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E.W. Jackson

E.W. Jackson

Lately, E. W. Jackson has been promoting a very pro-liberty message as he campaigns for lieutenant governor of Virginia.  Currently, on his website, he offers a rather inspiring video encouraging Virginians to “defy, not comply” with the unconstitutional overreaches of the federal government including agencies like the EPA and laws and regulations that rob us of our rights like the Patriot Act and NDAA.  These are all ideas which should make liberty-minded Virginians quite happy.

Although I certainly agree with many of the statements made in this recent video, I do have a few concerns.  As I wrote previously, back in late 2011 a variety of U.S. Senate candidates gathered in Verona to discuss a multitude of pressing issues.  I recall coming away from this forum a bit distressed regarding E. W. Jackson’s position on the Patriot Act as it seemed rather statist.  Later, I spoke with one of his campaign staffers, but that person assured me that I had misunderstood his opinion on this important matter.

Recently, however, I obtained a link to a video of that 2011 forum including Bishop Jackson’s own words on the Patriot Act.

In this clip, E. W. Jackson seems to suggest that we should be willing to jettison both our liberty and property in order to do all we can to preserve American lives.  However, to echo the words of former Virginia Governor Patrick Henry, we must ask, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?”  Henry has the answer, “Forbid it, Almighty God!”

So this situation begs an important question.  Has E. W. Jackson had a political awakening, casting off his previous positions and embracing the ideals of liberty by completely rejecting measures like the Patriot Act?  Or, as he seems to say in 2011, does he believe that it is a quality program simply in need of a bit more oversight?  Although I’m greatly hoping that the first answer is the truth, I’ve seen too many politicians play the political shell game to rule out that latter possibility.  As constitutional conservatives and libertarians increase their clout within the Virginia Republican Party, it is becoming increasingly more important, but also more difficult, to differentiate the true believers and converts from the opportunists.

It is an important question that I hope will be resolved prior to the Virginia Republican Convention in May.

Let me close by offering thanks to Sandy Garst for the clip from the 2011 forum.

Update:  In response to this article, I have been sent the following statement from the Jackson campaign:  “Having served in the US Marine Corps, I will not apologize for being open to ways of protecting the American people from those who want to kill us. But we must do that without robbing Americans of our freedoms. NDAA and the Patriot Act both fail that test.”

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Everyday, it seems that I receive another email announcing some other group or elected official who endorses George Allen’s Senate bid.  More and more people are climbing aboard the Allen bandwagon, but I cannot get on board.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I was a very strong supporter of George Allen back in 2006.  During that election cycle, there was nothing that I wanted more than to work for his re-election effort.  Although I didn’t get a job with him directly, through my employment with the Republican Party of Virginia, I did get to spend a lot of time assisting his campaign.  Like most Republicans and conservatives, I was both shocked and disappointed when he lost to Jim Webb by a narrow margin.

When I heard that George Allen was running again in late 2010/early 2011, my first reaction mirrored the same excitement that I displayed back in 2006.  Here is a conservative with almost universal name recognition who can reclaim one of Virginia’s two Senate seats currently held in Democratic hands.  But then, at the urging of a handful of anti-Allen folks (some of whom have since either joined the Allen campaign or who have endorsed him), I delved into Allen’s record when he served as our Senator from 2000-2006.  What I found would make just about every constitutional conservative cringe.

Like many conservatives, as the Bush presidency dragged on, I became increasingly disheartened with George W. Bush for not only failing to rein in the power of the federal government but massively expanding instead, as well as failing to enact conservative legislation.  But it wasn’t just the President who betrayed the conservative movement.  After all, for a huge chunk of the 107th, 108th, and 109th Congresses, Republicans controlled both the United States House of Representatives and the Senate.  For some unexplainable reason, I focused my frustrations on our President, while maintaining a rather rosy view of our legislators.  Nevertheless, as our Congressional representation endorsed and advocated these plans, they should be held just as culpable.

Let me outline what I feel are a few of George Allen’s most troubling votes while serving as our Senator.

He supported passage of the U.S. Patriot Act in October 2001.  George Allen, along with many other legislators voted to strip away some of our civil liberties in exchange for supposed security.  This act vastly increased the power of the federal government by allowing previously illegal roving wiretaps done without a court order and spying on what books folks check out in libraries.  You might be able to merely excuse his vote due to the widespread panic immediately following 9/11, but the fact that he voted to continue the program in October of 2006 meant that he had no qualms placing this country on the path to a police state.

He supported passage of Aviation and Transportation of Security Act in October 2001.  Are you happy with the TSA handling airport security?  Does the idea of aggressively patting down your grandma and your children please you?  How about revealing body scans?  Again, we can thank George Allen for this situation.

He supported No Child Left Behind in December 2001.  The federal government has no Constitutional authority to be involved in the education process.  Why should bureaucrats and legislators in D.C. have any control of an issue that is, depending on where you stand, the role of the states, localities, and most important, the parents themselves?

He supported the Iraq Conflict Resolution in October 2002.  Senator Allen voted to authorize use of force against the nation of Iraq while forces were already committed in another nation.  This invasion set a dangerous precedent for pre-emptive war.  As we all know now, we attacked a nation who posed no threat to the security of the United States.  This action led to the death of over 4,000 U.S. soldiers, over 100,000 Iraqi civilians, and a cost to the American taxpayer of $1.9 trillion dollars.

He supported Medicare Part D in November 2003.  Senator Allen advocated the expansion of federal government meddling in the health care industry by voting for passage of the Prescription Drug and Medicare Improvement Act.  From where in the Constitution does the federal government derive such authority?

He supported raising the debt ceiling.  Over the span of his six years in office, George Allen voted to raise the debt ceiling not once, not twice, but four times.  How is repeatedly driving this country further into debt the mark of a fiscal conservative?

Lastly, one of the defining marks of a limited government conservative is to actually eliminate unneeded, wasteful, or unconstitutional government.  How many federal programs did George Allen eliminate or try to eliminate while serving as our Senator?  Can you name just one of any substance?  I sorely wish that I could.

It is true that there are some good conservatives that voted the wrong way on one of these issues.  One area of disagreement typically shouldn’t scuttle a politician.  However, the fact that George Allen is on the wrong side of each of them is particularly troubling.  Although some of my Republican friends may think openly questioning George Allen’s record tantamount to treason, shouldn’t we resolve these matters now, before both the primary and the general election?

Last week, I heard that conservatives should support Allen because he has learned from his mistakes and now shares our values.  I haven’t seen sufficient evidence to back up this claim and thus I don’t really believe George Allen 2011 is much different from George Allen 2006.  Need proof?

If you will recall, from my article on May 27th of this year, I wrote each Republican candidate for Senate asking, “therefore, as a Republican candidate seeking to represent us in the United States Senate, the burning question on my mind is, if elected, what federal programs, agencies, or departments will you work to eliminate?”  Although George Allen stated that he planned to streamline a number of agencies and programs, unlike the other candidates he did not mention completely eliminating anything with the exception of Obamacare which is important, but not nearly enough.  Read my article and decide for yourself.

Now some people will point to Tuesday’s news of supposedly 100 tea party individuals who have endorsed George Allen’s campaign.  Although I’m certain a handful of partiers will do so, it is becoming apparent that this claim is a hoax.  From what I’ve read, quite a few of the people listed did not give their blessing and some of the people on the list aren’t even associated with the tea party.  The Virginia Tea Party Patriot Federation, of which I am a member, released a statement dispelling the claims of the Allen camp.

Nevertheless, I’d very much like to join with my friends and elected representatives who have endorsed George Allen.  After all, Virginia needs a strong conservative voice who will stand up for the Constitution, our principles, and the people of the Commonwealth; we need a man or woman with strong convictions who will do what is right even if that means sometimes standing against the President and his or her own party.  Given his track record from 2000-2006, like so many people in the tea party movement, I’m just not convinced the George Allen is the suitable person for the job.

Sure, George Allen has more than established his credentials with the officeholders, but that fact alone doesn’t win either the GOP nomination or the general election.  The challenge for both George Allen and his campaign is to prove to the tea parties, conservatives, Republicans, and average Virginians that he is the most principled candidate.  Despite what some outlets are reporting, so far, they have not succeeded in doing so.

I prized my A Team pin when it received back in 2006, but I guess it will continue to gather dust.  How unfortunate.

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Although you may have forgotten, back on February 15th of this year, I sent a message to my Representative, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6), asking why he voted to continue several constitutionally questionable provisions of the Patriot Act including roving wiretaps and allowing federal government access to your library records.

Let me tell you that, in the past, I’ve been very impressed with his response to my queries.  In general, they have arrived within a few weeks and include very detailed answers to the issue in question.  Therefore, although I happen to disagree with him over this particular matter, I eagerly awaited his answer.  After all, political dialogue is one of the great hallmarks of our government.

Well, on Thursday, June 2nd, one hundred and seven days since my inquiry, I finally received a response.  I could explain how much effort it took on my part to get this reply; how many phone calls, emails, and office visits I made over these three and a half months as I waited.  But, I’ll save that whole story for another blog post.

So, after all this waiting, what did Representative Goodlatte say?  Well…

Dear Joshua:

Thank you for contacting me regarding civil liberties and the USA PATRIOT Act. It’s good to hear from you.

The September 11th terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon quickly reshaped the priorities of Congress, the Bush Administration, and the Department of Justice (DOJ).  In response, the original USA PATRIOT Act was passed by the House and Senate, and signed into law on October 26, 2001. This law, which I supported, gives law enforcement officials the tools they need to wage a successful fight against terrorism while safeguarding the civil liberties of Americans.

The investigative tools that this law provides assist in protecting the nation against terrorism. Those tools used in national security investigations include application of wiretap and other electronic surveillance orders to new technologies like the Internet and cellular phones and the authority for federal law enforcement officials to share foreign intelligence information with other government officials with responsibilities for national defense, protection of federal officials or facilities, and immigration.

As you may know, H.R. 514, the FISA Sunsets Extension Act of 2011, was introduced by Representative James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, and would extend the sunset for the three temporary provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act until May 27, 2011.

Like you, I am concerned about the protection of civil liberties. The USA PATRIOT Act, as amended by subsequent reauthorizatioins [sic], preserves civil liberties while combating terrorism by retaining evidentiary standards for obtaining warrants, and subjecting information sharing to court supervision.

The FISA Sunsets Extension Act of 2011 was introduced on January 26, 2011, and passed the House on February 14, 2011, by a vote of 275 – 144.  This legislation passed the Senate on February 16, 2011 by a vote of 86-12.  H.R. 514 was then signed into law by the President on February 25, 2011, becoming public law 112-3.

The world that we live in since September 11th will require us to be more patient, to be more alert, and to tolerate more inconveniences.  However, we must be careful not to trade our personal freedoms for the promise of security.  Once we have sacrificed the civil liberties that our Nation was founded on, we have allowed terrorism to defeat us.  Rest assured that I will keep your views in mind as Congress considers measures regarding to the USA PATRIOT Act.

I appreciate you taking the time to contact me.  I feel it is important to keep an open line of communication so I can best serve the interests of the 6th District.  I hope you will continue to be in touch as the 112th Congress debates issues of importance to the United States.

Again, thanks for the benefit of your comments.  Please feel free to contact me whenever I may be of assistance.
Sincerely,

Bob Goodlatte
Member of Congress

I suppose you might be wondering why it has taken a little over a week for me to post this letter on this blog.  After all, I’m rarely at a lack for things to say.  In truth, I quickly crafted a response that was about as long as the letter itself.  But, after a bit of contemplation, I decided not to air it.  It was overburdened with frustration and disappointment.  Even though I won’t share that version, that doesn’t mean that I’ll sit quietly in the corner.

Now why would I be troubled?  If you’ve read up to this point, you already know that answer.  But let me go into a bit more detail.

1.  Bob Goodlatte supports the Patriot Act

One shouldn’t really be surprised here.  He voted for the act when it was first created and supported its reauthorization earlier.

Even though this issue is critically important, it doesn’t upset me as much as the other two points.  After all, no one should expect their elected representatives to agree with them all the time.  If one were to count the minor and major variations of political opinion in this nation, they would be like grains of sand on a beach.

Nevertheless, I believe that the Patriot Act severely erodes our Constitutional protections of habeas corpus and the 4th Amendment.  Although the tide is slowly turning, it is regrettable that a majority of my fellow Republicans are willing to offer up vast amounts of our liberty to the government in exchange for perceived security.

I really wish Representative Goodlatte would change his mind on this issue.

2.  This response doesn’t really answer my question

Yes, it is nice to have a historical framework for the Patriot Act, but what rationale does Goodlatte give for supporting this reauthorization?  He says that it gives “law enforcement officials the tools they need to wage a successful fight against terrorism”, but that statement alone presents no real tangible clues why the Patriot Act is necessary as compared to pre-Patriot Act anti-terrorist techniques.

What I want to know is, how many terrorist acts have been definitively thwarted as a direct result of the Patriot Act?  Have there been any proven cases of individuals or groups that would have escaped detection if the Act had not been in place?  Conversely, how many people have been wrongfully detained and/or imprisoned as a consequence of this increase in government power?

If our trade-off of liberty for security has paid dividends, can he show me?  How it has done so?  Or, as I suspect, are we actually worse off as a result?  Unfortunately, Goodlatte addresses none of these ideas in his response.  I’m sure Representative Goodlatte thinks the Patriot Act is necessary for some reason or another.  However, if he cannot effectively articulate that rationale, then whether the voters happen to agree with him or not, we are left with muddled confusion.

3.  The amount of time and effort required getting a response 

This issue is by far the most troubling.  I can understand it taking a few weeks or even a month to get a reply from my elected official.  But 107 days?  Is that an acceptable time frame?

What has happened to his D.C. staff?  Does one need to repeatedly remind them month after month in order to get a reply?  Why did I have to contact not only his D.C. office,  but also his Staunton office, Harrisonburg office, and his Roanoke office before getting this email?  Was I simply being ignored, misled, or some combination of the two?

Now I assume that few of his constituents are as persistent as I; I expect that most would have given up long ago, disgusted.  But it shouldn’t be this way.  I firmly believe that in order to enjoy effective representative government, we must have a clear discussion between constituents and their elected leaders.

In closing, let me say that my purpose is not to offend, but I feel that I must compose this letter in the hopes that doing so will prevent this situation from happening again in the future.  I certainly appreciate the chance to communicate with my Representative, but this affair has left a sour taste in my mouth primarily as a result of points 2 & 3.  As I’ve said, in the past his responses have been thoughtful and timely…far better than either of our two Senators, which is why this episode has been particularly disappointing.

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Prior to today’s cloture vote on Senate Bill 1038, which would extend provisions of the Patriot Act, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky offered the following thoughts on the issue:

You should know that the cloture vote passed the Senate by a significant margin, 74-8.  The eight Senators who voted no are:  Max Baucus (D-MT), Mark Begich (D-AK), Dean Heller (R-NV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rand Paul (R-KY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Jon Tester (D-MT).  Will any other Senators vote against the measure once it comes to a full vote on the Senate floor?

But don’t worry!  If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear!  Right?

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Although fast tracking the renewal of several provisions of the Patriot Act proved to be unsuccessful, yesterday the House of Representatives voted to extend these constitutionally questionable powers.  The vote on H.R. 514 was 275 in favor, 144 against, and 14 not voting.  Although supporters of the Patriot Act claim that these provisions are a key tool in the fight against terrorism, they also strip away the rights and privacy of citizens.  In the wrong hands, I fear what sort of damage can be caused.

A few moments ago, I contacted my Representative, Bob Goodlatte, and my two Senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner.  From Rep. Goodlatte, I hoped to get an explanation as to why he supported this bill.  From my Senators, I hoped to learn how they were planning to vote on this resolution.  As is typical, I was told I would be receiving a letter in the mail from Representative Goodlatte regarding this issue.  From Senators Webb and Warner, I got no real information other than assurances that my concern would be passed on to them.  Although I know that my Senators represent a whole lot more people than my Representative, is it too much to ask for a letter in reply?  Although I disagree with my Representative on this particular issue, I greatly appreciate his efforts to maintain contact with his constituents.  If only we had Senators who were as responsive as Goodlatte.  I hope Senator Webb’s replacement will be better.

Regarding this issue, earlier today Senator Paul of Kentucky released the following letter to his fellow Senators:

Dear Colleague:

James Otis argued against general warrants and writs of assistance that were issued by British soldiers without judicial review and that did not name the subject or items to be searched.

He condemned these general warrants as “the worst instrument[s] of arbitrary power, the most destructive of English liberty and the fundamental principles of law, that ever w[ere] found in an English law book.”  Otis objected to these writs of assistance because they “placed the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer.”  The Fourth Amendment was intended to guarantee that only judges—not soldiers or policemen—would issue warrants.  Otis’ battle against warrantless searches led to our Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable government intrusion.

My main objection to the PATRIOT Act is that searches that should require a judge’s warrant are performed with a letter from an FBI agent—a National Security Letter (“NSL”).

I object to these warrantless searches being performed on United States citizens.  I object to the 200,000 NSL searches that have been performed without a judge’s warrant.

I object to over 2 million searches of bank records, called Suspicious Activity Reports, performed on U.S. citizens without a judge’s warrant.

As February 28th approaches, with three provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act set to expire, it is time to re-consider this question:  Do the many provisions of this bill, which were enacted in such haste after 9/11, have an actual basis in our Constitution, and are they even necessary to achieve valid law-enforcement goals?

The USA PATRIOT Act, passed in the wake of the worst act of terrorism in U.S. history, is no doubt well-intentioned.  However, rather than examine what went wrong, and fix the problems, Congress instead hastily passed a long-standing wish list of power grabs like warrantless searches and roving wiretaps.  The government greatly expanded its own power, ignoring obvious answers in favor of the permanent expansion of a police state.

It is not acceptable to willfully ignore the most basic provisions of our Constitution—in this case—the Fourth and First Amendments—in the name of “security.”

For example, one of the three provisions set to expire on February 28th—the “library provision,” section 215 of the PATRIOT Act—allows the government to obtain records from a person or entity by making only the minimal showing of “relevance” to an international terrorism or espionage investigation.  This provision also imposes a year-long nondisclosure, or “gag” order. “Relevance” is a far cry from the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of probable cause.  Likewise, the “roving wiretap” provision, section 206 of the PATRIOT Act, which is also scheduled to expire on the 28th, does not comply with the Fourth Amendment.  This provision makes possible “John Doe roving wiretaps,” which do not require the government to name the target of the wiretap, nor to identify the specific place or facility to be monitored.  This bears an uncanny resemblance to the Writs of Assistance fought against by Otis and the American colonists.

Other provisions of the PATRIOT Act previously made permanent and not scheduled to expire present even greater concerns.  These include the use and abuse by the FBI of so-called National Security Letters.  These secret demand letters, which allow the government to obtain financial records and other sensitive information held by Internet Service Providers, banks, credit companies, and telephone carriers—all without appropriate judicial oversight—also impose a gag order on recipients.

NSL abuse has been and likely continues to be rampant.  The widely-circulated 2007 report issued by the Inspector General from the Department of Justice documents “widespread and serious misuse of the FBI’s national security letter authorities.  In many instances, the FBI’s misuse of national security letters violated NSL statutes, Attorney General Guidelines, or the FBI’s own internal policies.”  Another audit released in 2008 revealed similar abuses, including the fact that the FBI had issued inappropriate “blanket NSLs” that did not comply with FBI policy, and which allowed the FBI to obtain data on 3,860 telephone numbers by issuing only eleven “blanket NSLs.” The 2008 audit also confirmed that the FBI increasingly used NSLs to seek information on U.S. citizens.  From 2003 to 2006, almost 200,000 NSL requests were issued.  In 2006 alone, almost 60% of the 49,425 requests were issued specifically for investigations of U.S. citizens or legal aliens.

In addition, First Amendment advocates should be concerned about an especially troubling aspect of the 2008 audit, which documented a situation in which the FBI applied to the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to obtain a section 215 order.  The Court denied the order on First Amendment grounds.  Not to be deterred, the FBI simply used an NSL to obtain the same information.

A recent report released by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”) entitled, “Patterns of Misconduct: FBI Intelligence Violations from 2001-2008,” documents further NSL abuse.  EFF estimates that, based on the proportion of violations reported to the Intelligence Oversight Board and the FBI’s own statements regarding NSL violations, the actual number of violations that may have occurred since 2001 could approach 40,000 violations of law, Executive Order, and other regulations.

Yet another troublesome (and now permanent) provision of the PATRIOT Act is the expansion of Suspicious Activity Reports.  Sections 356 and 359 expanded the types of financial institutions required to file reports under the Bank Secrecy Act.  The personal and account information required by the reports is turned over to the Treasury Department and the FBI.  In 2000, there were only 163,184 reports filed.  By 2007, this had increased to 1,250,439.  Again, as with NSLs, there is a complete lack of judicial oversight for SARs.

Finally, I wish to remind my colleagues that one of the many ironies of the rush to advance the PATRIOT Act following 9/11 is the well-documented fact that FBI incompetence caused the failure to search the computer of the alleged 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui.  As FBI agent Coleen Rowley stated, “the FBI headquarters supervisory special agent handling the Moussaoui case ‘seemed to have been consistently almost deliberately thwarting the Minneapolis FBI agents’ efforts” to meet the FISA standard for a search warrant, and therefore no request was ever made for a warrant.  Why, then, was the FBI rewarded with such expansive new powers in the aftermath of this institutional failure?

In the words of former Senator Russ Feingold, the only “no” vote against the original version of the PATRIOT Act,

“[T]here is no doubt that if we lived in a police state, it would be easier to catch terrorists. If we lived in a country that allowed the police to search your home at any time for any reason; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to open your mail, eavesdrop on your phone conversations, or intercept your email communications; if we lived in a country that allowed the government to hold people in jail indefinitely based on what they write or think, or based on mere suspicion that they are up to no good, then the government would no doubt discover and arrest more terrorists. But that probably would not be a country in which we would want to live. And that would not be a country for which we could, in good conscience, ask our young people to fight and die. In short, that would not be America.”

I call upon each of my Senate colleagues to seriously consider whether the time has come to re-evaluate many—if not all—provisions of the PATRIOT Act.  Our oath to uphold the Constitution demands it.

Sincerely,

Rand Paul, M.D.
United States Senator

So now fellow lovers of constitutionally constrained government, we must look to a Senate controlled by the Democrats to defeat this bill.  Like what was attempted in the House, they must find a coalition of liberals and conservatives to defeat the perhaps well meaning, but liberty-quashing middle.

Don’t misunderstand me, the government can and should protect the citizens against terrorism.  I’m just worried that in their zealous pursuit of this war on terror, liberty and the Constitution will fall by the wayside.  What I want to know is when will victory over terrorism be achieved?  Have we bound ourselves to a war without end?  Equally importantly, when, if ever, will the government willingly give up these Patriot Act powers?

After all, if we honestly believed that government could restrain and police itself, would the colonies ever have broken away from Great Britain?  Would this great nation even exist?  Furthermore, why would we need silly things like a Constitution?  Were our forefathers mistaken?  Or are we forgetting what it means to be free?

Fellow conservatives, I’ll end with a quote from our great former President, Ronald Reagan.  “Protecting the rights of even the least individual among us is basically the only excuse the government has for even existing.”  So do these provisions of the Patriot Act protect our rights or do they take them away?

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Today, members of the House of Representatives got a chance to vote on whether or not to extend some of the most onerous provisions of the Patriot Act.  Yesterday, I called my Representative, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6), to ask how he was planning to vote on this issue.  His Washington office did not have an answer at that time and so I encouraged him to vote no.  As Benjamin Franklin once said (and I have quoted several times), “they who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” –Memoirs of the life and writings of Benjamin Franklin.  This so-called “Patriot Act” is the modern manifestation of this struggle.  In our great desire for security, would we give up our freedoms and the rule of law, that which separates us from the despotic nations and peoples who attacked us on September 11th?  Unfortunately, we failed that great test back in 2001 when the Patriot Act originally passed and then again in 2005/2006 when many of the provisions were extended the first time.

As the dust settled today, the final vote in the House was 277 in favor, 148 opposed, and 9 nonvoting.  Given that the bill required a 2/3rds majority to pass, it has been defeated…at least for now.  I was disappointed to see that a vast majority of Republicans, including Bob Goodlatte, voted in favor of this bill.  In fact, only two of Virginia’s eleven Representatives voted against the bill:  Bobby Scott (VA-3) and Jim Moran (VA-8).  I’m starting to wonder if the Tea Party’s call for limited and constitutional government has fallen on deaf ears.  Will most of the newly elected Representatives and Senators support big government business as usual?

Prior to the vote, several members spoke out in opposition to renewal.  I submit to you the words of Republican Rep. Ron Paul (TX-14) and Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH-10).

Update: Senator Rand Paul (KY) now shares his opinion this topic.

Lastly, I’d like to share one more video.  Several years ago, Judge Napolitano offered his thoughts on the Patriot Act.  In short, his opinion is that it was passed in Congress in too great of haste and erodes our Constitution and our liberty.  Watch and see if you agree.

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(Not a reference to the movie of the same name)

From the time of my political awaking back in the mid 1990’s, politicians have come and gone, rising to great power and falling from glory.  However, one leader on which I pinned such wistful hopes has so resoundingly disappointed me.  That leader was none other than President George W. Bush.  Back in 2000 when he was running against the liberal leaning John McCain, I strongly supported his election.  After the 8 years of Clinton, we needed a strong conservative leader who supported the ideals of limited government and exhibited strong moral values.  Very early in his administration, pundits criticized President Bush for taking time off and not accomplishing anything, but I didn’t mind in the least.  After all, he was our president, not the “leader of the free world” like the president has come to be viewed.  True, we are the greatest nation on earth, but other nations have a right to govern themselves rather than be controlled from Washington.  I figured that other conservatives and southerners agreed with this viewpoint.  One of my favorite quotes came from George Bush.  He said that in 2001, “I just don’t think that it’s the role of the United States to walk into a country to say, ‘we do it this way, so should you’”.

I thought that, like Communism, after the Clinton failures, the ideas of nation building and military interventionism were thrown on the ash heap of history.  In addition, for the first time in my life, Republicans controlled the House, the Senate, and the Presidency.  Can you imagine it?  We could finally roll back government spending and taxes.  How about eliminating a few unconstitutional government agencies?  Or even take steps to end the genocide of abortion?  Just about anything was possible.  Unfortunately, as they say, 9-11 changed everything.  Rather than fighting to restore our government, President Bush pushed for the so-called Patriot Act which further stripped away our privacy and liberty in order to gain a little temporary security.  American citizens, in their fear, willing gave up their rights in order to try to stay safe.  After all, if you weren’t guilty, you had nothing to fear, right?  Then came the terrible conflict in Iraq.  I say that it was terrible because it was the first time that we preemptively provoked a conflict (unless you want to argue about either the Vietnam and the Spanish American War, though in both those cases the government came up with a rational explanation that later turned out to be false).  Rather than focusing on punishing Osama Bin Laden for 9-11, we instead took over a sovereign nation, first in the name of weapons of mass destruction and later to spread democracy and freedom.  To die to maintain and enhance the freedom and liberty of one’s own people is a noble goal.  To fight on behalf of another nation or people’s freedom should be a choice made on a person-by-person basis rather than by our leaders.  European monarchs of old and today’s dictators treat their soldiers like pawns in a chess game, sacrificing them to gain territory or aid allies, but I would like to think that the lives of our soldiers hold far more value.

Back to domestic concerns, rather than fight against federal involvement in education, President Bush pushed for No Child Left Behind.  Also Bush failed in his duty to defend our borders by not punishing illegal immigration and refusing to pardon the border patrol agents who were imprisoned for doing their jobs.  What about his delay in firing Rumsfeld, which likely cost Republican seats in 2006?  Then we have the issue of the bailout.  Normally, a rational fiscal conservative would have realized that government intervention caused the problem, but instead George Bush supported massive corporate welfare at your and my expense.  On the other hand, what socially conservative programs did George Bush push?  Has abortion been curtailed?  Do we have greater school choice?  He squandered away so much political capital on his war on terror, that he either ignored his opportunities domestically, or even worse, steadily moved us in the wrong direction.

True, I did campaign and vote for George Bush in 2000, but I didn’t repeat my mistake in 2004.  I pinned so much hope on W. and he has disappointed on just about every front.  He is not a small government advocate on either fiscal or foreign policy issues and he tricked the moral wing of the party into supporting his flawed plans under the banner of God and Country.  Think John McCain is a fresh conservative change from the likes of George Bush?  Think again.  Until Republicans rediscover and embrace the constitutional conservative soul of the party they not only should lose, but they also must lose.  As even the questionably conservative Mitt Romney noted, “When Republicans act like Democrats, America loses”.  Demand better.  Otherwise get used to more crappy leaders like Bush and McCain.

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