Guest blogged by Joseph Cannon
As you probably know, ABC plans to commemorate 9/11 with a lying "docudrama" designed to portray Bill Clinton as soft on terrorism. As a small counter to such assaults on history, AmericaBlog reminds us the the Republicans once had a very different attitude toward terrorism.
In July of 1996, Clinton asked Congress for increased wiretapping authority in order to catch terrorists --- unlike Bush, who simply assumed such powers, consulting his lawyers instead of the legislators. The Republicans smacked down the idea, citing the dangers of increased presidential powers.
They also fired up their base with dark tales of a Clinton power-grab, using terror as a excuse. You can relive this history as I did --- by firing up Google Groups in order to see what Clinton's conservative opponents were saying about terrorism ten years ago.
Below, you will find a hastily-compiled selection of excerpts. Some of these comments were written directly for usenet, others are quotes from web sites or printed sources. In order to convey an impressionistic sense of how conservatives thought at that time, I've decided to forego names and dates; if you want full context, fire up Google for yourself. All the quotes appeared somewhere on usenet during 1996.
Those of you old enough to recall those days will testify that these sentiments were widely shared in conservative circles. The change in attitude is almost as stunning as the attempt to change history itself. As you read, ask yourself if you can imagine any of our modern death-to-Islam types saying such things about Bush or the current world situation:
Every time there is a crisis, real or imagined, those Americans who yearn for more powerful central government, or those who long to impose their moral views on others - demand curtailment of rights. This week, it's FBI wiretaps without court orders, joining NSA monitoring of all international calls and faxes; and demands that alleged 'terrorist' information be banned from the Internet.
You beat terrorism, or contain it, by upholding the rule of law and democratic decencies - by being the good guys. The moment we become the bad guys, then the bad guys have won.
Terrorism is the price that governments --- and their hostage subjects --- pay for exercising illegitimate power. Despite pundits whose ignorance is exceeded only by their presumption (_Wall Street Journal_'s Paul Gigot leaps immediately to mind) 20th century history demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that no further expansion of that power will do anything but make make the problem worse.
Preceeding the highly-publicized excesses of the Irish Republican Army, for example, we find 850 years of violent occupation by an exceptionally brutal foreign power that's managed to con the world into believing that it's civilized.
Half a hundred years of Middle Eastern terror arise directly from the fact that, instead of coming to America --- the appropriate refuge for "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" --- either before or after World War II, European Jews decided to take somebody else's landaway, and treat their victims the same way they themselves were treated by the Nazis.
Even before the terrorism bill, with its habeas corpus and numerous other repressive provisions, the Administration had shown a cavalier disregard for civil liberties.
But Republicans in Congress opposed Clinton's bill because they feared it would give too much power to law enforcement and government.
We covered the "terrorism bill" in the Security column of our 11 Sep. 1995 issue. In our view, it remains a bill designed mainly to assist the government in terrorizing its own citizens through increased and unconstitutional prohibitions on their freedoms. It does nothing to impede terrorism, and all such actions --- blowing up people and buildings --- are already crimes punishable under state and local laws.
As we have repeatedly stated, terrorism is an outgrowth of foreign policy. The efforts of elected officials to trade "terrorism prevention" for the increased government power is as old as history. Benjamin Franklin said it well: "Those who would forfeit essential liberty for temporary safety, deserve neither liberty or safety."
The House Freshman rejected the Terrorist act and rightly so. They recognized the danger of a President with unlimited power.
I predict a continuing wave of terrorism up until the elections or until Clinton declares martial law and cancels the elections.
Now guess who gets to make that definition? Why the Pres. himself - Bill Clinton.