Friday, February 03, 2006

Prominent Conservative Joins Criticism of Bush on Wiretaps

While the White House tries to spin the controversy over George Bush’s illegal wiretaps without warrants as a case of Democrats objecting, yet another prominent Republican has come out against the activity: Grover Norquist. The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the growing bipartisan opposition:

Bush and his senior officials have defended the wiretaps as essential in a time of war, while many White House and GOP officials have attempted to characterize opposition as coming mostly from partisan Democrats critical of the war in Iraq. In a speech to the Republican National Committee last Friday, Karl Rove, the president’s chief strategist, accused Democrats of making “wild and reckless and false charges” on the wiretap issue.

But, in fact, a number of prominent Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, have criticized Bush and the wiretapping without court warrants as a violation of the law and basic civil liberties. So have other well-known conservatives, including former Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia. Bruce Fein, a lawyer who worked in the Justice Department under President Ronald Reagan, wrote in a commentary in the Washington Times last week that Bush should face “possible impeachment” if the practice is not stopped.

“There have been as many Republicans as Democrats who’ve spoken out on the issue,” Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said Tuesday as he stated that the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he heads, will begin hearings on the matter on Feb. 6.

The article concentrates on the actions of Larry Diamond, a Democrat, and a surprising Republican opponent of the wiretaps:

Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, says he knows some fellow conservatives have labeled him a traitor for condemning the same administration that instituted the biggest tax cuts in recent American history ­ cuts for which Norquist vigorously lobbied. But an even greater disloyalty, Norquist responds, would be to allow what he regards as the trampling on civil liberties to go unimpeded.

“The president’s friends are exactly who you want telling him this,” said Norquist. “No one else has the credibility. We are being team players by telling him, not by keeping quiet.”

Norquist said one of his main concerns is that, once the government becomes so intrusive, there is no way to prevent continued erosion of individual rights.

“Even if you believed an angel was making these decisions, and that’s not what I’m saying, at some point the person in the White House will change,” he said. “Hillary Clinton might be making these decisions.”

While I don’t see Hillary Clinton as being any less trustworthy making these decisions than Bush, Norquist is correct in the underlying principle that once Constitutional checks and balances are removed there is the risk of further erosion of individual rights.


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