With Liberty And Justice For All桬ven Republicans

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					The purpose of this piece is to reassure its readers (and perhaps, its
author), that civil liberties are not a concern relegated solely to the
opponents of the Bush White House. Let me start off this essay by
incurring much wrath in clearly identifying myself as a lifelong
Republican, and a supporter of this Administration’s policies in
the Middle East and in Iraq, in particular. Those whose judgment is so
driven by obsessive hatred of George W. Bush that they prefer to see the
failure of American interest in the international arena, than to endure a
scintilla of success for Team Bush should, in any rational world, be
ashamed of themselves for their lack of patriotism, to say the least. In
addition, the readiness of some to declare his policies a failure smacks
of intellectual dishonesty. Any student of history worth his or her salt
knows that the success or failure of a policy—ANY policy—is
not evident for at least fifty years, or more. Alas, however, we do not
live in a rational, or an intellectually honest, world.
In spite of my political leanings, it is an unfortunate reality that our
President is a divisive figure. Part of this is a function of his
inability to project intelligence, and the resultant, and mistaken public
impression (reinforced relentlessly and cynically by his detractors) of
him as shallow and, indeed, stupid. I am naive enough to believe that
idiots don’t make it to the White House, and that this President
suffers merely from an enhanced form of his father’s estrangement
from, and lack of fluency in, the English Language. That, coupled with a
Texas drawl, a goofy grin and an inability to put forth bon mots in a
spontaneous way, leaves the American public with a perception of him as
something of a dimwit. Those who know the President personally (I am not
among them) know this to be false. I agree wholeheartedly, in large
measure because I have seen the man’s work and am, for the most
part, satisfied with it. Irrespective of the views of both his supporters
and detractors, history, most importantly, will judge him on his deeds
and not on his media-created (or distorted) image.
Add to this a genuine weakness of this President: his apparent reliance
on personal friendship and trust, in lieu, sometimes, of good independent
judgment, and his willingness to subscribe to secrecy and close counsel
for its own sake, and his constituency is left to wonder: “what is
this not-very-intelligent guy up to? Perhaps he really does mean to drop
a few nukes on Iran.” Now, as viscerally satisfying as
“dropping a few nukes on Iran” may seem to some of us, it is
probably bad policy, and even worse policy to leak to the media that it
is even being considered.
Putting all of that to the side, however, and given this writer’s
support for the War on Terror and the Bush policies in Iraq, what
concerns me the most is the utter lack of public discourse on the real
issues which arise from these policies. I refer, of course, to the price
demanded of our civil liberties and the evolving change of balance as
between our rights and the powers ceded to law enforcement. And when I
allude to public discourse, of course, I am not referring to the debate
among the talking heads on Washington Week in Review, and its three or
four weekly viewers, or the weekly bloodsport/screamfest-passing-for-
discussion known as The McLaughlin Group. Rather, I am wondering: what
happened to the “public” in public discourse? In the middle
of a war, in the midst of a crisis in which the “President”
of Iran speaks of wiping Israel off the map, and at a time in which the
arrogation of power to law enforcement has resulted in so-called
“free speech” zones at which the public may gather to express
their displeasure with government policy, the public discourse devolves
into discussion of such earth-shattering concerns such as who will
prevail on American Idol, or who will be America’s Next Top Model.
I am sure, perhaps with some justification, to be accused of intellectual
snobbery in appearing to suggest that entertainment and silly diversion
has no place in the midst of international crisis. That is not my
contention. Indeed, we are nearly always in some international crisis, or
other, and people—ALL people, virtually—need diversion from
the horrors that face us as members of the human race. We certainly
cannot reasonably be expected to devote all of our waking hours to
consideration of the horrors of Darfur or the likelihood of a viable
nuclear capability in the hands of Pyongyang. That way, of course, lies
madness. No, we need Desperate Housewives. We must have Entertainment
Tonight. And the goings-on of Scientologist cum Philosopher Tom Cruise as
well as the canoodlings of the moment by Lindsay Lohan and her partying
in the “boite de jour” with her Mom (am I the ONLY one who
finds that more than mildly disturbing?) are of inestimable importance to
our national consciousness.
But even allowing for all that, the question remains: why is the public
largely apparently indifferent to the invasion of its constitutional
liberties? Is it ignorance? Cynicism? Or worse, have we, by silence,
tacitly consented to a fundamental shift in our relationship with our
government as the payment for the perception (valid or not) of greater
personal and national security. I would like to think that ignorance is
the culprit, simply because that cause is most readily remedied by a
concentration of concerned individuals screaming loudly enough to be
heard above the fray of: “would you like fries with that?”
Cynicism is a tougher nut to crack, suggesting, as it does, that people
have considered the problem, to a greater or lesser extent, but feel
themselves so disenfranchised and removed from the scions of power that
any efforts would surely prove fruitless. The consent argument is most
troubling of all, because it implies that those principles for which our
founding fathers bled, and upon which this country stands, are really not
very important to us, at least not at the moment the chips are down.
There are, to be sure, legitimate arguments for encroachments upon
liberties in times of war. Every schoolchild knows (or would know, if our
schools were doing their job) that good old Abe Lincoln suspended the
writ of habeas corpus for a time during the Civil War. Parenthetically,
the rectitude of that action is still a subject of great debate among
historians and constitutional scholars. Japanese-Americans were sent to
concentration camps after Pearl Harbor (there’s not much debate
about the moral defensibility of that action). And now, of course, we
have issues such as the various provisions of the Patriot Act, the
prospect of secret military tribunals, domestic spying and indefinite
detention without trial at “Gitmo.” Are all these things a
clear and present danger, per se, to our freedoms which must be fiercely
resisted? Not necessarily. It should be pretty obvious to most people
that military activities cannot be prosecuted effectively without a high
level of secrecy. Interrogation of enemy operatives, especially in the
terror milieu of the Middle East, cannot be accomplished entirely
according to the Marquis of Queensbury Rules (there is, of course, a
large gulf between fully according due process to enemy combatants and
engaging in outright torture, notwithstanding the arguments of the
“slippery slope-ists”).
No, my objection is to the lack of open discussion of these issues. It
may be that national security requires that everyone open their bags for
inspection as they enter the New York City Subways. It is a debatable
proposition whether ethnic profiling for air travelers ought to be a tool
available to law enforcement. It may be uncomfortable for some to hear,
but it is nevertheless a fact that the horrors of September 11 were
perpetrated by Arab Muslims, as has most (not all, to be sure)
international terrorism in recent years. Our population needs to be
protected by its government and military. Our borders need to be secure
(we’re certainly doing a pretty poor job on that front). But the
point is that these subjects need to be discussed, debated and yes,
screamed about in the public domain, on the street, on blog sites, and
around the office water coolers. Most of what I hear in those precincts
concerns the latest episode of The Sopranos. (Not that the charms of that
show are lost on me. Indeed, I have not missed a single episode of the
five or six seasons of that show since it began airing some 27 years
ago).
Long ago, we gave up any real right to privacy in this country. Madison
Avenue saw to that, with its wholesale trading of customer lists and
accompanying marketing data. What little was left was taken by the credit
card companies, the internet and spammers. Commercial television ads for
heated K-Y Jelly suggesting that we “see where it leads”
followed by a knowing wink, have certainly removed what very little was
left of the surprise and mystery of the bedroom for those of us who have
not already been bombarded by internet porn over the last few years.
What, then, is left to us? Some of our allegedly constitutionally
protected rights devolve from the implied right to privacy, to be found
in the Bill of Rights. These include reproductive rights and, in recent
years, newly “discovered” rights concerning sexual conduct.
We still have some protections under the Fourth Amendment against
unreasonable searches and seizures, but domestic spying is a potential
threat to that. Do we want to do anything about that? Up to now,
America’s answer has been…..silence. Other provisions of the
Bill of Rights give us the right to counsel and trial by jury as well as
the right to confront our accusers. Secret military tribunals put those
rights at risk. Should we care? Do we care? Survey
says???……..{Yawn}. Maybe our national security and defense
do, indeed, demand the sacrifice of these rights. Maybe not. But the
prospect of losing what little we have left of our Constitutional legacy
because we are asleep at the switch is a horrifying proposition, to say
the least. If we are going to cede these rights to our government in the
name of safety and security, we ought to do so consciously. Security and
freedom have always worked in inverse proportion. This is basic and self-
evident. It has always been the fundamental mission of this Republic to
find the ideal balance. I am sorely afraid, however, that we have stopped
looking for it. There are a few (very few) people who seem to care.
Unfortunately, and embarrassingly to me, personally, they are
overwhelmingly to be found on the left. During the 2004 Presidential
Election, when President Bush was making campaign appearances, there
were, not surprisingly, anti-Bush demonstrators at most major venues. The
security people assigned to the campaign designated so-called
“free-speech” zones, usually many blocks from the site at
which the President was to appear. In the most quotable line in many
years, in this writer’s opinion, a woman (to whom I apologize for
not knowing her name and thus, not being able to attribute the quote),
said: “I thought this WHOLE COUNTRY was a “free speech
zone!””
Alas, however, those sentiments are few and far between. And regardless
of whether we vigorously support or actively oppose the foreign policy of
this Administration, we have a profound duty to ourselves, our children
and our national legacy, to exercise that atrophied muscle we call
“freedom of speech” and publicly, and in the harsh light of
day, examine what price we are willing to pay in order to keep it,
together with the other liberties we routinely take for granted.
Where is the outrage, people?
Warren R. Graham is an attorney with the New York Law Firm of Cohen
Tauber Spievack & Wagner LLP. He specializes in the field of
Bankruptcy and Creditors' Rights. He is a frequent writer, contributor
and commentator on legal, business, political and religious affairs. The
views expressed by him in this article are his own, and do not
necessarily reflect those of his Firm or its Members. Additional
professional information on him may be found at http://www.ctswlaw.com

				
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