Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Patriot Act vs. just acting out

Truth be told, I knew very little about the Patriot Act last night when I began listening to the debate between U.S. Attorney John Brownlee and Roanoke Times editor Dan Radmacher. My guess was that given the American system of checks, balances, and high sensitivity to obtrusive government, it was unlikely the Act was the proverbial camel's nose of tyranny under the tent of individual privacy. Dan Radmacher said nothing that changed my mind.

Despite Salt Lick's smart-alecky (Jethro says "snarky") remarks about Roanoke Times' editors, he has nothing against them personally. In fact, he felt downright sorry for Dan Radmacher last night as John Brownlee figuratively took his hand, patted it, and said, "You're going to be fine, Dan, you're going to be fine."

At first, I thought maybe Radmacher had not had time to prepare properly, he sounded so uninformed. We are all busy these days, and sometimes we just get caught out. But that didn't make sense. Lberal newspapers such as the Roanoke Times have screeched about the Patriot Act since its enactment several years ago.

As the "debate" went on, I recognized the real motivation of Radmacher and his fellow travelers -- our old friend Liberal Hysteria. It was the current left-wing theme of Bush McHitlerburton is getting too much power. We are living in a fascist state, etc. For example, while discussing the appointment of special judges (FISA judges), Radmacher said danger lay in these judges because they are appointed solely by Chief Justice Rehnquist. Now, if you are critiquing a system, why not say "the Chief justice of the Supreme Court?" Why "Chief Justice Rehnquist?" I was tempted to call in and ask if it would be OK as long as Justices Scalia and Thomas helped Rehnquist choose.

Then Radmacher repeated what is apparently an urban legend about a librarian vs. FBI standoff that tested the Patriot Act. I Googled it, but found absolutely nothing. This is the type of stuff created by the liberal American Library Association, a liberal group that howls about the potential problems of the Patriot Act but won't condemn Castro when he throws librarians in jail. Oh yeah, we all know those librarians are one tightly wound group (sorry, Sis), but for a journalist to traffic in anti-globalization camp scuttlebutt...

Program callers supporting Radmacher didn't much help his case. My favorite was the fellow who related how his friend "Geronimo" has been followed by the FBI for nearly 30 years. (Maybe this guy and Geronimo were the "scrotum inflators" with Ward "Walking Eagle" Churchill at the Anarchist Book Fair?)

Then someone named "Dewey" (last name "Eyed?"), perhaps one of Radmacher's associates from his work with the environmental movement, called in to say he knew George Bush would use the Patriot Act to stifle environmental protests and for George "to bring it on." (Psst. Dewey. The frequency is 710 AM, WFNR.)

The real tragedy is that the Roanoke Times could avoid falling for some of this hysteria if its staff were intellectually diverse. Reasonable men can, and do, differ on whether to keep the Patriot Act. Former New York Mayor and liberal Ed Koch and former conservative congressman Bob Barr, for instance, both want changes. That's the greatness of America. We reason, we debate. And we usually get it right.

Come on, Wendy and Tommy, hire a conservative or two into your editorial staff. It would be a patriotic act.