I know the more conservative readers of this blog will simply roll their eyes and think this is "Just another knee-jerk hysterical over-reaction by a Democrat who wants to undermine Republicans", but at last even conservatives have come to appreciate the warnings long sounded by liberals and libertarians.
This week a group of conservative thinkers has formed the American Freedom Agenda, a group committed to restoring fundamental liberties threatened under Bush's leadership. As Ed Brayton describes the group behind the effort:
It's an interesting group: Bruce Fein, former DOJ official under Reagan and prominent legal scholar; David Keene of the American Conservative Union; Bob Barr, former Georgia Congressman; and Richard Viguerie, who may not be a well known name but is probably the man most responsible for the election of Ronald Reagan and the formation of the modern conservative movement.
This is not a group you can dismiss as America-hating defeatocrats who are nothing more than unhinged Bush bashers, desperate enough to exaggerate any incident into Orwellian proclamations of Doom. These are sober-minded, thoughtful, intelligent, deliberate movement conservatives, who have finally come to share the same understanding as many liberals and libertarians that the Bush Administration has governed in a way that is a genuine and urgent threat to our basic civil liberties.
This group is asking all 2008 Presidential candidates to sign their pledge, which outlines the following ten commitments:
I, (candidate), hereby pledge that if elected President of the United States I will undertake the following to restore the Constitution's checks and balances, to honor fundamental protections against injustice, and to eschew usurpations oflegislative or judicial power.These are keystones of national security and individual freedom:
1. No Military Commissions Except on the Battlefield.
2. No Evidence Extracted by Torture or Coercion.
3. No Detaining Citizens as Unlawful Enemy Combatants.
4. RestoringHabeas Corpus for Suspected Alien Enemy Combatants.
5. Prohibiting Warrantless Spying by the National Security Agency in Violation of Law.
6. Renouncing Presidential Signing Statements.
7. Ending Secret Government by Invoking State Secrets Privilege.
8. Stopping Extraordinary Renditions.
9. Stopping Threats to Prosecuting Journalists under the Espionage Act.
10. Ending the Listing of Individuals or Organizations as Terrorists Based on Secret Evidence.
I will issue a public report annually elaborating on how the actions enumerated in paragraphs 1-10 have strengthened the ability of the United States to defeat international terrorism, secure fundamental freedoms, and preserve the nation's democratic dispensation.
I make a lot of jokes about being a baby-eating liberal, but the fact of the matter is that in the non-partisan sense of the word, I am at core quite conservative. I believe that the Constitution is the greatest template for a government ever devised, and that its principles of freedom, liberty, and suspicion of power (particularly to governmental power) are absolutely vital to a truly great nation. That is the main reason I have, over the last seven years, become so much more actively partisan than I have ever been before -- I believe that the policies of the Bush Administration are the gravest non-military threat to the core principles of the Constitution and individual liberty our nation has ever faced.
I applaud the actions of this group of true conservatives, who recognize that duty to country is far more important than a misguided loyalty to party or person. Long after George Bush is no longer our President, we're going to have to live with the results of his tampering with the fundamental levers of our government.
I would encourage my Republican readers to think about what Hillary Clinton would be like if she could simply wave her hand and dismiss any Congressional oversight, could put you and your family under FBI surveillance with no warrant or recourse to court, could disappear your friends and political colleagues -- even US citizens -- to foreign countries to be tortured without due process or habeus corpus rights, or any of the other items on the list above. This is not an argument that no Republican should have these powers, it's that no President at all, ever, should have them.
Power begets power, and if we let the principles of the Unitary Executive and the removal of checks and balances settle in, we're never going to be rid of them. The time to demand a return to the proven methods of governance that have shielded our nation and our liberty for 200 years and more is now, before our leaders (of either party!) become too comfortable with the garments of power. That is true conservatism.