Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Al Gore: Libertarian?

Hat tip to the Rational Review

A constitutional crisis
by Al Gore

"A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution -- our system of checks and balances -- was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: 'The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men.' An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution -- an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free." [speech transcript] (01/16/06)

So here we have a prominent Democratic politican speaking out against the on going power grab by the Bush administration. Such rhetoric, while much welcomed by libertarians, is most likely based not so much on any real principle as it is mere partisan opportunism. (After all, this quote could easily apply to the Clinton administration in which Gore served.) Conservatives, on the other hand, marching in lockstep to defend their "party", will probably trot out all sorts of quotes and statements made by Gore and other Democrats which exposes his hypocrisy on such matters, thus "refuting" him and painting his remarks unworthy of further consideration. Such seems to be the strategy of "the right" these days. Avoid addressing arguments raised by skeptics by attacking the credibility and/or patriotism of the speaker, leaving the substance of the argument untouched. Marxists did that for years to advocates of free market capitalism.

I've been fascinated lately with the subtle shift in the ideologies of the major two parties. A year and a half ago, during local and state level elections here in the Dayton, it was the Democratic candidates who were speaking out in favor of fiscal responsibility, fostering small business and the prosperity of the middle class, and clean government. Republicans on the other hand, campaigned on a consolidationist agenda, seeking to centralize government services (and political power) at higher and higher levels of government. How many "conservatives" 10 or 15 years ago would have imagined that?

Accordingly, how many "conservatives" these days will acknowledge that their party is the one seeking to harness and consolidate political power into an omnipotent, unaccountable, and unrestrained Presidential dictatorship? How many "conservatives" will recognize that they are assisting the destruction of our Constitutional order - or what's left of it, anyway - while those evil "liberals" are the ones defending restrained government?

Many "conservatives" have found it fashionable as of late to attach the word "libertarian" to their poltical worldview. You may here them say things like, "I'm really more of a libertarian at heart", or "I'm neolibertarian", "I'm a libertarian who votes Republican because (fill in the blank)". Many adopt this word because it's now "cool" to be libertarian, but few understand the meaning of the word. If you meet one of these types, I would suggest inquiring about their views on Bush's power grabs. If they start sputtering mantras about "security", they are probably not libertarian at all, as their default setting is most definately on "government". If you can feel comfortable with giving one man power without any restrictions (so long as he offers a good excuse), you are not libertarian.

Another excerpt from the speech:

Once violated, the rule of law is in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws.


When President Bush failed to convince Congress to give him all the power he wanted when they passed the AUMF, he secretly assumed that power anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother. But as Justice Frankfurter once wrote: "To find authority so explicitly withheld is not merely to disregard in a particular instance the clear will of Congress. It is to disrespect the whole legislative process and the constitutional division of authority between President and ongress."

This is precisely the "disrespect" for the law that the Supreme Court struck down in the steel seizure case.

It is this same disrespect for America's Constitution which has now brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in the fabric of the Constitution. And the disrespect embodied in these apparent mass violations of the law is part of a larger pattern of seeming indifference to the Constitution that is deeply troubling to millions of Americans in both political parties.

For example, the President has also declared that he has a heretofore unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation, and that, notwithstanding his American citizenship, the person imprisoned has no right to talk with a lawyer -- even to argue that the President or his appointees have made a mistake and imprisoned the wrong person.

The President claims that he can imprison American citizens indefinitely for the rest of their lives without an arrest warrant, without notifying them about what charges have been filed against them, and without informing their families that they have been imprisoned.

At the same time, the Executive Branch has claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture in a pattern that has now been documented in U.S. facilities located in several countries around the world.

Read the whole speech. It's good.


Blogger Fred said...

For what it's worth, a Newsmax commentary on Gore's effort to "tap" phones years ago:

10:19 AM  
Anonymous jimmo the geek said...


It's good of you to give credit where credit's due!

Gore is far from a libertarian of course but on the issue of Bush's naked power grab he is with us, so it's in our best interest to join forces with him--on this issue. There will be another day to debate him on other issues.

8:44 PM  
Blogger Libertarian Jason said...

I've always said that while Libertarians should always fight to advance their principles, they should never shy away from forming coalitions with non-Libertarians when specific opportunities arise.

9:33 PM  
Blogger El Comandante said...

hey man, I blog-rolled you in the name of Buckeye libertarian solidarity, you should do the same if you're cool with it

10:52 PM  
Blogger Libertarian Jason said...

Buckeye libertarian solidarity

You have a pic of Sean "Conservatives Believe In Welfare" Hannity and you call yourself a libertarian?


Thanks for the blog roll... I'll check out your blog, for sure....

10:14 AM  
Blogger El Comandante said...

tongue-in-cheek I promise

1:20 PM  

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