Frank Rich to Tom Coburn: Stop Scaring Peace-Loving People with Phantoms of Lost Liberty

Frank Rich, writing this weekend about the purportedly grave threat of right-wing violence, turns his attention to the mid-'90s debate about the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act:

[L]ast Sunday, when asked by David Gregory on "Meet the Press" if he was troubled by current threats of "violence against the government," [Sen. Tom] Coburn blamed not the nuts but the government.

"Well, I'm troubled any time when we stop having confidence in our government," the senator said, "but we've earned it."

Coburn is nothing if not consistent. In the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, he was part of a House contingent that helped delay and soften an antiterrorism bill. This cohort even tried to strip out a provision blocking domestic fund-raising by foreign terrorist organizations like Hamas. Why? The far right, in league with the National Rifle Association, was angry at the federal government for aggressively policing America's self-appointed militias.

Needless to say, a provision about foreign organizations would have no effect on any American militias. The reason the ACLU and other "far right" groups raised a stink about that measure was because they were afraid it would criminalize too much. For an example of their concerns, read David Kopel and Joseph Olson's old warning that

One important distinction between the Clinton and Dole bills was that the Dole bill created an explicit exception to the "material support" statute: "'Material support'...does not include humanitarian assistance to persons not directly involved in such violations." Thus, under the Dole approach, sending a Christmas food package to an I.R.A. or A.N.C. prisoner would constitute material support, but giving money to a fund that assisted the orphaned children of I.R.A. or A.N.C. members would not. The final legislation did not include the proposed Dole exception.

Thus, under the new terrorism bill, a donor to the I.R.A. orphanage would be a federal felon, subject to ten years in prison, as would be a person who spent five dollars to attend a 1980s speech of a visiting lecturer from the African National Congress. If the "material support" language had been law in the early 1980s, persons who gave money to church relief groups in El Salvador and Nicaragua, which opposed American policy in Central America, could have been labeled "terrorist." When pressed about this problem at Congressional hearings, a Clinton administration spokesperson acknowledged that minor support for the A.N.C.'s peaceful activities could have been felonized, but that the American people should simply trust the President not to abuse the immense power which President Clinton was requesting.

Thanks to all that "far right" opposition, many of the worst elements of the 1996 law were removed. (Or, if you prefer Frank Rich's terminology, the bill was "softened.") The excised ideas returned in 2001 with the USA PATRIOT Act, at a time when Bush officials were harshly denouncing civil libertarians. Here's how one columnist described the administration's attitudes at the time:

It's no longer just politically incorrect to criticize George W. Bush or anyone in his administration these days -- now it's treason.

John Ashcroft, testifying before the Senate on Thursday, declared that those who challenge his wisdom "only aid terrorists" and will "give ammunition to America's enemies." Tough words. They make you wonder what the guy who's charged with helping us whip Al Qaeda is afraid of. The only prominent traitors in sight are the usual civil-liberties watchdogs and a milquetoast senator or two barely known beyond the Beltway and their own constituencies. Polls find the public squarely on the attorney general's side, and even the few pundits who knock him are ridiculed by their journalistic colleagues as hysterics so busy fussing about civil liberties that they forget "there's a war going on."

As you've probably guessed, the columnist in question was Frank Rich. He didn't seem to approve of such rhetoric back then, but maybe I was misreading him -- his latest effort sounds like an Ashcroft homage. Denouncing "Coburn's implicit rationalization for far-right fanatics," Rich writes:

In a 1996 floor speech, Coburn conceded that "terrorism obviously poses a serious threat," but then went on to explain that the nation had worse threats to worry about: "There is a far greater fear that is present in this country, and that is fear of our own government." As his remarks on "Meet the Press" last week demonstrated, the subsequent intervention of 9/11 has not changed his worldview.

Did you ever expect to see Frank Rich accusing his enemies of having a 9/10 mentality? I hear Sean Hannity might run for president in 2012. Maybe he should apply for a job at The New York Times instead.

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  • Elemenope||

    I hear Sean Hannity might run for president in 2012.

    Yeah, but only if "God directs him".

    Shoot me now.

  • Warty||

    Frank Rich is even more of a cunt than Naomi Klein, and he deserves an even more vicious hatefucking. Quick, someone round up Steve Smith and a few gallons of peanut butter.

  • ||

    I hear Sean Hannity might run for president in 2012.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    I'll bring the popcorn; somebody make up the rum and cokes.

  • ||

    Wait- Frank Rich isn't a humor-column parody?

  • Warty||

    Epi, we're gonna need some rags and ether for this one.

  • ||

    No, Warty--roofies, a strap-on, and a lot of chili powder. TEXAS CHILI BOWL

  • Warty||

    Epi, are we raping Frank Rich or are we just partying to celebrate America's fall?

  • ||

    I wonder if Frank Rich has ever seen that We have nothing to fear but fear itself quote.

  • ||

    Fascist nihilists don't need a reason to celebrate.

  • ||

    "L]ast Sunday, when asked by David Gregory on "Meet the Press" if he was troubled by current threats of "violence against the government," [Sen. Tom] Coburn blamed not the nuts but the government.

    "Well, I'm troubled any time when we stop having confidence in our government," the senator said, "but we've earned it."

    They may be the most intelligent answer given to a question by a Congress Creature in my lifetime. Colborn is exactly right.

    It is funny how when lunatic Muslims kill 3000 Americans on one day all liberals can ask is "why do they hate us". Yet, when a few people get pissed off at the government, all liberals can say is "those un-American crazies".

  • hmm||

    He should be writing reviews of the recent Hanna Montana movie. Hell he isn't even good at that.

  • Subterranean Sunday||

    Lascaux is the setting of a complex of caves in southwestern France famous for its Paleolithic cave paintings. The original caves are located near the village of Montignac, in the Dordogne département. They contain some of the most well-known Upper Paleolithic art. These paintings are estimated to be 16,000 years old. They primarily consist of realistic images of large animals, most of which are known from fossil evidence to have lived in the area at the time. In 1979, Lascaux was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list along with other prehistoric sites in the Vézère valley.[1]

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Ditto on what Subterranean said.

    But I would like to add that it's nice to see Rich finally asking, "Why do you hate America?" Eat that, Hannity!

  • 24AheadDotCom||

    Along similar lines, guess which Reason Contributing Editor was a source for the DHS's right-wing extremists report, right alongside the SPLC and the ADL.

    Regarding the general idiot's crusade that Reason is helping with, this site apparently isn't going to approve a comment I left but I'll link to it anyway as an example of how you look to others.

    P.S. In case anyone replies to this, their responses will almost assuredly be ad homs, thereby conceding my points and showing the childish, anti-intellectual nature of libertarians.

  • ||

    [insert scurrilous ad hominem and vituperative abuse]

  • ||

    I thought Subterranean Sunday was going to be about Lonewacko. Oh well, maybe next week.

  • Jerry||

    Someone starts talking about caves and Lonewacko shows up. This can't be mere coincidence.

  • ||

    Thus, under the new terrorism bill, a donor to the I.R.A. orphanage would be a federal felon, subject to ten years in prison

    WTF? The IRA orphanage? I'm from Ireland and I can assure you that the IRA was in the business of making orphans not looking after them.

  • 24AheadDotCom||

    A few years back, I visited a cave in Texas.

  • ||

    A few years back, I visited a cave in Texas.

    That explains it. You're supposed to get those bat bites looked at, dude.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Mr. Porter - it is a hypothetical example. Please get off the cross and use the wood to build a bridge and get over it.

  • Mike M.||

    I hear Sean Hannity might run for president in 2012.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    I'll bring the popcorn; somebody make up the rum and cokes.


    I agree the idea is laughable, but it will never happen. He would have to give up his radio and TV gigs, for which he is receiving well in excess of $20 million a year for at least four more years.

  • ||

    I didn't know where to put this story. It's about a gay air force pilot that may be dishonorably discharged after 18 years and many medals. I thought it very important.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    brotherben - just for clarification, the prospect of a "dishonorable discharge" is very, very remote, to the point of impossibility. It is the equivalent of a felony conviction.

  • List of fatal bear attacks in ||

    Donna Munson, 74, female August 6, 2009 Black Ouray, Colorado. Munson had been feeding bears for ten years, though repeatedly warned by wildlife officials. A small bear was wounded in a fight with a larger bear. Munson had been feeding the smaller bear. A larger, older bear came up to her house, where she had enclosed the back porch with a wire fence. She was attempting to scare away the older bear, when it clubbed her through the screened porch, dragged her off, and killed her. Wildlife officials ended up killing two bears as a result of this incident.

  • Mike.S||

    One only hopes she was eaten prior to passing on her genes. The annoyed, hungry bruins really got the short end of the bang-stick here.

    That's the problem with natural selection: it takes too long, and is unreliable. I favor un-natural selection, with myself as Selector.

  • ||

    You know what bridges do Mr Angry Optimist cliché monger? They go over to the other side. No surrender.

  • ||

    OT (sorta): No faux intellectualism here but isn't Daniel Bell the most greatly under-rated sociologist in our history?

    The Post-Ideological Age and the CCC were just way ahead of their times.

    The man's brilliance has never been adequately recognized it seems to me.

  • 24AheadDotCom||

    I was up on the second of these here with bear scat on the ground all alone with no one else around. I've done the first a few times all alone with no one else around and several others like that, but the scat kinda creeped me out.

  • ||

    Epi, are we raping Frank Rich or are we just partying to celebrate America's fall?

    It can be both, can't it?

    "All I know is ball, and good...and rape."

  • Huh||

    >>Quick, someone round up Steve Smith and a few gallons of peanut butter.

    Huh?

  • hmm||

    brotherben - just for clarification, the prospect of a "dishonorable discharge" is very, very remote, to the point of impossibility. It is the equivalent of a felony conviction.

    The possibility of being in voluntarily discharged, not matter how, should be remote. Why is it "don't ask don't tell" can't simply be overridden or removed from the military per the president? We seem to be able to just go ahead and give out tax money will nilly, yet the one thing the president is almost completely in charge of he isn't exerting his masterful control over.

    What is the procedure for removal or changing such a policy?

  • hmm||

    *involuntariy

  • Huh||

    >>"All I know is ball, and good...and rape."

    Huh?

  • Elemenope||

    P.S. In case anyone replies to this, their responses will almost assuredly be ad homs, thereby conceding my points and showing the childish, anti-intellectual nature of libertarians.

    The disclaimer! It's back!!! O, happy day!

  • ||

    P.S. In case anyone replies to this, their responses will almost assuredly be ad homs, thereby conceding my points and showing the childish, anti-intellectual nature of libertarians.

    Lonewacko, you're a fucking moron!

    FTR, I don't calmly and rationally discuss the issues of the day with the bag lady who's preaching to the pigeons either.

  • hmm||

    FTR, I don't calmly and rationally discuss the issues of the day with the bag lady who's preaching to the pigeons either.

    You are missing out on some prime entertainment. Crazy pigeon ladies are almost the zenith of entertaining crazies. Offering to buy beggars lunch is a close second.

  • 24AheadDotCom||

    I'd hate to run across a bear up here.

  • 24AheadDotCom||

    Or here. If that's the part I'm thinking it is, they didn't have a railing when I was there. I guess they decided to put it in due to the libertarians.

  • ||

    A long time ago, someone wrote these words:

    But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

    Given that the Federal Imperial Government, a government founded on the concept of limited power, has evolved into something that has come to interefere and dictate to rules of every imaginable circle of human existence everywhere on this planet, I feel that it my duty to revolt against such a government. And apparently there are some that would call it treason that I do not obsequiously submit to this authority.
    To those, I say, suck my cock. I only hope there are those with more courage than I to stand up to this leviathin that has grown to such a magnitude that has not been seen in the history of human existence.

  • ||

    That Frank Rich fellow should warm up before zig-zagging so vigorously. He could pull a muscle.

  • Warty||

    Shit, the disclaimer is back! WE GOT PWNED!!!!

  • Reality||

    More wingnut Rethuglican talking points.You would think a site called Reason would recognize that the FACTS have a liberal bias.

  • Warty||

    Shut the fuck up, Lonewacko.

  • ||

    Reality | August 23, 2009, 6:05pm | #
    More wingnut Rethuglican talking points.You would think a site called Reason would recognize that the FACTS have a liberal bias.


    Facts have a liberal bias? Sure.

    Facts have a left wing hack job bias? Nope.

  • Anonymous||

    Facts have a liberal bias? Sure.

    Facts have a left wing hack job bias? Nope.


    That's telling him! Wait, no; no, it's not.

  • Reality||

    Since when is "Libertarian" spelled GOP Fascist?

  • ||

    Reality's making me drink again.

  • Handbanana||

    Huh | August 23, 2009, 4:46pm | #

    >>"All I know is ball, and good...and rape."

    Huh?


    Google me.

  • Elemenope||

  • ||

    Reality's making me drink again.

    Sorry, but the rules are the rules.

  • Steve||

    Great post! Keep up the excellent work!
    COMMON CENTS

    http://www.commoncts.blogspot.com

    ps. Link Exchange?

  • Warty||

  • Warty||

    Fuck, this is the MOR song I meant to post. Much cooler.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    "FACTS have a liberal bias"

    I thought there was no such thing as liberal bias...

  • SIV||

  • Rethuglican talking points||

    Bet you can't catch me!

    Am I behind the bush?

    Am I under the rug?

    Am I around the corner?

    Or peeping in your window?

    No, I'm in some moonbat's fevered imagination.

    Okay, your turn to hide.

  • Liberal Talking Points||

    We won, so you all have to live under OUR rules:

    No gas-powered cars
    No trans-fats
    No smoking
    No disbelief in manmade global warming
    No capitalism
    No red meat
    No homeschooling
    No dissent against The President
    No politically-incorrect jokes
    No protesting against Congress

    You can have all the abortions and gay sex you want, though, as we are pro-choice on only those two issues.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Somebody wrote these words, and his laptop snapped shut on his hands, crushing them beyond repair.

    Later in the program, a member of the audience asked what the host thought of a Hannity-Palin ticket.

  • ||

    There is a sense in which some of the hysteria about the Patriot Act did lead to lost liberties. A lot of local governments, state governments, private actors, and government bureaucrats engaged and have engaged in petty and not-so-petty violations of civil liberties and tried to pass it off as "required by the Patriot Act" or "using powers in the Patriot Act." Of course in the vast majority of these cases, the Patriot Act did no such thing, they just brought it up as a bit of cover but their actions were actually unsupported by law. However, quite a people, scared by exaggerated reports of what's in the Patriot Act, let them get away with it rather than challenging them on it.

    The Patriot Act has a lot of bad provisions. And of course if it had never been passed then it couldn't have been used as an excuse either.

    Still, convincing people that the government has more power than it already has can be counterproductive, though, as most people will just accept claims of power rather than fight them. I'm far from convinced that exaggerating the ill effects of the Patriot Act did more good than harm to civil liberties.

  • Atanarjuat||

    I agree the idea is laughable, but it will never happen. He would have to give up his radio and TV gigs, for which he is receiving well in excess of $20 million a year for at least four more years.



    The prestige, power, immortality of the office could overcome the money issue. Plus, even if he gets the nomination and loses that price will go up.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Reality's making me drink again.

    LOL, I see what you did there. I'm convinced that Reality's a sockpuppet, though, because people that have been bludgeoned into (actual!) stupidity by their own partisan biases are fairly rare.

  • Xeones||

    I guess they decided to put it in due to the libertarians.

    Was that an ad hominem? Christ, you can't even do that right. Shut the fuck up, LoneWacko.

  • ||

    I guess I came in in the middle of the conversation, but boy is this poorly written. The only reason I know which side to be on is that I know Frankie Rich is a bozo. Bad link by Instapundit.

  • Zeb||

    "Why is it "don't ask don't tell" can't simply be overridden or removed from the military per the president?"

    As I understand it, DADT was actually passed by Congress and so is law and not just military policy. Prior to its passage, the ban on gays in the military was just a military policy that the president could have simply changed. DADT was actually the first time that there was a legislative ban on gays in the military.

  • Larry||

    Re 24AheadDotCom | August 23, 2009, 3:14pm observing that "A few years back, I visited a cave in Texas.":
    I hear Barky has visited a dark cave on at least two occasions. [A-sense-of-grace-and-style-not-seen-since-Jackie O-my-arse.]

  • JB||

    Governments should be afraid of their people.

    And Frank Rich should stop sucking government cock.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Rich probably gets some kind of cock-sucking subsidy. He probably found it in one of Matthew Lesko's books.

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