Thursday, February 10, 2011

What the Tea Party can do to prove it's serious about liberty

Some Tea Party Republicans joined Democrats in defeating a renewal of Patriot Act provisions this week. That's the topic of my column with Ben Boychuk. My take:

It is appropriate the Patriot Act renewal was defeated the same week reports emerged that former President George W. Bush had canceled a trip to Switzerland, largely to avoid the possibility of criminal charges for approving the torture of terror suspects in the aftermath of 9/11.

For one week, at least, the gap between the Tea Party's rhetoric and the reality of Republican governance was narrowed. It had been embarrassing to see conservatives decry "tyranny" in the form of slightly higher marginal tax rates and entitlement programs, all while offering silent acquiescence -- or full-throated support -- to the government's efforts to conduct warrantless wiretaps on Americans, operate secret prisons abroad, waterboard terror suspects, and then to try those suspects before the kangaroo courts known as military commissions.

The gap remains, however. While nine new Republican lawmakers voted against the Patriot Act renewal, 78 other GOP freshmen -- many backed by the Tea Party -- voted for it. And as President Bush's failed trip to Switzerland demonstrates, the United States has still failed to come to terms with the fallout from its worst actions after 9/11.

If those Republicans want to strike a blow for freedom -- and embarrass President Obama in the process -- they can push to close down Guantanamo Bay prison, hold public hearings about White House plans to assassinate American terror suspects abroad, and call for the prosecution of Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo, and anybody else suspected of breaking the law (and American values) in the name of the War on Terror. They'd be striking a blow for freedom that many liberals hoped would come from a Democratic president.

Anybody can vote against the Patriot Act. Real civil libertarians prosecute Dick Cheney.

Ben would rather see the Tea Party focus on reducing government spending. Read the whole thing for his take.

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