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April 01, 2007


yummm. smell the authoritarianism. smells like raw fear dipped in honey - for easier swallowing.

Welcome to the Southern Republican Party.

I wish the Democratic candidates would directly engage on this. Edwards has come a lot closer than Hilary or Obama (I guess Dodd has the most).

I thought Cato was a libertarian think tank. Is it really the case that Crane was disappointed that the two candidates were not more completely in favor of such an authoritarian policy, or was he disappointed that both candidates did not reject it outright?

I'm seriously asking here. I know there are all kinds of fascist enablers who've called themselves 'libertarians' over the last seven years, but Cato still employs some actual libertarians.

Since it seems the GOP's nominee in 2008 will be someone who endorses authoritarianism, the Democratic nominee had damned well better confront them on it directly.

No mealy-mouthed bloviating on why we need such tools to fight "terror," no reasonable, respectful beg-to-disagree, but someone who'll whup him upside the head with Franklin, Paine, Teddy Roosevelt, and the Constitution. Someone who treats such perversions of power with the contempt they deserve.

Nell's right about Crane.

I asked because the post makes an assumption Greenwald did not:

Hilzoy: the head of a major conservative think tank is "disappointed" that they did not go further

GG: Ponnuru did note, without specifying the reasons, that Cato's "Crane says he was disappointed with Romney's answer to his question the other night").

(That's a link to an op-ed by Crane which contains this sentence:

"Under no circumstances should an American be held captive in the US indefinitely, with no charges filed and no legal representation afforded.")

I would bet that Crane is was disappointed that they would even consider it. Ponnuru OTOH was probably disappointed that they were ambivalent, and assumed that his readers would feel the same. That would be a good reason to leave it ambiguous.

I find it pretty hard to believe that the president of CATO - the epicenter of libertarianism - is "disappointed" because the candidates won't be more authoritarian. The Club for Growth isn't really known for loving police state tactics either.

Most likely, both parties are disappointed for similar reasons to those expressed in this post. There may well be parts of the Republican coalition that demand their candidates favor dictatorial authority for the president, but CATO certainly isn't one of them!

Clarification: yes, I am asserting that Ponnuru, whether consciously or unconsciously, misled his readers.

Nell but Cato still employs some actual libertarians

I thought so anyway...

The next time journalists want to write about political extremism by focusing on things like "the Far Left MoveOn.org" or bad words on the "Far Left blogs" -- without ever citing a single belief that is actually "extremist" -- why not instead focus on the fact that Mitt Romeny is open to, and Rudy Giuliani explicitly favors, vesting themselves with the very powers that this country was founded in order to banish?

I expect "journalists" and pundits to be unmoved by this recommendation. But if Democratic candidates (leaving aside HRC, who is quite reluctant to criticize expanded executive power) fail to seize this political opportunity to do well by doing right, as CaseyL suggests, then there really is no hope.

I'm going to raise the same question as Nell.

As much as I would like to comment in a snarkalicious way that CATO "seems to believe that Americans should be arrested on the arbitrary say-so of the President without judicial review, but they don't believe Americans should be taxed," I don't think this is the case.

CATO is pretty consistent in their views of the limits on government powers, which makes it terribly difficult for we rank hypocrites at Obsidian Wings, with our penumbras and such, to argue against them on a consistent basis. ;))))

I suspect, however, that Larry Kudlow of the Club for Growth could be persuaded to arrest me without judicial review if I raised his capital gains taxes. When it comes to voting time, they ain't gonna vote for Dennis Kucinich, no matter what.

They really are no fun at all.

Note: I see in preview that smarter folks than I are all over this.

Gotta add that Romney and Guiliani are exquisitely stupid to answer this question from a CATO person in such a mealy-mouthed, pandering way.

They can't even do an imitation of Mussolini in a convincing way. They actually believe that they are speaking over Cato's head to some "base" which craves a little, bullet-headed fascist talk from their leaders.

That's the scary part, in a slapstick kind of way.

Maybe we are descending into fascism via Daffy Duck with a Spike Jones soundtrack. We'll all be put in camps, but it will be hilarious.

It's GITMO for the gigglers among us.

Spoke to both Clinton and Obama today and asked whether they intended to seize and nationalize all American industries after they are inaugurated. Clinton said she would have to consult first with lawyers and decide only after a full debate, and Obama said he would likely only nationalize some industries, perhaps not all.

Liberal Overton Window!! Hooray!!

I lay modest odds that hilzoy's thought experiment ends up linked somewhere as a real quote.

Republicans who genuinely favor limited government on conservative principles need to take back their party

Here here.

The position Romney and Giuliani are running for is tyrant. Republicans and conservatives generally need to decide if that's what they want to endorse.

If not, you all better get busy, because folks are driving your party over the cliff.

If so, get ready for a bumpy ride, boys and girls. It's not like the rest of us have to, or are going to, take this crap lying down.

If you're a conservative, and you don't like the sound of this stuff, get busy. These guys are speaking for you.

Thanks -

Much as I admire Glenn Greenwald's writings; and as much as I tend to agree with him -for the most part- about the unpleasantly creeping authoritarianism which informs so much (too much) of contemporary Republican ideology; I think both he (and hilzoy) have missed an important bit of Ramesh Ponnoru's reportage: i.e. the heading on his brief post, which is:

Romney on Enemy Combatants

which, I think, is a significant factor in interpreting the meaning of Ponnoru's (and Romney's and Giuliani's) responses to the question.

I think the import of the answers changes significantly if the initial question was whether or not the candidate would favor unreviewable Presidential arrest powers for "enemy combatants" (i.e., "terrorists" in shorthand) - or whether said powers really would extend to Joe and Jane Citizen - as Greenwald (and hilzoy) interpret it.
Now Mitt Romney and/or Rudy Giuliani may indeed favor the introduction of the modern-day equivalent of lettres de cachet as a Executive law-enforcement tool; but the introduction of the "terrorist" factor may shade the meaning of the question just a bit.
Not that, IMO, it makes much difference: at least as far as Rudy Giuliani is concerned, I'm sure that little things like Constitutional protections, or the sanctity of fair judicial process are merely "quaint" annoyances to be circumvented at the Executive's pleasure. It's the way Rudy! ran New York: no reason to think he's changed all that much.

Thanks, everyone -- I have updated, and as I say in the update, I was wrong to leap to conclusions.

It would be exactly like that.

Closing down churches is extreme and undemocratic, but I really don't think it's as extreme as indefinite detention on the whim of the monarch.

And nationalizing industries is, comparatively, mild.

"I think the import of the answers changes significantly if the initial question was whether or not the candidate would favor unreviewable Presidential arrest powers for "enemy combatants" (i.e., "terrorists" in shorthand) - or whether said powers really would extend to Joe and Jane Citizen - as Greenwald (and hilzoy) interpret it."

Actually, that depends on whether or not either of them think, as Bush does, that Joe or Jane Doe can be classified as an enemy combatant arbitrarily.

I'll just point out that private property rights have long since been gone due to the War On (some) Drugs. Civil Asset Forfeiture means that you property and bank accounts can be seized without you ever even being accused of a crime.

Both Democrats and Republicans have supported this policy. Neither party holds the high ground when it comes to civil rights. They are all authoritarians of greater or lesser evil.


Police stopped 49-year-old Ethel Hylton at Houston's Hobby Airport and told her she was under arrest because a drug dog had scratched at her luggage. Agents searched her bags and strip-searched her, but they found no drugs. They did find $39,110 in cash, money she had received from an insurance settlement and her life savings; accumulated through over 20 years of work as a hotel housekeeper and hospital janitor. Ethel Hylton completely documented where she got the money and was never charged with a crime. But the police kept her money anyway. Nearly four years later, she is still trying to get her money back.

Ethel Hylton is just one of a large and growing list of Americans – now numbering in the hundreds of thousands – who have been victimized by civil asset forfeiture. Under civil asset forfeiture, everything you own can be legally taken away even if you are never convicted of a crime.

Romney on Enemy Combatants

That's a good catch, JayC.

That leaves only the issues of "American citizen" and "without review", and also raises the question of who decides who is an "enemy combatant".

Thanks -

I agree with everyone about Cato, which has hardly been a fan of Republican authoritarianism. I'm not sure about the Club for Growth, since I thought they didn't care much about civil liberties as long as they weren't directly related to taxes or property.

Jay C, I don't think bringing in the "enemy combatant" term makes any difference at all. If the decision is unreviewable, then the president can declare you an enemy combatant whether you really are one or not, and there's nothing you can do about it. And it's already been established that the administration believes the whole world is a battlefield and that little old ladies who give charitable contributions without knowing they're funding bad guys count as enemy combatants.

FWIW, KC: I agree with you entirely: in my estimation, the issue of the definition of "enemy combatant" - what one is, exactly who is one, and who gets to make the call - is pretty much a matter of PR - this Administration has long been able to sell the Congress and the public on virtually any abuse or malpractice they wish to engage in on the "we're only doing this to terrorists" line. And mostly, thus far, the Congress, the public and the media have mostly let them get away with it - primarily, IMO, out of needless fear and a sense of national embarrassment that we could come to this.

I think, though, that the Bush/Cheney regime's ability to push the envelope on issues of untrammeled Executive authority (and obtain official cover for their abuses) has been severly hampered by the loss of Congress in the last elections - I wonder, however, how important a campaign issue this will actually be: my feeling is that it will be a losing issue for either side to press.

"I think the import of the answers changes significantly if the initial question was whether or not the candidate would favor unreviewable Presidential arrest powers for 'enemy combatants' (i.e., 'terrorists' in shorthand) - or whether said powers really would extend to Joe and Jane Citizen"

If you get rid of the mechanism--judicial review--for determining whether the executive is really correct in calling someone an "unlawful combatant" or "terrorist," then the fact that the president's powers of unreviewable arrest and detention have been limited to "unlawful combatants" is cold comfort . . .

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