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January 17, 2006

Once Again, Dennis Perrin Ruins Everything By Bringing Up Reality

I myself have been genuinely impressed by Al Gore's transformation since 2000. I evaluate it as genuine and something to be encouraged. And I was wowed by his speech yesterday (though I admit that like all pointy heads, I'm a sucker for references to books 'n' things).

Unfortunately, Dennis Perrin has the bad manners to remind us how dirty Gore's hands are regarding civil liberties:

Clinton/Gore, in the wake of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, came forth a year later with the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act which, under the guise of fighting terrorists, was a frontal assault on the Fourth Amendment and further expanded federal police power. The Clinton/Gore admin also was in favor of roving wiretaps, which they felt the FBI should conduct without a court order. But even before Oklahoma City, Clinton/Gore sought more state control over the populace via the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, passed in 1994, which aided police and federal spying on citizens by tapping digital phone networks. Not only did the phone companies have to allow any and all surveillance of their networks, they also were required to make phone call records available to the state. On top of all this, anyone being spied upon was not to know that they were under federal or police suspicion for whatever reason...

Maybe Al Gore has truly changed. Maybe he's become some kind of civil libertarian. Appearing on the same stage with Bob Barr, whose record on this front is much much better than Gore's, suggests that he might take seriously what he says. But before we can believe anything this career politician and friend to the powerful proclaims, acknowledgment of his role in subverting the Constitution should be demanded.

You may read it all.

Posted at January 17, 2006 02:51 PM | TrackBack

What reality exactly? Gore's speech was about the Bush administration breaking the law - which they clearly did. Bush could have attempted to amend current FISA law, introduce new surveillance parameters for Congress to legislate...but did not.

Perrin's references to the Clinton/Gore administration's policies are to Acts which were officially passed by there really is no substance to this particular argument.

Gore is not claiming 'Civil Libertarianship', he is calling out the President as a lawbreaker. To allow the reframing of the argument dilutes the ultimate message - that the President feels he is above the law.

Posted by: leen at January 17, 2006 05:00 PM

leen, thank you for pointing out that Jonathan Schwarz fell for the misdirection. Clinton/Gore worked within the law while Bush is unabashed in proclaiming he is above it. Jonathan you need to polish up your analytical skills.

Posted by: desmodus at January 17, 2006 06:19 PM

In addition to leen's point, all of Perrin's post seems to be about the actions of "Clinton/Gore". Now, I'm not saying that a vice-president isn't implicated in the actions of an administration, but most administrations, including Clinton/Gore, are nothing like the current case, in which the VP is running the show at least as much as the president is. We don't normally talk about the policies of Carter/Mondale or FDR/Garner or Lincoln/Hamlin.

And I really don't understand the bits about Clinton worship and Hillary fandom. He's definitely reading different online libs from the ones I read.

Posted by: KCinDC at January 17, 2006 06:27 PM

Could we reserve the pettiness for football games and primaries? It's taking some self-control not to ask desmodus to polish up his or her punctuation skills.

bill, I'd guess that it's genuine because, until recently, nuGore's positions were still very, very politically unpopular. Not that Democrats aren't always flirting with political suicide, but I think even Gore would know better if he were trying to parlay this into a return to politics.

I'll concede, though, that, like Jon, I do tend to buy into the "political epiphany" frame-- comparing, for example, John Kerry's 1971 testimony to the Senate representing VVAW with Kerry circa to the start of the war with Kerry at Brown after Katrina. Wingnuts call that "flip-flopping;" I call it "personal development."

I also think that we're at the point in That Vaunted National Debate where proof of lawbreaking is no longer considered enough to criticize.

Illegal to reveal Valerie Plame's identity? Sure, but she was in Who's Who!

Illegal to play around with soft money? Sure, but DeLay's only trying to beat Democrats!

Illegal to wiretap PETA without a warrant? Sure, but those fuckers are out of control.

So Gore was clearly not just criticizing the illegality of it all-- he got into, y'know, morals and ethics and decency too. And that's what makes him a hypocrite-- because, yes, KCinDC, he's "implicated in the activities of an administration."

...and thus ends my bid for Long-Ass Post of the Day.

Posted by: Sully at January 17, 2006 08:06 PM

You know I never confused Al Gore with Jesus. It's good of "noble altruists" to keep reminding us that even our best leaders are much less than perfect. That said every executive since Ike has been consolidating the power of the office.

This current group of executives read Cheney/Bush is both dangerous and delusional. Can we look back to Kennedy and find some much lesser contributing factors to our current mess? Absoultely!

Does it matter at all, what was done by who even in the Clinton adminsitration, if the current executive is not brought back under the letter of the law? Not on your life!

With all the current and live crimes being commited why was space wasted on this dead issue?

Posted by: patience at January 17, 2006 09:12 PM

Out of curiosity, what makes you think it's genuine? I'm too much of a cynic.

[I accidentally deleted the original of this, which was the first comment—Jon]

Posted by: bill at January 17, 2006 10:05 PM

I agree with leen.

Posted by: dave at January 17, 2006 11:03 PM

It is fair to cite the degradation of the system of checks and balances with the elevation of the unitary executive doctrine, going back far before Bush took office.

Still, Perrin's argument is fraudulent based on the incidents noted. But not to get into a point-counterpoint (RIP Shana Alexander), I agree that this erosion of the separation of powers is longstanding and did not begin with this administration. They have, however, escalated its interpretation to levels that call for forceful dissent.

Posted by: leen at January 18, 2006 12:28 AM

There's no misdirection in what Perrin said. Following procedures and legal niceties to enact criminally bad policies isn't washed away by good speeches and fine sentiments. When Gore gets arrested at protest and sits in a stinking cell with other protesters, then he becomes a statesman.

Posted by: J. Alva Scruggs at January 18, 2006 04:11 AM

When, after the Oklahoma City bombing, the Anti-Terrorist Death Penalty legislation was enacted, the Clinton-Gore administrastion jumped on the bandwagon. The executive has the duty, I would argue, to try to guide legislation based on reality - a word seemingly out of fashion then and now - rather than on fear and prejudice.

The above legislation, cobbled together by nuts, included in its provisions the fact that a "crime of violence or moral turpitude" would support an order of deporation for legal immigrants - i.e., green card holders. Until recently, a DUI conviction, along with shoplifitng, were deemed to be crimes of violence, particularly by the Fifth Circuit, were 14 of the 15 judges have been appointed by St. Reagan and the Bushes, pere et fil.

And, not the least of it, the federal imposition of the death penalty was dramatically increased.

Clinton-Gore were no friends of civil liberties.
Neither was Lieberman, as vp candidate.

I too and cynical. Jon is right on the money.

Posted by: Jesus B. Ochoa at January 18, 2006 07:52 AM

Whoops! correction: where 14 of the 19 judges, etc. Sorry. It's early morning, the fingers are stiff and the eyeballs red.

Posted by: Jesus B. Ochoa at January 18, 2006 07:54 AM

Jonathan, thanks for the reply. Your blog is great; I wish it received more traffic.

Posted by: Bill at January 18, 2006 08:00 AM

I agree with Jon. I'd have said exactly what Jon said in his bid to exceed Sully, if I'd have thought of all those points and could write them all down before they slipped my mind. And then I'd have written a little extra, to knock Jon out of contention for long-ass post of the day. But I suppose nitpickers will insist on originality, so I'm out of contention.

I can add this--I'm bothered by this tendency to talk about Bush as though every evil deed he commits is original with him. Torture, for instance--What's her name at the NATION did a great service by pointing out that the US has been in the torture-training business for decades. Bush has added to the problem, which is terrible. But why pretend the US has always opposed torture when it hasn't? Well, I know why--it makes the case against Bush cleaner and you can hope to build up a bigger political alliance against him if you isolate his misdeeds and crimes from everything that has happened previously. But it's not really accurate.

I might be in contention for long post after all.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at January 18, 2006 11:06 AM

"We don't normally talk about the policies of Carter/Mondale or FDR/Garner or Lincoln/Hamlin"

Well, I don't know about that. Hamlin spent part of the Civil War as a private (a cook, I think) in the Maine militia. I think we can all agree that this is the perfect position to be in if you are directing the entire war effort.

Posted by: Ted at January 18, 2006 11:49 AM

Ted! Thank you for that piece of historical arcana, which I didn't know.

It's this kind of thing that makes me say there is a conspiracy in America to make people believe history is boring.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at January 18, 2006 12:32 PM

Dennis Perrin, if you're reading this, I want you to know that I enjoyed and agreed with both of your posts regarding Al Gore. I also really enjoyed your essay "Atoning," among other things. I read your blog regularly, but I'm too lazy to send an e-mail of appreciation. When are you going to quit being such a wanker and put up a comment section? Although, I usually lurk at most blogs ever when there are comments. Anyway, keep it up. Sorry Jonathan for going off topic.

Posted by: Bill at January 18, 2006 06:29 PM

Bill --

Thanks for the love (and don't worry -- Jon is very giving when it comes to his comment threads). I'm not interested in refereeing flame wars and troll clashes. Simple as that. Most comment areas at most of the blogs I've read add little to the discussion. Not always the case, I know, but enough to steer me clear of it. Besides, I answer every email I get. If someone has a question, criticism and wants to share some info, I'm more than happy to respond.

Posted by: Dennis Perrin at January 19, 2006 12:02 PM