From a new AP story about the Patriot Act
From its inception, the law's increased surveillance powers have been criticized by both liberals and conservatives as infringements on free speech rights and protections against unwarranted searches and seizures.
"From its inception"...?
We've certainly heard numerous libertarian arguments against the law during Obama's presidency, and even during Dubya's second term
. But when the law was signed in October 2001 (a very
short while after September 11), the few voices raised against it were -- as I recall -- all liberal.
In the Senate, the only vote against the Patriot Act was cast by Russ Feingold
In the House, only three Republicans voted against the act; 211 voted in favor. 145 Democrats voted in favor, 66 voted against. Those who can honestly recall the hysteria of the times will have to admit that those 66 congressfolk showed remarkable courage.
Think back to late 2001-early 2002. Does anyone recall any major right-wing pundit making an argument against the Patriot Act? What were we hearing back then from Ann Coulter? Rush Limbaugh? The Fox team?
Here is Ann Coulter on Patriot Act opponents, from early 2003:
Manifestly, there is no civil-liberties crisis in this country. Consequently, people who claim there is must have a different goal in mind. What else can you say of such people but that they are traitors?
She pretty much spoke for the entire conservative movement when she spoke of the need "to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed too." Richard Perle called Sy Hersh a terrorist. That was the language conservatives routinely used at the time.
For a reminder of how things played out in that period, take a look at this timeline
December 2001: In response to Democratic plans to question parts of the USA Patriot Act during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, John Ashcroft suggests that people who disagree with the administration's anti-terrorism policies are on the side of the terrorists.
Right-wing think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation and the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, argued in favor of the Act. Conversely, warnings against Patriot Act abuses came from the ACLU, the NAACP, the Federation of American Scientists, Amnesty International, The Electronic Frontiers foundation, Michael Moore and (once the great unpleasantness in Iraq began) a host of anti-war activists.
I've been taking a brief look at the usenet discussions of the Patriot Act between September, 2001 and March, 2002. (Usenet provides an interesting way to revisit the give-and-take of old battles.) So far, I've not found a single non-liberal voice raised against it -- with the possible exception of this guy
, whose politics seem hard to classify.
Yes, you can point to conservatives who came out against this legislation eventually
. But that's not what I'm talking about. The AP story spoke of the bill's inception
The press agency's misleading rewrite of history only can aid those tea partiers who now seek to recast the Patriot Act as a liberal assault on liberty. As I've said before: History is not Calvinball. You can't make up the rules as you go along.
Not all liberals opposed the Patriot Act in 2001 (although many who voted Aye
did so for fear of losing their jobs). But for the first year or two, there were no non
-liberal opponents -- at least, none who came to the media's attention.
The "strange bedfellows" phenomenon did not begin until mid-2003, when some libertarian groups came out against the act. So did former Republican congressman Bob Barr (who had voted in favor of the legislation), Phyllis Schlafly and Grover Norquist (who is married to a Palestinian). To the best of my recollection, none of those people spoke up in late 2001 or early 2002.
If you can recall an exception, please correct me. But don't play any unfair games with the chronology: The key phrase here is "From its inception."