An Agenda I Can Agree With

I don’t usually read The Nation, but John Nicholas has a post up over there today talking about a group of conservatives who have finally stopped drinking the Bush Administration Kool-Aid:

Just imagine if one of the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination endorsed this radical agenda:

• End the use of military commissions to prosecute crimes.

• Prohibit the use of secret evidence or evidence obtained by torture.

• Prohibit the detention of American citizens as enemy combatants without proof.

• Restore habeas corpus for alleged alien combatants.

• End National Security Agency warrantless wiretapping.

• Empower Congress to challenge presidential signing statements.

• Bar executive use of the state secret privilege to deny justice.

• Prohibit the President from collaborating with foreign governments to kidnap, detain of torture persons abroad.

• Amend the Espionage Act to permit journalists to report on classified national security matters without threat of persecution.

• Prohibit of the labeling of groups or individuals in the U.S. as global terrorists based on secret evidence.

The group that’s advocating this agenda isn’t a bunch of leftists, they aren’t even cranky libertarians, they are some of the biggest names in the conservative movement:

The group that’s advancing this so-called “American Freedom Agenda” is chaired by Bruce Fein, a former Nixon administration aide who served as deputy attorney general under President Reagan and who helped to formulate some of the serious — pre-blue dress — arguments for impeaching Bill Clinton. Fein is joined by former Georgia Republican Congressman Bob Barr, veteran conservative fund-raiser Richard Viguerie and David Keene, the former aide to Bob Dole who for many years has served as chairman of the American Conservative Union.


The American Freedom Agenda campaign is the vehicle that these conservatives have established, with a self-described twofold mission: “the enactment of a cluster of statutes that would restore the Constitution’s checks and balances as enshrined by the Founding Fathers; and, making the subject a staple of political campaigns and of foremost concern to Members of Congress and to voters and educators. Especially since 9/11, the executive branch has chronically usurped legislative or judicial power, and has repeatedly claimed that the President is the law. The constitutional grievances against the White House are chilling, reminiscent of the kingly abuses that provoked the Declaration of Independence.”

As refreshing as it is to see conservatives who recognize the libertarian roots of the American Constitution and the fact that the Bush Administration has assumed for itself powers that even King George didn’t have, it would be more refreshing if the leaders of the Republican and Democratic Parties signed on to this agenda. So far, though, only own Presidential candidate has joined them:

The agenda was launched two weeks ago. So far, one candidate has expressed support it: Texas Congressman Ron Paul, the libertarian Republican who explains that: “[They] say that the executive branch is always hungry. That’s why it’s up to the people, up to the congress to reign in the power of the executive branch.”

Good for you, Congressmen Paul. How about the rest of the candidates ? John ? Rudy ? Mitt ? We’re waiting for your answer.

  • trumpetbob15

    While this is a good step, it would be nicer if they expanded the idea and reigned in Congress as well. Focusing on the President diminishes the fact that there already are checks and balances in the system and they haven’t worked. Call me selfish, but Bush’s actions in this article haven’t affected me yet; I can’t say the same thing about Congress. By the way, it would also be nice if this group focused on executive branch regulations; once again, something Congress never seems to have a problem with, even though those regulations hurt Americans worse than suspending habeas corpus of foreigners does.

  • sadcox

    What you say may true trumpetbob, but remember the context. This post is about the PRESIDENTIAL candidates.

    Getting a presidential candidate to commit to an agenda that would reign in the powers of the President is much more meaningful than getting them to commit to an agenda that would reign in the powers of Congress.

    I too would love to see a similar agenda for congressional candidates that addresses the offices to which they aspire as well.

  • Eric Dondero

    “Some of the biggest names in the Conservative movement…”

    Bruce Fein? Give me a break. Only hardcore political junkies have any idea who Bruce Fein is. And he’s a washed up old Conservative Dweeb whom nobody pays any attention to any more.

    David Keene? Now he is indeed a big name in the Conservative Movement. And he carries a lot of weight. That’s 1 out of 4.

    Bob Barr? Last time I checked Bob Barr WAS A LIBERTARIAN NOT A CONSERVATIVE!!!

    Viguirie is a consumate Conservative Troublemaker. He’s always the contrarian. If you were to tell Viguerie that the table cloth was blue, he’d say it was red, just to be different. Viruirie has never liked Bush, let alone any Republican Presidents.

    So, the article is misnamed. It should have said,

    “One Prominent Republican — David Keene — Comes out Against the Bush Adminstration”

    Not four.

  • Charles Bowen


    Good find. Each point in this list is tactically agenda loaded to appeal to different folks on the outside of the regime’s inner party, as well as certain cultural-class elements like the journalist community. They did a clever to fantastic job of getting well beyond left and right, and addressing core civil liberty issue of interest to the regimes competing interests.

  • Doug Mataconis


    And what, dare I ask, do you think of the merits of their proposal ?

  • trumpetbob15


    While this may be for Presidential candidates, this list could be expanded so those candidates could reign in Congress. For example, the candidates should pledge to not sign any bill that includes unconstitutional spending. While this may mean no bills are signed, that is a higher priority to me than how people captured outside this country are treated. Also, this post talks about checks and balances, but where are the checks on the legislators? That is what I was trying say. This group shouldn’t limit themselves to reforming just one part of the screwed up government.

  • sadcox


    In short, exactly! 100% agree.

    Actually, no bills being signed sounds like an excellent idea to me. The primary function of Congress seems to be finding new ways to limit liberty and waste money.

    I’d prefer they stay home and collect a check for doing nothing.

  • Sam Marsh

    Nobody else is going to sign off on this. Ron Paul remains the only option for Liberty and Constitutional government in the Republican party.

  • Eric Dondero

    What do I think of this proposal?

    Simple. It’s not news. Who cares?

    Yesterday, President Bush appointed a “libertarian” from the Cato Institute to be Deputy Secretary of the Social Security Administration: Andrew Biggs.

    This despite the Democrats trying to block him cause he supports Privatization of Social Security.

    Now, you would think that ever single Libertarian Blog and Website would be SCREAMING WITH A HEADLINE STORY about the Appointment of a libertarian to such a prominent position.

    Nope. Instead, sites like Liberty Papers are covering Bullshit philosphical masturbation exercises like some 10 point program on some arcane boring-ass issues dealing with internatl security.

    Hit the snooze button please!

    And you wonder why nobody takes us libertarians seriously.

  • Doug Mataconis


    I just don’t get it. What exactly do you believe in ?

    We’re talking about a group of Republicans who have pointed out — quite correctly I think — the manner in which the Bush Administration has ignored the limitations of the Constitution and asserted powers for the Executive Branch that it simply cannot claim.

    And yet you yawn and point out the fact that the man who has increased domestic discretionary spending at a faster rate than Lyndon Baines Johnson appointed a few libertarians to a few positions in the Executive Branch (where, given what the Bush Administration has actually done, they obviously have zero influence).

    I quite honestly don’t get it.

  • Kevin

    What exactly do you believe in ?


    I’ll answer for Eric:

    Taxpayer funded abortion, drug use, porn, internet gambling, and rock and roll.

    He’s a walking stereotype of everything wrong with libertarians.

  • C Bowen


    Andrew is a longtime government hack. It’s not news that he entered a new revolving door. And he does not favor privatizing SS (I.E. abolishing it and issuing bonds to citizens for every penny, and not one more, put into it.)

  • tarran

    AAAAAH! Why is it that everyone forgets Bastiat’s dictum about looking for what is not seen when it comes to SS Private Accounts?

    When I consider the long term effects of the U.S. economy of the scheme, I see a massivedisaster – the conversion of the U.S. economy into a corporatist one.

    Consider what happens. The government is going to force people, at gunpoint, to transfer their money to government approved investment vehicles. These funds will purchase investment assets such as stocks or bonds which they will hold in trust for the tax-payers.

    Very rapidly, these investment vehicles will build up huge stakes in the capital markets. The government approved managers will become the most powerful, in terms of assets block on investment managers in the U.S. capital markets.

    Of course, to retain their positions, these fund managers have to keep the government officials who allowed them to tap into this lucrative flow of tax money. If they are removed from the list of approved SS Tax recipients, they could lose everything. Thus, the fund managers will be working to please one, and only one customer – the officials in the Social Security Administration who control their destiny.

    It is inevitable that the government managers will become the largest investors in some blue-chip companies.

    So, let’s say the fund managers have purchased lots of GM stock, and government funds are now the largest block of share-holders in GM. These fund managers will be voting their shares for major decisions, such as mergers and acquisitions, planned expansion and the like. And, if a SS administration official demands that the government appointed fund managers vote for or against a planned operation, guess how the fund managers are going to vote.

    Essentially, the Social Security Administration will become a mechanism for contolling the U.S. economy in a manner not seen since the FDR administration.

    But wait, it gets worse. Let us say that GM, Ford, Toyota and Honda all have the U.S. government as their biggest share holder.

    Now, the fate of these companies is even more of a political issue than it is now. If the companies do badly, and the funds, as a result, do poorly, there can be a political backlash against the politicians. Thus, the politicians will also have a huge incentive to prevent companies without large government ownership from facing significant competition. The economic history of the united States has a long tradition of governments kneecapping competitors to politically favored businesses. This will be worsened under the proposed plan.

    I fear that the co-called SS Privatization scheme is actually a very bad step in the wrong direction. It pushes us closer to the days of FDR and away from the days of Thomas Jefferson.

  • Wild Pegasus

    Destruction of our ancient rights: not news
    Corporate welfare state pension: libertyyyyyyyyyy

    You either are the best troll in the world, Eric, or a Grade A nutjob.

    – Josh

  • Adam Selene


    Essentially, the Social Security Administration will become a mechanism for contolling the U.S. economy in a manner not seen since the FDR administration.

    CalPERS on steroids. Look at the impact that CalPERS, with $200 billion in investable funds, has and then imagine SSA with trillions. That is the outcome. Remember CalPERS going after the CEO of Safeway while they were in a fight with the unions?

    Bush is not about to give up government control, he has not done a single thing during his 6+ years in power to reduce the amount of power the Feds hold, has he? Maybe Eric Dondero can show us how Bush has been good for liberty?

  • tarran

    You know Adam, I’d completely forgotten about that.

    It’s pathetic how there is a certain class of people whom will fanatically support any statist policy if its architects slap the words “liberty”, “free trade”, “privatization” or “deregulation” on it.

  • Adam Selene

    Honestly, the supposed SS privatization scheme of the Bush administration was a rent-seeking, vote buying scheme that would pit the elderly against the young. You want to privatize SS, there is only one way to do it. Divest the US Government from the pension business. Not continue to collect my money at gun point and just change how it is invested.