Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Free speech, exercised both individually and through a free press, is a necessity in any country where people are themselves free.”     Theodore Roosevelt

April 20, 2009

Today’s Winners and Losers

by Stephen Gordon

With the exception of “pure” libertarians, everyone gets it right sometimes and everyone gets it wrong sometimes.

Lately, I’ve been praising Robert Stacy McCain while being a mildly critical of Andrew Sullivan regarding Tea Parties.  Today, Sullivan makes up for it by bringing our attention to a post made by McCain regarding waterboarding.  McCain writes:

Who could possibly give a crap about the “rights” of terrorist scumbags like Abu Zubahdah and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed? Their “rights” would not have been infringed if they had gotten a 9mm slug through their skulls the day they were captured…

…Everybody would get their turn, one whack at a time, until there was nothing left of Abu and Khalid except a bloody stain. The $20 per ticket is a nominal fee. The real money would be in the pay-per-view royalties.

Hell, I hate the 9/11 hijackers as much as any red-blooded American can.  However, I’m a member of something which someone as bright as McCain must have heard: Western civilization. We’ve hundreds of years of tradition in providing legal rights to those accused of even the most heinous crimes.  I hate to go Godwin here, but we even tried folks like Hermann Göring, Rudolf Hess and Albert Speer in Nürnberg.  Serial killers generally receive fair trails before they are executed.

McCain may be wrong on torture, but he’s smart enough to realize the blowback resulting from the creation of new and powerful government institutions with the power to disregard other civil liberties. “Don’t Like Being Labeled a ‘Rightwing Extremist’? Blame Bush!” is how McCain just entitled a Hot Air piece covering this statement made by Alabama Republican Liberty Caucus Chairman Scott Boykin. “Keep this in mind next time someone tries to tell you that all Republicans are brainwashed Bushbot lapdogs,” notes McCain.

On the winners side today is the ACLU.  While the right hates and loathes the organization, the ACLU has been bold enough to defend the rights of even the right.  Now if the ACLU would only spend a bit more time protecting our Second Amendment rights…

Over at the Atlanta Journal Constitution, former prominent Republican Congressman Bob Barr aimed his arrows at the current House GOP leadership, stating that the Republicans are still leaderless in Congress.

“On issue after issue, [House Minority Leader John] Boehner’s responses to Stephanopoulos’ jabs were disjointed, vague and rambling,” wrote Barr. “There were virtually no specifics put forward by Boehner, despite numerous openings provided by Stephanopoulos for the Republican leader to provide a counterpoint to the Obama Administration’s liberal agendas on matters such as healthcare, climate change, and energy policy.”

Speaking of McCain and torture, Robert Stacy’s “crazy Uncle John” McCain stepped on it today on the only key issue where he’s been right.  Think Progress reports that the enemy of both waterboarding and the First Amendment is also a partisan hack who wants to protect GOP interests by calling it “a ‘serious mistake’ for the Obama administration to release the torture memos. The release of these memos helps no one, doesn’t help America’s image, does not help us address the issue.”  Au contraire, mon frère.

I should add as a disclaimer that (R. S.) McCain and I had drinks and cigars with Barr in Atlanta over the weekend.  However, this won’t stop me for praising my friends when they are right — or keep me from calling them out when they are wrong.

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  1. Although i may not agree with mccain, i must say:
    the bill of rights pertains to us citizens only.
    that is rhe way it was written.

    the gitmo/guantanimo prisoners are not part of a formal army for the most part, so the geneva convention doesnt apply.

    the only category left, to my knowledge is spies and sabateurs, which gives much leeway in how to deal with them.

    Comment by ken mcdonald — April 22, 2009 @ 7:10 pm
  2. A military tribunal is fine with me, so long as they receive fair and impartial treatment under whatever law they are tried.

    Comment by Stephen Gordon — April 22, 2009 @ 7:14 pm
  3. Even Benedict Arnold had rights…

    Comment by Stephen Gordon — April 22, 2009 @ 7:14 pm
  4. [...] envisioned doing things far worse to than the CIA ever dreamed.  In this sense, then, and despite taking a fair amount of flack for it, the King of Hyperbole Robert Stacy McCain was (mostly) pretty well in-line with an awful lot of [...]

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  5. When I read the Bill of Rights, I see no indication that “it pertains to us citizens only.” Many of the provisions proscribe action by Congress, thus defending everyone’s right from Congress.

    The idea that the rights apply only to citizens seems very contestable.

    Comment by twv — April 23, 2009 @ 10:00 am
  6. “…The idea that the rights apply only to citizens seems very contestable.”

    Not as I view it. Government – any government – has powers: not rights. By my definition, a “right” is any human practice which is accepted by society as good and proper. Given no wrong doing, as viewed by society, a right will always (should always) win when there is an inadvertent direct conflict with law. Under all our government, the onus to protect those rights existing in and around the Bill of Rights, rests with government guided by it’s citizens.

    And yes. I am well aware that anything can be shifted to be ‘wrong’.

    Comment by Harry Rossman — April 23, 2009 @ 10:27 am
  7. twv: “When I read the Bill of Rights, I see no indication that “it pertains to us citizens only.” Many of the provisions proscribe action by Congress, thus defending everyone’s right from Congress.

    The idea that the rights apply only to citizens seems very contestable.”

    this reasoning is buttressed by the federal scheme: the bill of rights was just meant to be superfluous, and to emphasize the federal government’s lack of powers, which was already inherent in the limited-and-enumerated powers scheme. The feds are given no power to (generally) violate (just any) citizens’ or non-citizens’ rights. So the Bill of Rights which reinforces this, of course also “applies” to non-citizens.

    Comment by Stephan Kinsella — April 23, 2009 @ 1:00 pm
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