Civil Liberties and the Presidency

At the Cato University seminar in Quebec from which I just returned, a very serious and intelligent participant whom I’ve known and with whom I’ve occasionally corresponded for a couple of years raised some serious questions in personal discussions about my ambivalence regarding the two major candidates. In particular, he thought that I was not giving enough weight to the assaults on the constitution and the rule of law orchestrated by the current Attorney General. I certainly appreciate the lawlessnes of the current Attorney General’s approach to the Constitution and was quite pleased when the Supreme Court slapped him over the attempted suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus. (The Cato Institute filed briefs before the Supremes on behalf of the due process rights of Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi.) But I see no improvement under a likely Kerry Administration, especially considering Kerry’s own terrible record on civil liberties.

When Janet Reno was finally removed from the Justice Department, I breathed a sigh of relief. Surely you could not do worse than Janet Reno, a loathesome bully who should be in prison for her repeated and willful abuses of power, notably with regard to the massacre at Waco. I was, it turns out, wrong. You can do worse. But then, if I were to say, “You couldn’t do worse than John Ashcroft,” I might very well be wrong again. John Kerry is no friend of the rule of law, civil liberties, or the rights of individuals and I don’t see any obvious advantage for civil liberties to a Kerry Administration over the Bush Administration. The choice in 2004 is truly awful.

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