding power in all thre branches of government. The pendulum does swing (not that it'll swing in a way that'll satisfy us). We're due for split government for 4 years, and then bitching about how bad the Democrats are (excepting Dave Weigel, unless he lets go of his unnatural love for everything Democrat [Just kidding]).

  • thoreau||

    I'm quite confident that a divided government will do some absolutely shitty things and I'll bitch quite loudly.

    But I have at least some smidgeon of hope that a divided government will refrain from doing the following:

    1) Torture
    2) Indefinite detention without trial
    3) The largest expansion of the welfare state since LBJ
    4) The largest expansion of non-defense discretionary spending in decades

    A GOP Congress would never let a Dem President get away with torture or indefinite detention without trial. They'd be scared shitless of what might happen to their base the next time a bomb goes off at an abortion clinic.

    And while the AARP has been agitating for free pills for quite some time, it didn't happen under Clinton. It happened under Bush. Think about that.

    What's Clinton's landmark domestic policy? Probably welfare reform. Now, say what you will about how inadequate the "reform" was (and I'd probably agree), but there's no denying that it was at least a tiny step in a better direction, while free pills for old folks is nothing short of a demographic time bomb that could ruin us.

    I'm not interested in what the parties say in their brochures and speeches. I'm interested in what happens when they start locking horns.

    Give me a Democrat in the White House and a Republican Congress, and I'll call it progress.

  • Larry A||

    What's Clinton's landmark domestic policy?

    He also, legislatively, promoted and signed the assault rifle ban. By regulation he cut the number of Federal Firearms Licensees (legal gun dealers) by 80%. And his HUD secretary blackmailed Smith & Wesson into an anti-gun "agreement."

  • ||

    yeah, that assault rifle ban was a million times worse for civil liberties than eliminating habeas corpus, ignoring FISA and legalizing "disappearances" for american citizens. what a bunch of constitutional scholars here.

  • ||

    To some, freedom's just another word for "I highly value my rights, but don't give a damn about yours."

    Which part of the Bill of Rights is FISA in again?

  • Richard||

    What I've gathered from the comments so far is that a vote for gridlock is a vote for libertarianism. Amen.

    As a transplanted Montanan, I'm proud that Montana's is one of six state legislatures to comdemn the USA Patriot Act. (The last time I checked the ACLU's Web site, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Alaska and Hawaii were the others.)

    What we should worry about, however, is the incremental pollution of the judicial branch with right-wing Bush/Chaney shills who place no value on civil liberties. The Democrats definitely need to take back the Senate to mitigate this problem.

    Speaking of dysfunctional political parties, however, I'm afraid that in 2008 the Democrats will run someone for president who can't win, thus tipping the balance back to where was.

    P.S. Look for an orange alert from Homeland Security sometime before Election Day.

  • ||

    Which part of the Bill of Rights is FISA in again?

    I'll speak slowly. FISA is what the grown-ups call a statute, a big word for law. In the country where I was born, no man was above the law or below it. Everyone was entitled to due process, and the president didn't get to choose which laws to obey.

  • ||

    The difference between Democratic support and opposition to something like the Patriot Act is the party of the president in charge of it. If President Kerry were poking into the library records of the Michigan Militia, it'd be an 'essential tool' to Democrats and 'Big Brother' to Republicans.



    As a life-long Democrat, I can tell you that I would be opposed to the USA PATRIOT Act no matter which party was in control of the White House. And if a Democratic President was trying to suspend habeas corpus, create star chambers for show trials, use testimony obtained via cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment in those show trials, holding people without trial, denying the right of access to counsel, or maintaining a network of secret prisons outside the U.S., you can bet that I would be screaming bloody murder and demanding his or her immediate impeachment and removal from office.

  • ||

    For someone who seems to think highly of his constitutional bona fides, you don't seem to know the difference between a statute and the Constitution, Benjoya.

    I like FISA as much as the next civil libertarian. I was just busting your chops because of your snide remark about constitutional scholars.

  • thoreau||

    The difference between Democratic support and opposition to something like the Patriot Act is the party of the president in charge of it. If President Kerry were poking into the library records of the Michigan Militia, it'd be an 'essential tool' to Democrats and 'Big Brother' to Republicans.

    Well, all but 1 of the Senate Dems voted for the Patriot Act. And when the Torture and Star Chamber Act of 2006 came to a vote, the Dems showed up, 10 of them voted "yes", and the rest quietly voted "no" without offering any sort of meaningful resistance via the procedural shennanigans that the Senate allows.

    So I'm not sure what this "Democratic opposition" is of which you speak.

  • Larry A||

    yeah, that assault rifle ban was a million times worse for civil liberties than eliminating habeas corpus, ignoring FISA and legalizing "disappearances" for american citizens. what a bunch of constitutional scholars here.

    1. I noted that President Clinton did try to gut a civil liberty. I don't believe there's anything in my post that indicates the Second Amendment is any more important than the other nine.
    2. In fact I regard the two dozen unalienable rights in the first eight amendments as essential to liberty, and therefore equally necessary to its preservation. As are the principles in the Ninth and Tenth.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement