Civil Liberties

Two Brands of Eternal Vigilance

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Two responses to my column on National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell's recent interview with the El Paso Times, both from Townhall readers, nicely sum up the split on the right regarding the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policies:

1) I am astounded that so many people do not take this fact seriously: we are at war. Oh, and not just any war. It is one in which our enemies wear no uniforms, claim allegience to no specific country, and some who even work and live among us as they plot our demise.

To say "winning this war is difficult" is a gross understatement. Therefore, whatever tactic might save us from another 9-11 attack by ruthless murderers has my endorsement, and I believe that those who are seeking to make Bush and his Administration the bad guys in this war have their own personal political agenda that is inconsistent with keeping my family safe. It is that simple!

2) The price of freedom is still eternal vigilance. Only our collective will to maintain our Republic (Jacob, we are NOT a DEMOCRACY) will keep these Socialist Neocons and their collective fearmongering in check until the public hopefully turns them out of office with such force that it drives them out of power forever.

Discuss: How can these two fundamentally different impulses coexist within the same political movement? 

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  1. Because they both hate the Democrats so fucking much…

  2. We have to stay the course, we cannot cut and run. It is what the president says, so it is what we have to do. Period, end of discussion.

  3. Fear

    1) Fear of unknowable, unseeable enemy — response is to seek security

    2) Fear of unchecked government control — response is to see freedom

  4. Birds fly, fish swim, human beings operate from mixed motives. Sometimes mixed-up motives.

  5. Both they both cling to a political dichotomy that hasn’t been a reality since the late 1950s?

  6. How can these two fundamentally different impulses coexist within the same political movement?

    Because these are two of the aspects or what have you of conservatism. That’s been the case for a long, long time. They might hold many notions in common, but they also happen to differ on many areas as well.

  7. Nice, carridk; tidy.

    And in the absence of fear, lust for power does well too, though on some accounts that too reduces to fear.

  8. General note-When someone says, “It’s just that simple,” you can be assured that it isn’t.

  9. Never bother considering the opinion of someone who insists on saying that we live in a Republic instead of a Democracy.

  10. Episiarch nailed it, I think, which is a sad commentary on American political discourse. I know a few people whose positions would land them squarely in Democratic territory, if it weren’t for the fact that they can’t stomach the notion of voting for a Democrat.

    Not for any reason, mind you, but just because they believe that Democrats are anti-American and evil (and Republicans have hot dogs and apple pie oozing from every orifice…).

  11. Didactic, is it really just that simple?

  12. Actually, the ideas shown by these two examples pretty much represent the basic balance that all modern soceities struggle with. We all want a certain amount of freedom, but we also all want a certain amount of security. You can’t be both totally free and totally secure, so the question becomes where the line is drawn.

  13. Never bother considering the opinion of someone who insists on saying that we live in a Republic instead of a Democracy.

    Screw you and your Greek roots, dickhead. Latin 4 eva!

  14. Socialist Neocons

    Huh?

    Oops, I’m supposed to say “Eh?”

  15. Anyway, it is bit like contrasting say Paine and Burke. Both were in agreement in some areas, both were classical liberals in many ways (though Paine was considered quite radical), but both were also quite far apart from each other as far as ideology, their concept of good government, etc. were concerned.

  16. Socialist Neocons

    Huh?

    Oops, I’m supposed to say “Eh?”

    Aresen,

    Remember these are Townhall readers. Chances are pretty good that both identify themselves as conservative Republicans.

    The second reader fears the power of a big state, but has told himself that Republicans cannot possibly be in favor of a big state. Democrats are the big state party, not the Republicans, yes sir, you betcha. Hence, neoconservatives are not really Republicans; they’re stealth Democrats (he called them socialists, but to a Republican those two words are synonymous.)

  17. Both parties have strayed very far from their founding principles:

    “Government governs best which governs least”

    “Of the people, by the people, for the people”

  18. Damn, carrick, you iz de winningest today! 🙂

  19. carrick | August 30, 2007, 12:11pm | #

    Both parties have strayed very far from their founding principles:

    “Government governs best which governs least”

    “Of the people, by the people, for the people”

    Actually, they have only been slightly reworded:

    “Government governs best which governs itself least”

    “Of you guys, by us guys, for our guys.”

  20. “””Never bother considering the opinion of someone who insists on saying that we live in a Republic instead of a Democracy.”””

    Gee Dan, ever recite the Pledge of Allegence once in your life?

    “And to the Republic, for which it stands”…

  21. Dan T,

    We live in a republic.

  22. And now for another exciting round of Whack-a-Troll . . .

  23. Dan, perhaps you could provide some more detail explaining WHY you should never consider the opinion of anyone who states something that is pretty self-evidently true.

  24. What you’re forgetting comrade is that we are in a war; a war with an unseen enemy that does not wear uniforms or carry flags. Our enemy is odorless, colorless and everywhere, like deadly carbon monoxide!

    Many of them may be our neighbors, friends, convenience store clerks, clinical pathology techs, or even Mexicans. There is just no telling who might be plotting to bring about our gruesome deaths by ramming things into other things, and thereby bring about a twilight of freedom and a touchdown for tyranny!

    In the same way that freedom isn’t free but costs $1.25 for a sticker announcing same, winning this war will not cost us nothing. It may cost us some of what we have traditionally thought of as our God-given rights to be jackasses in whatever way we please. We must become strong – constitutionally, morally and also in terms of stomach – so that we can overcome the great trial which History has set us, but we must not be deterred by the costs.

    Nor will I, personally, countenance any sabotage or counterrevolutionary talk, since as a guy who lives in a tract house in Ohio, I am in imminent danger of having a plane rammed into me at any time, and I will fight to the death on the internet to keep my children from that fate. It’s that simple.

  25. …those who are seeking to make Bush and his Administration the bad guys in this war…

    Obviously, no one could actually be opposed to a specific government security policy. It’s just a front for hating a certain politician or wanting terrorists to kill us.

  26. dammit. now he’s got me doing it.

    anyways, this is becoming a “you got Burke all over my Mill”, “you got Mill all over my Burke”.

    mmm tasty!

  27. joe broke the internets!

    Again!

  28. those who are seeking to make Bush and his Administration the bad guys in this war

    Why would I want to limit “making them bad guys” to the war?

  29. Hit and Run is leaning Right.


  30. Many of them may be our neighbors, friends, convenience store clerks, clinical pathology techs, or even Mexicans. There is just no telling who might be plotting to bring about our gruesome deaths by ramming things into other things, and thereby bring about a twilight of freedom and a touchdown for tyranny!

    Hale: do you live in Idaho? They’d like you in Idaho. They might even vote for you!

    Joe: Buck up, man. Be bold.

  31. M-

    Hee hee!

  32. “Obviously, no one could actually be opposed to a specific government security policy. It’s just a front for hating a certain politician or wanting terrorists to kill us.”

    And obviously no one could actually be proposing expanded security measures as a response to a terrorist threat, it’s a just a front for wanting to put foreigners in concentration camps and read peoples’ email.

    BS aside, I think what’s probably more true is that these two views are more the outliers on the bell curve. Most people are willing to accept some restrictions on civil liberties in times of war, but there’s a wide spectrum of views on how many restrictions are acceptable and also on how much the current conflict can really be considered a ‘war’ in the sense we usually understand such things.

    That both extremes can exist within the Republican party has a lot to do with a complete lack of faith that the Democrats have any real interests in protecting civil liberties (with the notable exception of abortion rights, which haven’t really been affected by anything done by this administration).

  33. I think the obvious missing point is the question about where actual efficacy lies in security measures. These guys want to have their rhetorical cake and eat it too = “we support anything that protects us from teh terrissts” = oh yeah? Even stupid, expensive, ineffective things that provide no REAL security, but provide the government an excuse they’re doing something?? Yes, they generally say.

    This is their achilles heel. They claim to be more “Freedom loving”, but it often boils down to, “Im more WILLING than others to sacrifice freedoms for perceived security”.

  34. also, what the fuck is up with only being able to type in italics??

  35. hey, come on

    close the tags already!!

    wow, joe really did break the internets.

    joooooeeeee!!!

  36. DannyK —

    I live in any state in this great Union where Freedom still thrives, but I would not spurn noble Idaho, keeper of those values of strength and resolve which allowed brave pioneers to conquer the mountains and bring forth potatoes from the barren. One day, Idaho will teach us all some locality-appropriate lesson in courage and so forth.

  37. Now we’re back to being roman. As all good republicans are.

  38. Dan T,

    We live in a republic.

    We also live in a democracy.

  39. Dan, perhaps you could provide some more detail explaining WHY you should never consider the opinion of anyone who states something that is pretty self-evidently true.

    Because it’s a sign that they’re way to into pointless hairsplitting.

    They might as well say, “This is not a soda I’m drinking, it’s a Pepsi.”

  40. And obviously no one could actually be proposing expanded security measures as a response to a terrorist threat, it’s a just a front for wanting to put foreigners in concentration camps and read peoples’ email.

    The difference, TX, is that respected, mainstream conservatives often accuse critics of this president of basing their objections on bitter personal hatred of the president and sympathy for terrorists, whereas respected, mainstream liberals don’t actually accuse the administration of wanting to put people in concentration camps.

  41. Dan, there is a difference between a democracy and a representative republic.

    It was all covered in middle school.

  42. Because it’s a sign that they’re way to into pointless hairsplitting.

    Oh, and that difference is non-trivial.

  43. “respected, mainstream liberals don’t actually accuse the administration of wanting to put people in concentration camps.”

    I may have been exaggerating for effect, but if you truly believe that ” “respected, mainstream liberals” don;t accuse the administration of pursuing their policies for various nefarious ends then we have very different ideas of what constitutes a respected, mainstream liberal.

  44. It is what the president says, so it is what we have to do.

    What are you, personally, doing to help the war effort, Juanita?

  45. Discuss: How can these two fundamentally different impulses coexist within the same political movement?

    Because Republicans / conservatives are not a monolithic block of people all thinking the same? That some people want to preserve the good things from the past (economic classical liberalism) and others the bad things (racial/sexual discrimination)?

  46. Dan T. — our current system of governance is mostly a Representative Republic (you know, those politicians who represent us) with a dash of Democracy (ballot initiatives and other items where the voters directly vote on issues).

  47. Our government is based on democratic principles, but is most definitely small-r republican in its form.

  48. There’s a lot of overheated rhetoric involved. The risk is dying in a terrorist attack is extremely low, so speaking of “keeping my family safe” is crazy talk. Probably he doesn’t really believe it.

  49. People appear to be missing Dan’s point. As far as I can tell, a “republic” is just one variety of democracy, so what is the point of making the correction? In what situation is this an important distinction to make? I’m sure there are some, but not many.

    Whenever I hear somebody make this correction, they almost never have anything interesting or insightful to say after it. In my experience, hearing this is a pretty good indicator that the speaker has nothing else of interest to say.

  50. Because Republicans / conservatives are not a monolithic block of people all thinking the same? That some people want to preserve the good things from the past (economic classical liberalism) and others the bad things (racial/sexual discrimination)?

    Well, yes, but the question is, why do these people consider themselves to be part of the same political movement?

    My answer: modern conservatism and modern libertarianism both developed as criticisms of modern liberalism, during its zenith in the New Deal era and just after it. Since all factions of the conservative movement were in the position of being the permanent opposition, their lack of common ideas about an affirmative political platform simply didn’t matter very much.

    Even though this is no longer the case, that’s where their roots are, and how they think of themselves.

  51. tags, why is it so hard

  52. Try putting a comma before the /i>.

    Works for me.

    😉

  53. Modern libertarianism is both opposed to and intersects with both modern liberalism and conservatism.

  54. On Republic and Democracy:

    I’ve seen multiple definitions for both terms. If you insist that the real meaning of “democracy” is basically “unlimited democracy” where 50.0001% can do ANYTHING at all, then, certainly, we are not a democracy. And if you insist that the real meaning of “republic” is a system of representation coupled with protection of rights (i.e. limits on what that 50.0001% or representatives thereof can do) then certainly we are (or at least ought to be) a republic.

    But when you look at actual usages, and even consult dictionaries, you find a wide variety of meanings for both terms. In some dictionaries, a “republic” is any system of government in which the leader is not a hereditary king. So even countries in which the public has little or no say in its governance count as “Republics.” (e.g. “People’s Republic”, “Islamic Republic”, etc.)

    Meanwhile, you find that many people use the word “democracy” to mean any system of government subject to free, fair, and frequent elections. This can encompass a wide variety of forms.

    Now, because of the variety of usages out there, linguistic precision is certainly desirable. There are at least 2 ways to approach this:

    1) Insist on your preferred definitions for each term, and recite “republic, NOT a democracy” at anybody who uses the word “democracy.”

    2) When somebody uses one of those terms, ask the person to elaborate.

    The second approach leads to dialogue and further communication, the first approach tends to short-circuit interesting discussion.

  55. Thoreau-


    I’ve seen multiple definitions for both terms. If you insist that the real meaning of “democracy” is basically “unlimited democracy” where 50.0001% can do ANYTHING at all, then, certainly, we are not a democracy. And if you insist that the real meaning of “republic” is a system of representation coupled with protection of rights (i.e. limits on what that 50.0001% or representatives thereof can do) then certainly we are (or at least ought to be) a republic.

    Thats why I say, democratic in principle (this excludes “republics” like Iran and China) and republican in form (this excludes “democracies” like Venezuela).

  56. Cesar-

    Fair enough.

    As far as whether one political party disagrees with itself more than the other, I’d say this: Certainly if you include libertarians in the GOP tent then the GOP is full of disputes. But libertarians are a small portion of the coalition, their influence over policy (not to be confused with intellectual firepower and ability to provide research that can be quoted when convenient) is minimal, and many are fleeing.

    Leaving aside libertarians, the GOP becomes a bit more consistent. It’s not so much that they all agree on everything, but that they don’t necessarily step on each other’s toes as much. There’s no reason, in principle, why somebody can’t be hawkish AND religious AND a gun owner AND hate regulations AND hate taxes. (One could argue that being hawkish AND anti-tax is a contradiction, given the cost of war, but they paper over it by agreeing that the REAL problem is social spending, not military spending. And one could argue that being hawkish AND following Jesus is a contradiction, but they manage it somehow.)

    It might be a strain to fit those elements into the same coalition, but they manage.

    OTOH, fitting gay rights activists and abortion rights activists into a coalition with black church leaders takes a bit more finesse. Fitting the UAW into a coalition with environmentalists is a rather awkward fit. Putting the ACLU into any coalition with people who want to regulate media “for the children” is a bit of a stretch. Putting public employee unions (which include cops and prison guards) into the same coalition as the ACLU can also be a bit of a stretch. And so forth.

    The Democrats step on each other’s toes more than Republicans do, once you realize that libertarians are a very small part of the Republican party.

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