Civil liberties heroes?

Posted: Dec 17, 2001 12:00 AM
As our armed forces conclude a massive rout of the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, we have the luxury of turning our eyes back to the home front, and that relaxation welcomes the familiar patterns of partisan politics. The Democrats have decided that George W. Bush, as commander in chief, is unassailable. We're encouraged to forget that just months ago, they specialized in dismissive punchlines about the frat-boy lightweight. They're praising his work abroad, but they are also setting up a new line of attack: He is now threatening civil liberties at home. Every American should be vigilant about civil liberties, but every American should also understand that defending our rights is a delicate balancing act; one man's right is another's oppression. There is the right to abort, which violates with the right to life. There is the right to smoke, which clashes with the right to be free of smoke. And there are the rights of the criminally accused, which can be seen as affronts to the rights of the criminal's victims. To read the newspapers, you'd think reporters are incapable of imagining that there are two sides to the debate over liberties. Only defenders of the rights of suspected terrorists are "civil libertarians." A recent Washington Post story by Edward Walsh was headlined "Civil Liberties Defender Picks His Fights." Walsh contended that his story's object of praise, liberal Senator Patrick Leahy, is not only a great civil libertarian, he's also not very partisan. On the other hand, countless press reports have taken turns huffing and puffing about Attorney General John Ashcroft for boldly telling Leahy and his Senate colleagues that those who are peddling "phantoms of lost liberty" are providing comfort to our enemies. Snidely they've suggested that Ashcroft and his boss are presiding over a creeping dictatorship. These journalists are already forgetting that crews of rescue personnel still comb daily through the ruins that mark a horrendous collection of lives and liberties lost. They have disdained or ignored the idea that the subsequent collection of federal detainees could be a restraining order protecting Americans who might have joined that depressing roster of the wounded and the dead. In the shadow of American mass murder, "civil libertarians" are honored for offering procedural niceties to assailants who provided only death to their innocent victims. Liberals can't see that defending weekend passes for gas-station slasher Willie Horton might be a political day in the park compared to defending every tender mercy for the plotters of Osama bin Laden's army. The Washington Post has other heroes. Just as their reporters fondly remember their days tearing America down over the Vietnam War, they're looking to promote the next generation of soft-headed kids who see no moral difference between America and their enemies, and imagine no use of force that's moral or constructive. Reporter Emily Wax mourned the scene at nearby T.C. Williams High School, where the Amnesty International Club put up posters saying "War Will Only Kill More," only to see them torn down. Even worse, in Charleston, W.V., student Katie Sierra was suspended for wanting to start an anarchists' club and wearing a T-shirt to school that cracked sarcastically: "When I saw the dead and dying Afghani children on TV, I felt a newly recovered sense of national security. God Bless America." Is it so hard to imagine that wearing a T-shirt like that to school at a time of war is a disgusting affront to the overwhelming majority of people in that school? And if you're going to champion the wearing of that T-shirt, why not also champion the bravery of the Ku Klux Klan, while disdaining the intolerant reaction? Could kids wear hoods to school? The Post has had little outrage for campus speech codes that forbid offending the champions of "multiculturalism" and favors greater punishments for "hate crimes." But if the Posties were committed to the "civil liberties," wouldn't they be championing laws against "hate crimes" and adopt speech codes banning "hate America speech"? The media elite display a tin ear for the American people when they insist there's something wrong with America when spitting on the notion of justice for our lost brothers and sisters, or condemning the military cure for this savage virus of mass murderers, makes one unpopular. I hope Americans are guilty of "intolerance." I hope we have zero tolerance for those who aspire to destroy us as a nation. Americans have a new sense of mission that will not be sapped by sarcasm and mockery. Our sense of moral outrage helped spare countless millions from communism. Must we now face an intelligentsia with just as much disdain for the task of ridding much of the world of terrorism?