The Worst President Ever on Civil Liberties?

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tags: free speech

Mr. Walker is Professor Emeritus of Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He is writing a book, An Uncertain Defense: Presidents and Civil Liberties from Wilson to Bush.

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In an informal poll last year, professional historians rated George W. Bush the worst president ever in American history. It is a bit early to begin rating a president who still has two more years to serve, and time and events could change that judgement.

On civil liberties issues, Bush clearly has the worst record of any president. He has led an all-out assault on the separation of church and state, abortion rights and gay and lesbian rights. The USA PATRIOT Act is packed with threats to freedom of speech and due process protections. His administration has justified holding people indefinitely without charges, and in a broader sense it has made sweeping claims that it is not bound by legal precedents or existing human rights standards.

But if some people imagine that a liberal Democratic president would vigorously defend individual rights in a time of crisis, they need to take a closer look at the historical record. Democratic presidents have been responsible for some of the worst violations of civil liberties. Woodrow Wilson suppressed free speech during World War I, while Franklin D. Roosevelt interned 120,000 Japanese-Americans in World War II.

A review of presidents and civil liberties is important for several reasons. First, it puts President Bush in historical context. Second, it is appropriate to ask how well our presidents have defended or attacked the principles of free speech, due process, equal protection and privacy that form the core of our system of liberty. Third, there is the matter of how historians have addressed this issue. Since Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr.’s first poll in 1947 there has been a very strong consensus of opinion among historians, with Washington, Lincoln and FDR consistently rated the as “great” presidents. When you read the text accompanying the various surveys, however, you find that civil liberties issues nearly vanish. Wilson’s suppression of free speech and FDR’s internment of the Japanese-Americans are barely mentioned. What accounts for this?

Finally, and perhaps most important, examining presidents and civil liberties tells us a lot about American society and how it has changed over time. How and why did church-state issues become such a central controversy in American life? What forces made privacy a major social and political issue? In the end, presidential administrations are a lens through which we can better understand the changing dynamics of civil liberties issues in American society.

I examined the civil liberties records of the sixteen presidents from Wilson to George W. Bush. Wilson is the proper starting point because while there were important civil liberties controversies in earlier years (notably the Alien and Sedition Acts and Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus), they never became a permanent part of national political and legal life. That all changed with World War I and civil liberties have been a permanent and increasingly important part of our political life ever since.

How well have civil liberties been served by these presidents? The short answer is, not very well.

Although usually ranked among the “near great” presidents, Woodrow Wilson’s record is one of the very worst. He authorized the massive suppression of free speech during World War I and earlier imposed racial segregation among federal employees. His support for the Women’s Suffrage amendment was his only effort in support of a civil liberties issue.

The presidencies of Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover are almost devoid of presidential action on civil liberties. In the 1920s, however, we can see civil liberties issues percolating on the margins of American society. The 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial was the opening gun in a battle over church and state that is now at the center of American politics. Free speech controversies erupted in local communities across the country. The Supreme Court’s 1927 decision inBuck v. Bell portended controversies over the limits of government power over sexuality and personal autonomy. The 1920s illustrates the point that the fascinating and important story is not what presidents did but how a changing society eventually thrust church-state, free speech, and other civil liberties issues to center state.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s record is arguably the most contradictory of any president on civil liberties. The internment of the Japanese-Americans, one of the most shameful episodes in American history, will forever stain his reputation. On the positive side, he appointed two of the greatest civil libertarians ever to sit on the Supreme Court: Hugo Black and William O. Douglas. Cabinet members Frank Murphy Harold Ickes, meanwhile, gave active support to civil liberties and civil rights.

The case of FDR dramatizes the difficulties in attempting to “rank” presidents. How are we to strike a balance between his positive and negative actions with regard to civil liberties? And how do we factor such a grotesque event as the Japanese-American internment into an overall “score” on a president. In the end, ranking presidents is less important than learning about how American society has changed.

Harry Truman’s record is equally ambiguous. He exercised courageous leadership on racial equality, appointing the first presidential commission on civil rights and desegregating of the armed services, risking his reelection in the process. But he also created the Federal Loyalty Program in 1947, including the infamous Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organizations, establishing the principle that government could inquire into political beliefs and associations.

Eisenhower was severely criticized while president both for failing to provide strong leadership on civil rights and not criticizing the excesses of Senator Joe McCarthy. As with the 1920s, however, the fascinating aspects of the Eisenhower years from a civil liberties perspective are the changes that swept through American society. There was a rising popular discontent with censorship of the arts. Church-state issues had reached the Supreme Court and were roiling local communities. The sexual revolution was well under way, with potent implications for birth control, abortion, same sex relations, and the rights of women.

Complexities and contradictions abound with respect to the remaining presidents. Kennedy was very weak on civil rights until forced to act by demonstrations in the streets. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, but was responsible for violations of civil liberties related to the war in Vietnam. Nixon sought to change the Supreme Court, but on many issues he now looks surprisingly moderate compared with today’s neo-conservatives. And so it goes.

In the end, no president has an unblemished record on civil liberties. And no political party has a monopoly on virtue when it comes to defending the principles enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

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More Comments:

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Heuisler, your endless hypocrisy is tiresome. Anyone plowing through your long litany of rants here, and over past years on any of hundreds of other HNN pages, could easily see that if Bush were a Democrat you would be choking on the torrent of accusations of totalitarian "leftism" against him which you would not be able to mindlessly regurgitate fast enough. When you will pull your head out and realize that your clown of a president is not Robert Taft, not Ike, not Goldwater. Even Nixon and Reagan seem like shining beacons of enlightened inspiration compared to him. His latest round of juvenile evasions and excuse-makings start to make even Dan Quayle look good. Of the 10,000+ rude insults you have hurled on HNN to date, why does Junior Chickenhawk Bush deserve zero ? What will you not sacrifice to the cause of your own incessant hypocrisy ?

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. Heisler, you appear to again be operating under the common but fallacious fantasy that anything the G.W. Bush administration does is "conservative", and that any critic of them is "liberal". To the extent that such dichotomies have any validity at all nowadays, they are an indication of the foolishness of the American public and its infotainment suppliers in all too often failing to appreciate that honesty, fiscal reliability, national security, common sense, accountability, competency, etc. do not depend on which side of home plate people stand on when at bat.

If historians in the U.S. are occasionally able to burst these bubbles of intellectual laziness, the more power to them, no matter which political party they vote for.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

If you really think Saddam was significantly involved with the 9/11 attacks, then the brainwashing and/or mental damage has gone far deeper than can be explained by watching too much bad American TV. Such utter Rovian crap belongs historically with the Nazi lie that Poland started World War II by attacking German in September, 1939.

And before you get hot and bothered, I did not vote for Clinton, do not think the 2003 invasion was "all about Iraq", and if the docs at the nut house want to let David Horowitz run all over college campus, I basically couldn't care less.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

My comment #72572 above, was supposed to be (and go underneath) Mr. Heisler's #72563.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

RE: "It is impossible to have a serious discussion with you on anything related to this administration's policy/decision making or analysis/results/outcomes..."

Or on any other subject, unless you toe whatever the latest Republican line might be. Or want to sit and listen to a series of evasive, illogical, misattributing monologues.

If Cheney and the clowns were to decide tomorrow that, in order to continuing their achieving of never-ending victory over Al Qaeda, terrorism, and evil-doers generally, it had become necessary to restore Saddam to power, your "comrade" here would no doubt be ready to switch gears in a heartbeat, like any good lackey. What keeps these shell games going are the spineless and clueless Democrats who can't stop formulating grand theories of empire and neo-conservative ideology long enough to recognize that they, and faux Christian "core" of the Republican base are being conned, over and over again.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Nice that you, however inadvertently, are taking a position against repeatedly "one-sided" and unfair attacks upon "Christian White Heterosexual Males" ...like George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and John Kerry, for example.

But why insist on promoting an "infantile belief system" wherein "all social problems are the direct result"
of a "cabal" of "the Left" and the "Politically Correct"?

Charles Heisler, it looks very much as though forty years of bitterness have hypocritically turned you into that which you have long despised. May I respectfully suggest (a) that you consider going back to basic principles, and (b) that "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" is a tactic not a principle?

If you could remove the massive chip from your shoulder (that has swung you into a 180 degree anti-anti-"Left" counterspin) long enough, you might stop to notice that the basic point of the article supposedly under discussion here is to debunk any naive sentiments that "liberal Democrats" in Washington are fundamentally any better at defending civil liberties than "conservative Republicans". What is wrong with that common sensical and amply demonstrated observation ? Unless your main object is to make the "conversation" "one-sided"?

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. Heisler: My comment #72627 was in response to your #72624 (both of which should, but not easily be, viewable above). The blatant inconsistency in your #72624 cannot be excused by other comments elsewhere, yours or anyone else's, especially when the ability to move up and down the thread is somehow screwed up here.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Dear Mr. Heuisler,

Only a Nazi, Stalinist or Maoist would support spying on their own citizenry... what is your preference Comrade Heuisler schnitzel, borscht or fried rice?

This is just one more brick in the wall of the Bush administration's continuing assault on Americans' privacy and freedom in the name of his war on terrorism.

In 2002, according to The NYT, Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to intercept and keep records of Americans' international phone and e-mail messages without benefit of a PREVIOUSLY REQUIRED COURT ORDER. Bush then permitted the Department of Defense to get away with not destroying after three months, as required, records of American Iraq war protesters in the Pentagon's Threat and Local Observation Notice, or TALON database.

Both practices mean that a government agency is maintaining information on Americans, reminiscent of the Johnson and Nixon administrations' approach to Vietnam War protesters. The existence of those records as seen against a background of the Bush administration's response to criticism in the run-up of the Iraq war by retired Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson and the outing of his wife Valerie Plame who's career at the CIA was ended in revenge for the article Wilson wrote unmasking the dodgy intelligence that President Bush had used in a State of the Union message to seek to support his decision to go to war. This case is quite troubling, to not only for us Civil Libertarians, but, to all Americans who cherish freedom Comrade Heuisler.

It appears that the phone and e-mail messages of thousands of Americans and foreign residents in America have been or are being monitored and recorded by the NSA. Such action is not supposed to be taken without an application to and an order approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Mr. Bush issued an executive order in 2002, months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack, secretly removing that legal safeguard of Americans' privacy and civil rights.

The Pentagon's action as part of TALON and the Department of Defense maintaining files on American war protesters, perhaps with easy cross-reference to the NSA's records based on the results of their monitoring of phone calls and e-mails of potentially those same protesters, makes possible a very serious violation of Americans' civil rights.

Without a serious leap of imagination, in your case a near impossibility, a list of those under surveillance not available to anyone outside the NSA and the Pentagon, makes it possible to project that political critics of the Bush administration could end up among those being tracked. The Nixon administration, a previous Republican administration beleaguered by war critics, maintained an ENEMIES LIST.

The administration must order the Pentagon to promptly destroy the records of protesters as required by law, within three months. It also needs to order the NSA to return to the protocol of rules for approval through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before monitoring Americans' communications.

The idea that all of this is being done in the name of national security doesn't wash. This is the behavior of a police state and I for one, do not need or want the government to protect me, thank you very much. I can protect myself, quite adequately, from evil war protesters or weaklings the likes of Jose Padilla.

Comrade Heuisler, for some ungodly reason you are a biggest proponent of Big Brother I've ever run across. Really, it's not a healthy mentality. You need to quite suckling off the governments teat and start defending your rights as an individual and begin to think for yourself.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Dear Comrade Heuisler,

You needn't be on the left or right to be a jackboot. If you would prefer to be Jacobin instead of a Nazi so be it.

Spying on one's own citizenry and fellow countrymen is a direct violation of Civil Liberty especially, against those whose only perceived crime is that they disagree with questionable government policy.

It is a fact that Mr. Bush approved warrant-less wiretaps and surveillance to compile a list of enemies of the realm. He has openly admitted to this heinous action.

You better double-check to make sure that your name is not on that list of subversives Comrade Heuisler.

Now think about that last sentence. How did it make you feel? Did it make you feel the least bit uncomfortable? Did it make you feel violated that a fellow American would even consider that a person of your moral standing would be on such a list? Now imagine yourself being spied upon.

Mr. Bush issued an executive order, IN SECRET, to carry out this attack on Civil Liberty. If we are fighting a war on terror, as Mr. Bush insists and constantly reminds us in a ploy to frighten and kowtow weak minded individuals such as you, why issue the executive order in secret? Is it because true Americans would not condone this action just as we did not tolerate this activity under Nixon?

Harry Reid did not become Minority Leader until 2004. Why would Bush go to Reid 2002, to seek consultation on a matter as questionable as the authorization of warrant-less surveillance. It is reported that Nancy Pelosi knew of Bush's actions. However, it is totally unacceptable to secretly spy on law biding citizens and fellow Americans. This is one of the issues that drove Nixon to resign. One can only hope it has an equal impact in removing an unfit and unethical GW Bush from office.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Dear Glenda,

Of all our Presidents I believe "King Lincoln" to be history's worst violator of US civil liberties. That being said...

Although, I tend to agree with Mr. Alvarado that it is far too early to judge President Bush I think that 'cabal' is a better term than 'regime' when describing the current administration.

Regime- A form of government: a fascist regime.
A government in power; administration: suffered under the new regime. A prevailing social system or pattern. The period during which a particular administration or system prevails.

At the very minimum regimes have somewhat coherent, politically grounded, defined strategic and end game objectives fairly visible to a sizable contingent within a governed populace.

Cabal-1: a clique (often secret) that seeks power usually through intrigue 2: a plot to carry out some harmful or illegal act (especially a political plot) engage in plotting or enter into a conspiracy, swear together; "They conspired to overthrow the government"

The Bush administration is more typical of a cabal... questionable electioneering, subversive & treasonous actions/strategic leaks/smearing of opponents, camouflage/ ever changing reasons to justify policy, dominated by a few/monied concerns, advancement of self/select interests over that of the whole...

Civil liberties have eroded more rapidly as the religious right came to the forefront in the early 1980's. Fortunately, the Bush administration appears to have only squelched civil liberties when expedient to the direct needs of their inner circle. This administration doesn't really care about, or for, the American people all that much so our concerns may be much deeper than preserving what few civil liberties we have left.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Dear Comrade Heuisler,

This issue seems to have grown legs over the past (24) hours as the administration is really scrambling for cover. As you and I continue to banter back and forth the Bushies are five gears in reverse trying to spin their way out this little faux pas. Remember, this type activity helped topple Nixon.

I agree with you 100% and fully understand that we need to do whatever it takes to stop any future attacks on US soil. Also, without any doubt Mr. Bush deserves a great deal of credit for preventing attacks since 911 but, spying on Americans doesn't sit well with some of us. I realize it may be purely psychological but, it does leave a bad taste in the mouths of some.

While GW Bush claims his wiretaps were vital to the national security, they came at a time when the FISA court was approving a record number of warrants for secret surveillance. According to FISA’s annual report for 2004, there were a record 1,758 applications for spying authorization that year and none was denied by the special court. My question to you is why then would the President need to order secret surveillance?

The administration would have to know that if it was found out a fire storm was likely. Why jeopardize your presidency/ legacy, with all that is currently at stake and on the table, through some questionable activity when it could have all been carried out quite freely utilizing the FISA?

Could it be that Mr. Bush is so high on unchecked power that he believes that he is above the law and unaccountable to the American people?

I watched the Presidents speech last night and he looked a little more shaky than usual. What was with those Tourette like hand gestures? Do you think the pressure of it all is getting to him? Remember, this is a former alcohol abuser and cocaine addict... even if now sober drugs and alcohol have proven to cause irreversible damage both physically and psychologically... Do you think he is back on the bottle or God forbid, something worse? If you recall Nixon too was drunk quite often...

What is it about history repeating itself eh, Comrade!

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Dear Mr. Heisler,

Benchmark FYI... I am neither a leftist nor rightist. I believe left/right ideology to be the domain of the weak minded.

You write, "detrimental to civil liberties with their political correctness than the religious right could ever imagine."

Your correlation of political correctness with Civil Liberty is a total disconnect but, if you believe that there is some sort of leftist conspiracy or perceived movement toward political correctness that is an infringement of Civil Liberty you're either surely confused, seriously uptight or weak minded from your years of veering too far to the right.

Political Correctness is an effort to make broad social and political changes to redress injustices caused by prejudice. It often involves changing or avoiding language that might offend anyone, especially with respect to gender, race, or ethnic background.

Civil Liberty is the First Amendment right granted by the Constitution, Common Law or through legislation that enables us to be free to think, assemble, speak, organize, worship or petition without interference or restraint. Asking one to be PC does not not interfere with this right unless you are a proponent of ills such as racism, feminism/sexism, hate speech or church burning. Also, there are no laws that regulate/ require political correctness. If so, name one?

It is now reported Mr. Bush referred to US Constitution as “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!” It is the President's number one duty to protect, defend and uphold the US Constitution and consequently, Civil Liberty. His oath of office is contingent upon this preamble. Mr. Bush is either unaware or unsure of his duty to this nation or as stated in my previous post just doesn't care unless it serves the best interest of his handlers.

Further, you state, "I can give you five examples of restriction of free speech by the left for every half example you conger up that has been the result of conservative thought."

Here are a few full examples...

1.) The Bush Administrations repeated use of "Free Speech Zones" and pre-screened audiences at speeches/appearances to isolate those with differing views. (Score 5-0)

2.) FCC v. Pacifica or numerous other cases involving the right leaning FCC and regulations of speech in broadcasting. See also FCC v. Infinity Broadcast Corporation. Remember, Michael Powell was to the a right of center. (Score 10-0).

3.) NYT v. Sullivan or Abrams v. US (Right leaning OW Holmes and Brandies dissenting. Later overturned by the left leaning Warren Court) or Texas v. Johnson. Just a few of numerous SCOTUS cases brought on by right leaning ideologues in an effort to stifle free speech. (Score 15-0)

4.) Ulysses, Candide, Fanny Hill, Family Limitation, Catcher In The Rye, Fahrenheit 451, Grapes Of Wrath, Lord Of The Flies, The Pentagon Papers, Portnoy's Complaint, Satanic Verses and many more... All banned books courtesy of Joe McCarthy, The Meese Commission, RC Church/right leaning religious organizations, GA Governor Talmadge and US Postal Inspector Anthony Comstock. (Score 20-0)

You owe twenty examples of the left v. the right suppressing freedom of speech. Should be easy. Take your time.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Dear Comrade Heuisler,

I do not hate Mr. Bush or even dislike him. I do not know the guy personally so as to judge one way or the other. It is that I am not a world class sycophant like you.

It is impossible to have a serious discussion with you on anything related to this administration's policy/decision making or analysis/results/outcomes.

As Rome burns you dismiss it as a campfire.

Well Nero... daddy Dick had to cut his Iraq/ Pakistan visit short and I bet he's really pissed. Junior better break out the pretzels because he's gonna have two black eyes after daddy Dick lays the smackdown. The Dems are formulating plausible deniability over this whole spy issue, even a handful of Repugs are distancing themselves, while the press is in a feeding frenzy. Explain again how this is a non-issue for GWB?

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Dear Mr. Heisler,

Citing Coulter's problems on the college circuit as an example the left's suppression of free speech is a stretch. Ms. Coulter is vile, racist and just mean spirited. Her inflammatory bile incites and encourages this reaction and is purposeful as part of her schtick. This example is akin to the right's attack on Michael Moore's moronic spiel.

Mr. Horowitz case is a better example of the left's attempt to stifle free speech. Although, Mr. Horowitz is a lightning rod as race baiter and staunch Zionist he does bring stronger credentials and displays better table manners than Coulter. Unfairly, the left is much harsher on Mr. Horowitz than the right is on his nemesis Noam Chomsky. This example is worth 5 points.

The "Walt Disney definition" of Political Correct is
courtesy of Webster's... dissing Webster's... is nothing sacred? PC is just a way to seek a little human kindness, dignity and respect. It is not a requirement. So explain to someone like me, who has been living in a trailer down by the river, how exactly (500 words or less) "redressing social ills results in censorship"? This time, provide detailed proof not nebulous meanderings.

Sorry your old but, thanks for dedicating your life's work to academics. It is the most noble profession and I am sure you are an excellent teacher and have been an extremely positive influence on those who have passed through your classroom. I've been out of college for nearly 30 years so I am unable to comment on the current campus discourse. Hopefully, it is as alive and vibrant as in my day and I am sure you help keep the fires burning.

Take care.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Dear Mr. Heuisler,

Welcome... Belly up to the bar... I must have really pissed on your boots good this time as I see that it has taken you two posts to spew out all your nonsense.

It is common knowledge that the Secret Service screens the Presidents audience and has done so even prior to 1923. However, the Bush posse is extreme by any comparison to past administrations and it isn't always the Secret Service doing the screening... I wasn't going to say it but, oh well... 'Brownshirts' have questioned, roughed-up and tossed undesirables from Bush rallies.

Mr. Bush avoids all reasonable questions as the "I don’t give a goddamn, I’m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way" executive let alone face questions that may be uncomfortable. Where is the free speech here?

And, God forbid he should have to revert his eyes as he speeds past any long hairs protesting his disastrous policies. Dissent is kept at a 3 mile distance from this accidental occupant of the White House. Unfortunately, Rove has stifled free speech so well that it will be studied and mimicked for years to come by future incumbents to the Oval Office.

The FCC has stifled free speech for years. FCC v. Pacifica and FCC v. Infinity Broadcast Corporation are just two of many examples... what's your point... that the FCC is a left wing shill and proponent? If so, why doesn't the FCC go after The 700 Club and "crackpot" Pat for his daily hate filled prime time speech? The homophobic right is on continual autopilot in attacks upon PBS including children's shows that they deem too "gay" and uses the FCC as it's strong-arm conduit. Sesame Street... how pathetic is that?

Bill, you are insufferable...

NYT v. Sullivan had everything to do with free speech and civil rights. The SCOTUS case established the actual malice standard before press reports could be considered to be defamation and libel and hence; allowed free reporting of the civil rights campaigns in the southern United States.

It is one of the key decisions supporting the freedom of the press. The actual malice standard requires that the publisher knows the statement is false or acts in reckless disregard of the truth.
Before this decision there were nearly $300 million in libel actions outstanding against news organizations from the Southern states and these had caused many publications to exercise great caution when reporting on civil rights, for fear that they may be held liable for libel. After the Times prevailed in this case, news organizations were free to report the widespread disorder and civil rights infringements. The Times maintained that the case against it was brought to intimidate news organizations and prevent them from reporting illegal actions of public employees in the South as they attempted to continue to support segregation.

You need to replace your white hood with a tin foil hat to slow down all those brain waves emanating from your gigantic skull bone.

Then, you amazingly outdo yourself by writing, "McCarthy's Senate Committee did not ban books". You're joking right? If not, before you can debate you need to learn how read.

First, I wrote Joe McCarthy as an individual... singular... not, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations... plural.

Second, the "Red Scare" and Hollywood Writer's Guild Blacklist orchestrated by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations... plural... was America's greatest historical violation in the suppression of Civil Liberty and free speech. A true stain on the Constitution perpetrated by the right and quarterbacked by McCarthy.

Joseph McCarthy... singular... instigated one of the most notorious waves of censorship the nation has ever experienced. McCarthy had home-grown classics like Henry David Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience pulled along with 300 other titles banned or burned.

Finally, you state, " Your fondness for, "changing or avoiding language that might offend anyone, especially with respect to gender, race, or ethnic background", however is a smarmy means to abridge the freedom of speech in the First Amendment to our Constitution. There is no right not to be offended... you defend the abridgment of free speech because you apparently believe the right not to be offended is more important than our right to free speech."

Initially, I was only kidding about you shedding your white hood but now you really have me worried. Can you give me the name of the dry cleaner who presses your sheet?

As far as your second post you got me by the short hairs. It looks like you slipped a gear big time writing that mess. I'll leave that diatribe to someone else.

Peace Out.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Dear Comrade Heuisler,

Regardless of the Patriot Act flaws it has coordinated/ concentrated agency efforts and allowed for information/ resources sharing. There is no question that the Patriot Act must be reauthorized, unchanged and remain enforce until the War on Terror is won.

The issue is why Mr. Bush would knowingly bypass the FISA. There is no need or reason to do so. Mr. Bush who has his hands full with the war, economy, Abramoff scandal has...

1.) Provided Democrats an issue on which to attack and gain possible traction. A Clintonite, U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret FISA resigned without providing an explanation. From all accounts a decent jurist whom the Democrats can point to as incorruptible and use against GWB.

GWB, although polls are up to 47% still rates in the low to mid-30's on honesty/ corruption polling.

2.) Blown cover. Bypassing FISA has placed intelligence gathering operations in the news. Under FISA (the last year without and NYT complicity) few knew or cared about the inner workings of this important policing process.

3.) Any attack on the US Constitution, real or imagined, is cause for alarm. Even George Will "Why didn't he ask Congress" Dec 20, 2005 is questioning of GWB and possible constitutional law infringement. I read what AG Schmidt wrote however, other scholars challenge GWB's actions.

The crux of the biscuit is that the Bush Administration views the role of the Executive as superseding the Legislative/ Judicial branches. Mr. Cheney said as much this afternoon. This is troublesome to those who believe in a system of checks and balances through the three branch model.

Maybe you prefer to live under a king or dictator but many of us do not. Word is that the White House has green lighted a planning document entitled "Justifications for One-Party Rule in America" based on the work of John Yoo that would suspend the Constitution to establish a Declaration of Unity with a permanent executive in the case of domestic attack. Would this type government suit you?

"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face. It’s just a goddamned piece of paper." GW Bush

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Dear Mr, Heisler,

My apologies as I misunderstood your definition of social ills. I define social ills as hunger, homelessness/ substandard housing, severe poverty, unemployment, drug and alcohol addiction, child abuse, absence of educational opportunity and inadequate health care/ welfare programs. Addressing these ills would surely not injure civil liberty.

It is sad that college campuses no longer encourage or generate free thought and open discussion. Hopefully, educators such as you will continue to challenge, motivate and raise the bar for students to become more involved in the political process. The Young Republican's seem to do a great job of moving their message forward as scores of them work polling stations.

All is not lost. Driving to work today vandals sprayed painted graffiti on the base of the Steamfitters #449 Local Training Center sign that read "OIL WAR". In black and gold hometown Steelers colors no less. Though vandalism is wrong and many may object to the message some are attempting to get out the word for others to see and reflect upon.

"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed, if so celestial an article as Freedom should not be highly rated."

Thomas Paine

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Dear Mr. Heuisler,

You are correct, in haste, my use of the word revert was incorrect. I'll be more careful next time.

It is great that you've had the honor to attend numerous Presidential functions. I am sure that it an experience you will long cherish and I am truly relieve that you did not show up in your Sturmabteilung dress uniform. But, since you brought it up...

Courtesy of Dictionary.com

Brown Shirt or brown·shirt (brounshûrt) n.
1, A Nazi, especially a storm trooper.
2. A racist, especially a violent, right-wing one.

I see that I am not alone in the need to learn how to use a dictionary... hint, hint...

Moving right along...

In 1953 according to Walter Harding, preeminent Thoreau biographer "Senator McCarthy ordered that the United States Information Service remove from their overseas libraries an anthology of American literature that included Thoreau's Civil Disobedience as un-American."

On Joseph McCarthy and book banning...

The Christian Science Monitor; May 06, 2003 edition, The Red Scare Revisited: Inside McCarthy Files

"And while he (McCarthy) informed the 395 witnesses of their right to constitutional protection, he described any attempt to do so as an admission of guilt - and encouraged employers to fire them. The hearings took on the tone of an inquisition. They ranged from investigations into the books in the State Department's overseas libraries, where more than 300 titles were then banned or burned".

Inciting or encouraging book banning/burning is just as troubling as carrying out the act itself.

Further, Journalists Jack Anderson and Ronald May published a scathing indictment of Senator McCarthy in their book McCarthy, The Man, The Senator, The Ism.

On March 31, 1953 the McCarthy book became the center of a controversy involving the Madison Free Library, the Wisconsin State Journal, the Capital Times, the University of Wisconsin, the Unitarian Church, and the larger community. The storm erupted from a newspaper column in the Capital Times headlined: "Anti-McCarthy Book Banned at Library'.

There is also no need to discuss the numerous Hollywood screenwriters unjustly smeared and blacklisted by your hero.

Once again you are proven wrong.

Before going on any further please carefully reread Sullivan and Pacifica. I suggest that you utilize LexisNexis in your search. Then get back to me when you are better prepared as it is really tiring doing all the leg work for you.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Dear "Klinton Lovin" Heuisler,

Actually, the essay 'Bush Plans National Despotism Party' by Michael S. Rozeff was posted at Lew Rockwell.com a Libertarian site and home of American Patriot, Representative Ron Paul.

You're really dogged in efforts defending Mr. Bush on this spygate issue. Playing the Clinton card though, have you no shame? It just proves how pathetic you can be but, as a Republican you're entitled to mix copious amounts of hypocrisy with the innate ability to flip-flop at will because, that's what all good Republicans do.

But, no need to fear little Billy...

1.) This is a non-issue for White House Counsel that is easily defensible and will be cleaned up post haste.

2.) Like Reagan, GWB is teflon especially, with jackboots like you on the clock who would sooner wipe their feet upon the US Constitution than call the President out on a serious lapse of judgment. Lest we forget THAT BUSH WORKS FOR US and WE PAY HIS SALARY.

3.) The next major disaster, in a series of disasters, during one & 1/2 disastrous terms is just around the corner. GWB and clan will screw something up royally to move the public and press off issue and onward/ upward to the next catastrophe.

Hopefully, it won't involve physical loss of another US city.

4.) GWB could get caught filmed in an Oval Office menage-a-trois sans, Jeff Gannon-Guckert and those dimwit Democrats couldn't make an impeachment run of it as they'd be too busy talking circles around each other on CNN.

GWB is innocent on this one and this post is getting tired. Move on up the thread so we can discuss some other topics that highlight Junior's bungling and ineptitude. Let's look for an essay that explores the Bush/Republican cult worship of Sun Myung Moon.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Dear Mr. Heuisler,

The answer to your questions are no, yes and the jury is still out.

Well, I take that back... Ann Coulter may not be a racist but she is a bigot.

Let me get this straight and if mistaken please let me know.

You write, "Sullivan is an expansion of the free press". [nss]

That is absolutely correct! It is what I have been telling you all along for the last three posts!! You have just refuted your own last three posts!!!

Your argument all along has been that Sullivan had no bearing, whatsoever, on Civil Liberty and more precisely, the Freedom of Speech component therewith-in.

Yet, you say the case led to the EXPANSION OF THE FREE PRESS.

What is it?

If it expanded the free press then it had a definite bearing on free speech and consequently Civil Liberty.

You write, "Pacifica is an obscenity case".

That is absolutely correct! It is what I have been telling you for the last three posts!! You have just refuted your own last three posts!!!

Your argument all along has been that Pacifica had no bearing, whatsoever, on Civil Liberty and more precisely, the Freedom of Speech component therewith-in.

Yet, you say it is an OBSCENITY case.

What is it?

If it is an obscenity case then it had a definite bearing on free speech and consequently Civil Liberty.

You write, "Abrams eventually won his right to leaflet munitions workers".

That is absolutely correct! It is what I have been telling you for the last three posts!! You have just refuted your own last three posts!!!

Yet, you say the case won the RIGHT TO LEAFLET.

What is it?

If it allowed for the right to leaflet then it had a definite bearing on free speech and consequently Civil Liberty. In fact, this case also challenges the right to assembly another component of Civil Liberty.

If you had been paying attention to Mr. Heisler's posts you would have understood the questions and rebuttals. But, you don't read and you jump in half cocked with an empty gun.

Each case had a cause/ effect on one or more of a specific, individual component of CIVIL LIBERTY. In this case FREE SPEECH. I cannot be any more remedial than that.

And stop it with the lame defense of McCarthy. I did not misquote Harding or the Madison Times and you know it. You are the only poster at HNN who is defending Joseph McCarthy and his reign of terror. You know right well that he personally led the most notorious censorship campaign in the nations history and that included his personal direct and indirect efforts to ban and burn books.

You write, "These books were removed (or not) by Embassies and bases who cared. This is not banning books".

You should care that's who! You once again just refuted your own argument of your last two posts.

What is it?

If you write that books were removed then that is book banning.

Do you actually ever read anything you write or do you just post up to be a P.I.A.

For the sake of argument let's say he didn't ban or burn any books (even though we know he did) and because when debating you one needs to break ideas down to the very lowest remedial level... Joseph McCarthy incited others to ban and burn books during the early 1950's. This is guilt by association and he is guilty... What is so hard for you to comprehend?

Lastly, one would certainly not read transcripts from the Subcommittee that the subject chaired to learn about the ungodly behavior of said subject. That would be like reading Hitler's autobiography had Germany won World War II.

Honestly, Bill you're an embarrassment to the Mississippi State School System.

Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006

Dear Mr. Dahn,

Your write. "can you name one civil liberty that a citizen of our country has lost under bush?

Well yes I can, and more than just one but, this should suffice for now...

Bush approved warrant-less spying on US citizens.

You're more than welcome to refute that this is not a clear violation of civil liberty, twenty-five words or less.

Also, take the time to read the Patriot Act so that you'll be better prepared to discuss because from the looks of your post I do not believe you have ever read this document.

Bill Heuisler - 12/22/2005

Mr. Ebbitt,
Please stop repeating (as a quote) a rumor started by a a lefty web site and echoed by other lefty sites. You need to expand your horizons; can you really believe that such an explosive statement by a President would only be discovered by your obscure "blue" site? And it's repeated by Counterpunch, weirdest of all lefty sites. Wake up.

Now look this up-
Jamie Gorelick, Deputy AG of the Clinton administration said before
the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence about ten years ago:

JULY 14, 1994

"Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
"You have asked for my views on the provision of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s counterintelligence bill that establishes a procedure for court orders approving physical searches conducted in the United States for foreign intelligence purposes.

At the outset, let me emphasize two very important points. First, the Department of Justice believes, and the case law supports, that the President has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes and that the President may, as has been done, delegate this authority to the Attorney General..."

(two explanatory paragraphs here)

"...In considering legislation of this type, however, it is important to understand that the rules and methodology for criminal searches are inconsistent with the collection of foreign intelligence and would unduly frustrate the President in carrying out his foreign intelligence responsibilities.

Rule 41 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure requires a judicial warrant to search and seize (1) property that constitutes evidence of a crime; (2) contraband, that is the fruits of a crime or things otherwise illegally possessed; or (3) property designed or intended for use as the means of committing a crime. Normally, the federal officer conducting the search is required to serve a copy of the warrant on the person whose property is being searched and to provide a written inventory of the property seized.

These rules would defeat the purposes and objectives of foreign intelligence searches, which are very different from searches..."

Good for Clinton, but not Bush?
Why not? Politics? We're at war now.
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 12/21/2005

Mr. Ebbitt,
Whistle in the graveyard if it makes you feel better, but the President is correct and the Dems are driving off a cliff. And now they're in the process of what Harry Reid said has
"killed the Patriot act."

This is political suicide. President Bush is on the side of defending the nation and the Dems just say no.

You wrote (can't have), "a serious discussion with you on anything related to this administration's policy/decision making or analysis/results/outcomes.

Really? I've cited numerous court cases and precedents and quoted various people. Would you rather I spouted meaningless opinions about things I know nothing about, like Clarke does so often? Yes or no?

One more fact for you to digest while pondering: John Schmidt, associate AG in Clinton's Justice department wrote yesterday in the Chicago Tribune that Clinton, Bush, or any chief executive, has inherent authority to order warrantless surveillance. Look it up.

"The courts have upheld that position several times," Schmidt wrote in the Trib, "Every president since FISA's passage has asserted that he retained inherent power to go beyond the act's terms."

"We cannot eliminate the need for extraordinary action in the kind of unforeseen circumstances presented by Sept. 11," Schmidt continued. "I do not believe the Constitution allows Congress to take away from the president the inherent authority to act in response to a foreign attack. That inherent power is reason to be careful about who we elect as president, but it is authority we have needed in the past and, in the light of history, could well need again."

A Clinton AG. Serious discussion?
Care to rethink?
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 12/20/2005

Mr. Ebbitt,
October 8th, 1998 - Reuters:
"U.S.lawmakers approved a proposal long sought by the FBI that would dramatically expand wiretapping authority - an idea Congress openly rejected three years ago."

Reuters refers to House Resolution 3694 which passed Congress without fanfare and was signed into law by President Clinton October 20th, 1998 becoming Public Law #105- 272.

Again Reuters:
"The conference report was easily adopted by the House Wednesday despite an objection to the wiretapping provision from Georgia Republican Bob Barr, and by the Senate Thursday. Neither the House nor the Senate had included the provision, known as roving wiretap authority, in their versions of the intelligence bill. That was added later in closed committee."

Mr. Ebbitt, roving wiretaps are not limited by former legal constraints to just one telephone line per court order. Where previously each wiretap had to be approved by a judge, these are carte blanche authorizations to tap into any line law enforcement thinks may be used by, or is in the immediate vicinity of, a suspect.

Reuters again:
"Alan Davidson, staff counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington said at the time, 'Roving wiretaps are a major expansion of current government surveillance power. To take a controversial provision that affects the fundamental constitutional liberties of the people and pass it behind closed doors shows a shocking disregard for our democratic process.' FBI officials said they needed to be able to get roving wiretap authority more easily to catch criminals taking advantage of new telecommunications technologies."

That's 1998. Sound familiar?
Bill Heuisler

Tim Matthewson - 12/20/2005

Ed Kilgore has an important post at TPM Cafe highlighting how the House leadership, undoubtedly taking their lead from the White House, subverted all of the rules of democracy last night by adopting "martial law."

The brazen we-make-the-rules-around-here attitude reflected in the Bush administration's domestic spying ukase, and its let's-punish-the-leakers reaction to its exposure, is certainly not just an executive branch phenomenon. Last night's House Republican maneuvers on budget and defense appropriations measures exhibit the same mentality, especially in the strategem that made it possible: a rules change that basically abolished all the rules.

. . .

Thanks to martial law, the incredibly convoluted series of decisions made totally behind close doors on the budget bill, turned into a simple loyalty test for partisans. There was a grand total of 40 minutes of debate, which was probably about right since nobody had the chance to read the bill in the first place.

. . .

Republicans have steadily degenerated from the party of law and order, to the party that is actually contemptuous of the law when it doesn't serve their purposes, and indifferent to constitutional and legislative order when it thwarts their will. What the Schiavo incident said about the true Republican attitude towards federalism and separation of powers, the "martial law" rule says about the GOP's true interest in rational policymaking and honest debate.

The House Gets Into the Act
by mcjoan
Mon Dec 19, 2005 at 10:15:56 PM PDT

Bill Heuisler - 12/20/2005

Mr. Ebbitt,
You're excited about a NYT writer's scam to sell a book, spineless Dems scurrying for cover while trying to scuttle the Patriot Act and trying to sound important. Congressional leaders have been aware of the NSA surveillance for years. The NYT has been holding the story a year.

And you think it's important.

The President has plenty of legal precedent and his poll numbers will soon be above 55% due to this issue and the Democrat filibuster of the Patriot Act. Do you really think the American people care a whit about surveillance when their safety is concerned?

Stop reacting with your emotions. Allowing hatred of the President to control you is silly...undignified. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, your mind is apparently so fine that no fact can violate it.
Bill Heuisler

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/19/2005

I don't know Steve, the author seems pretty balanced in this article. It does need to be pointed out to the current "It's all about me!" crowd that U.S. Presidents have a history of walking the line and crossing the line concerning civil rights during periods of strife.
Of course, most reasonable folks will wait until the results are in to judge the success or failure of the Bush Administration on the war on terror but our Left Wing academics have never been big on holding their injudicial rantings during emergencies. I guess that is why Liberal Presidents are rarer than hen's teeth in America.

samuel walker - 12/19/2005

I appreciate you comment about "balance." While it is indeed somewhat premature to render a final verdict on Bush, I am really interested in reconsidering the other presidents.

Ryan Portillo - 12/19/2005

Here’s a short list:

Congress abdicates oversight responsibilites, granting President Bush unfettered power to wage war on terrorism. 9.15.01
liberties lost: Separation of powers

Chief Immigration Judge orders closed deportation proceedings. 9.21.01
liberties lost: Immigrants' rights open democracy

Ashcroft memo reduces government compliance with Freedom of Information Act requests. 10.11.02
liberties lost: Open democracy

White House asks media outlets not to air tapes of Osama Bin Laden. Major networks comply. 10.11.02
liberties issue: Free press

Patriot Act, 10.26.01:
Wiretap powers expanded, in some cases with reduced judicial review
Law enforcement permitted to indefinitely detain non-citizens based on suspicion of terrorism
"Sneak and Peek" searches authorized without a warrant with low showing of probable cause
Broad definition of 'domestic terrorism' allows surveillance of political dissenters
New information-sharing powers for intelligence agencies

liberties lost: Privacy, search & seizure protection, immigrants' rights, due process of law, privacy, search & seizure protection, free speech, privacy, search & seizure protection, privacy, consolidation of government power

Ashcroft authorizes monitoring ofattorney-client conversations. 10.31.01
liberties issue: Due process, privacy, right to counsel

Ashcroft orders two questioning dragnets of Middle Eastern and South Asian men. 11.9.01, 3.20.02
liberties issue: Equal protection

Presidential order allows non-citizens to be tried in military tribunals. 11.13.01
liberties lost: Due process, immigrants' rights

Ashcroft orders state and local government not to release names of people detained since 9/11. 4.18.02
liberties lost: Open democracy, immigrants' rights

Ashcroft's new rules on intelligence-gathering permit:
spying on religious and political institutions without any suspicion of criminal activity
the purchase of secret records on individuals who are not suspected of a crime. 5.30.02

liberties lost: Privacy, free speech, due process

President establishes new cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security. 6.6.02
liberties issue: Consolidation of government power

President designates U.S. citizen Jose Padilla an 'enemy combatant,' under military jurisdiction. 6.9.02
liberties lost: Due process

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/19/2005

Too easy!
Several of your examples have nothing to do with the "Bush Regime" but are the result of the actions of a willing bi-partisen Congress! To counter the "due process" concerns you have, let me show you why my bet is still a winner.
Liberal President Bill Clinton's Leftist Regime issued 456 Presidential Pardons in 2001 which undermined and overturned 456 examples of "Due Process"!
There you are and I didn't even have to use any of my hundreds of examples where the Left has shouted down speakers on university campuses---"Freedom of Speech"!

Ryan Portillo - 12/19/2005

Yes it is easy to come up with examples. This article, if you haven’t noticed, is about the worst president on civil liberties, not specifically about free speech on campus. And ALL my examples posted precisely have "to do with the "Bush Regime"".

And why do you rush to a judgment that anyone who criticizes Bush is a Leftist? Bush is not the worst president on civil liberties but he certainly has put most of our liberties in jeopardy. Now if you believe Bush or some other future president is going to repeal the Patriot Act and restore what's been lost, that’s another matter. If you think nothing's been lost then you haven't been paying attention.

Bill Heuisler - 12/19/2005

Mr. Ebbitt,
Hit the wrong key before finished.
The foregoing was a last paragraph in Justice O.W. Holmes dissent in Abrams. Your use of "Abrams" in an example of the surpression of free speech made me review the case - and Justice Holmes' magisterial dissent.

The fate of the five non-citizens who urged strike among munitions workers and support for Communist Revolution is beside the point here.
But please note Justice Holmes' words on freedom of speech, Mr. Ebbitt. If I may, he would've had as little sympathy for the current politically correct Speech Nazis on campus as he did for the Wilson Administration's version of an Alien and Sedition Act.

He said, "we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe...". And that is the lesson we all should learn - Left and Right.
Bill Heuisler

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/19/2005

If you could remove the massive chip from your shoulder (that has swung you into a 180 degree anti-anti-"Left" counterspin) long enough, you might stop to notice that the basic point of the article supposedly under discussion here is to debunk any naive sentiments that "liberal Democrats" in Washington are fundamentally any better at defending civil liberties than "conservative Republicans". What is wrong with that common sensical and amply demonstrated observation ? Unless your main object is to make the "conversation" "one-sided"?"

Peter, you apparently missed my early comment complimenting the author on evenhandedness concerning Presidents and civil liberties during times of war!
You also must have missed all the conversation concerning "the religious right" seeking to undermine civil liberties in America which, had you followed the conversation, would have clarified, even for you, the reason for my comments concerning the Left. However your complaints do not dissuade me in the least in believing that the Left in America is much more prone to practice censorship and to violate free speech rights than the Conservative Right!
I do not expect those who wander the earth as "caring" liberals to ever find a clearing in the perpetual fog they live in so you are excused for bad observation.

Bill Heuisler - 12/19/2005

Mr. Ebbitt,
Presidential Executive Orders for "national security" purposes are not addressed in the FISA or in any other court or legislative decision. Your rush to judgement is agenda-driven, very short-sighted and neglects the aformentioned legal trail (fully covered 3 posts ago).

The most important fact we Americans should remember is that we have not been attacked in the US since 9/11.
The President mentioned at least three plots that were foiled due to the NSA surveillance he authorized.

Would your alternative be better? Please explain how any electronic surveillance of overseas calls to or from terrorist-connected persons is worse than a dirty bomb detonated in
Seattle like was being planned in one instance that was stopped?
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 12/18/2005

are inconvenient when you so easily forget your own statements and can't seem to remember history.

You wrote, "Bush approved warrant-less spying on US citizens" and you were shown how the FISA mandated procedure that the President has followed - with FIS court, regular Congressional notification and monitoring by the Attorney General - was perfectly legal and used by other Presidents.

Senate Minority Leader Reid admitted tonight that he had been consulted on the surveillance (and Senator Rockefeller refuses to answer when he's asked). Actually, the FISA long ago approved warrantless surveillance for national security.

You were shown to be wrong.

But you ignored facts and accused me of being a Leftist just like you - Socialist, Communist or a Maoist Communist. Confused? Pitiful.
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 12/18/2005

Mr. Ebbitt,
You wrote, "Bush approved warrant-less spying on US citizens." as though this were something new. Wrong again. President Bush did no more than every President since FDR.

Since the early part of this century the FBI has used wiretapping and bugging in both criminal and intel investigations. Until 1972 the FBI used warrantless wiretaps and bugs against both American citizens and foreigners within the United States to monitor subversive and violent activity, and to determine leaks of classified information.

Mr. Ebbitt, the FBI still uses warrantless eavesdropping in foreign intelligence and counterintelligence investigations.

The CIA and NSA have similarly used electronic surveillance techniques for intelligence purposes and for security reasons. One of the primary responsibilities of the National Security Agency (NSA) is to collect foreign communications intelligence. To fulfill this responsibility, it electronically intercepts enormous numbers of international telephone, telegram, and telex communications based on certain "alert" words and phrases. These interceptions don't require warrants, Mr Ebbitt.

Use of these techniques provides the US with vital intelligence about the activities and intentions of foreign powers, and has provided important leads in counterterror cases like the Padilla "dirty bomb" case.

Until recent years, Congress and the Supreme Court set few limits on the use of electronic surveillance. When the Supreme Court first considered the legality of wiretapping, it held warrantless taps were constitutional because 4th Amendment warrant requirements did not extend to conversations(1928 Olmstead v. US, 217 U.S. 438) and allowed almost unrestricted wiretapping in criminal and intel investigations.

Six years later, Congress imposed the Federal Communications Act of 1934 which made it a crime for "any person" to intercept and divulge or publish the contents of wire and radio communications. Later the Supreme Court ruled this section applied to federal agents as well as ordinary citizens and that evidence obtained directly or indirectly from the interception of wire and radio communications was inadmissible.

At that time Congress allowed the Justice Department's interpretation that these cases did not prohibit wiretapping, but only divulgence of the contents of wire communications outside the federal establishment.

But in 1967 the Supreme Court reversed Olmstead, holding (Katz v. US, 389 U.S. 347) the 4th Amendment warrant requirements did apply to electronic surveillances.

(But it expressly declined to extend this holding to cases "involving the national security.")

Congress followed suit the next year in the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1968, 9 which established a warrant procedure in electronic surveillance for criminal cases, but included a provision that neither it nor the Federal Communications Act of 1934 "shall limit the constitutional power of the President."

In 1972, the Supreme Court again held (US v. US District Court, 407 U.S. 297) that the constitutional power of President Nixon did not extend to authorizing warrantless electronic surveillance in "domestic security" cases. The Court said nothing about warrantless electronic surveillance of communications with
("significant connection with a foreign power, its agents or agencies.")

Warrentless surveillance under certain circumstances has been legitimized since the thirties by the reluctance of Congress and the Supreme Court to confront directly the arguments presented by executive officers, particularly in matters of "National Security".

President Bush not only received FISCourt approval, but consulted with Congressional Leaders "over a dozen times since 9/11". He was also able to stop at least 3 major terrorist attacks since 9/11.

Look some of this up. It's always best to know something before you mouth off again, Mr. Ebbitt.
Bill Heuisler

Jason KEuter - 12/17/2005

very funny

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/17/2005

Good question Otis and I suspect their answer has to be that they have lost the right to conspire with Islamo-fascists to destroy the Western Democracies. Other than the noted "right" they have lost the only imaginable loss has been their assumed right to have a Democrat majority in the House and Senate and a Democrat in the White House--that being a "civil right" that is more important than all others.

otis dahn - 12/16/2005

>The USA PATRIOT Act is packed with threats to freedom of speech and due process
prove it. it just give the feds the same abilities that they already have to fight organized crime to fight terror.

>He has led an all-out assault on the separation of church and state, abortion rights and gay and lesbian rights
read the constitution professor. i doubt you will find separation of church and state mentioned. and there is no right to privacy nor abortion etc.

he [FDR] appointed two of the greatest civil libertarians ever to sit on the Supreme Court: Hugo Black

Hugo black was a former KKK member, how do you ever come to that conclusion. he also hated the church which is why he used jefferson's letter to add separation of church...in his dissenting opinion.

can you name one civil liberty that a citizen of our country has lost under bush?

William J. Stepp - 12/16/2005

Wow! Whatever it was that Americans learned in WW I that allegedly kept FDR "in check" during WW I must have been very weak stuff indeed.

FDR makes G. W. Bush almost look like a libertarian.

Bill Heuisler - 12/15/2005

Mr. Ebbitt,
So, everyone you disagree with is a racist - first Coulter and now me?
I've had enough of your peurile fatuity, your Leftist fever-dreams picked up at various web-sites and far-out media.

One more time:

You obviously don't understand, Sullivan, Abrams or Pacifica. Sullivan is an expansion of the free press; Pacifica is an obscenity case and Abrams eventually won his right to leaflet munitions workers. BTW that post you so carelessly scorned was quoting the last paragraph of Oliver Wendell Holmes' dissent in Abrams. Free speech was either not at issue, or won eventually in each of your examples.

McCarthy? You misquote your source: Harding is the only source you can find who had anything to say about McCarthy and banned books. And he said that the Senate Committee did nothing more than publish a list of books and publications written by Communists in overseas Government libraries. These books were removed (or not) by Embassies and bases who cared. This is not banning books.

The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released executive sessions online last year. <http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/generic/McCarthy_Transcripts.htm>;.

You won't find banning books in the records. But you don't care about the truth, do you? Is it deep-seated stubbornness or shallow intellect? In any case, unless you have facts to transmit, don't bother writing any more childish insults. In the future, I will only respond to facts.
Bill Heuisler

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/15/2005

"My apologies as I misunderstood your definition of social ills. I define social ills as hunger, homelessness/ substandard housing, severe poverty, unemployment, drug and alcohol addiction, child abuse, absence of educational opportunity and inadequate health care/ welfare programs. Addressing these ills would surely not injure civil liberty."

But Patrick, my point is that these social ills cannot be addressed in any meaningful way because of the determined effort by the Left and the Politically Correct to make sure the conversations are one sided. These efforts at censorship by the Left destroy the concept of freedom of speech, especially at centers of higher learning. There is no such thing as a free flow of ideas when it comes to solving social problems and that is my point.
Until and unless this cabal is broken, the solutions to the problems will remain at the level of understanding held in the 60's wherein all social problems are the direct result of the evils of Christian White Heterosexual Males and despite the infantile level of this belief system, it is still held as "truth" in the Halls of Ivy!
It is disheartning that the dialectic has not progressed beyond that level some forty years into the conversation.

Bill Heuisler - 12/15/2005

Correction: Sullivan was decided under LBJ, not FDR. The Alabama law cited in the original action was, as far as I can tell in a quick search, written by a Democrat Legislature during the FDR Administration.

Bill Heuisler - 12/15/2005

Mr. Ebbitt,
Insults are a poor way to cover up your abject uncomprehension. Each time you post, you expose new layers of ignorance. Let me illustrate:
You wrote, "God forbid he should have to revert his eyes..."
To revert one's eyes sounds painful.
Do you mean he should return them to their original owner?
Do you know what you mean?
I'm sure there's a dictionary within walking distance. Use it.

I've been to dozens of Presidential speeches and rallies. All are by invitation, and those who try to crash are treated the same as rude people are treated everywhere. Most of us wore blue or gray suits. But your reference to brown shirts can't refer to conservatives, or even to Republicans, because even you must know Brown Shirts were Socialists. They were NAZIs, remember?

As to Sullivan and FCC vs. Pacifica, neither case illustrates the taking of freedom from anyone. FCC involves obscenity laws written under a Dem administration; Sullivan insures the right to criticize public officials without being sued for libel - and was decided under FDR. You've missed the point of this discussion.
If you can't keep up, say so.

Most informed people know McCarthy did not have the power to ban books. Supply facts - Senate testimony, news reports etc, - in support of your nonsense, or stop making claims that display an uninformed simpleton to a well-informed audience.
Bill Heuisler

samuel walker - 12/15/2005

EVerything you mention did in fact happen. But it is also true that, late in the game, Wilson actively supported the Suffrage Amendment. True, he was late in coming to this position, but he at least deserves due credit for supporting the Amendment in the crucial final stages.

samuel walker - 12/15/2005

You are absolutely right about civil liberties in wartime. My point is that Democratic presidents have violated civil liberties during wartimes just as Republican presidents have. The remedy lies not in partisan terms --electing presidents of a certain party-- but building up a body of law and customs that will serve as a bulwark against future violations. I think the country learned something from the WWI experience and that helped to keep the Roosevelt administration in check during WWII.

John Chapman - 12/15/2005

This comment board has a technical problem also.

Jason KEuter - 12/15/2005

avoiding or changing language related to very broad categories like race, gender, ethnicity, etc is consistent with civil liberties?

This regulation, by the way, does not involve prohibition of overtly racist, sexist, classist, ageist language...rather, it involves attacking free expression by rooting out implications of prejudice in ideas...in essence, reducing the classroom to some kind of witch hunt. Many professors take great offense at people who point this out because they earnestly wish for lively and open discussion in their classrooms, and while it's true that not all professors are PC, a big enough minority is, and that minority has the effect of inducing campus-wide paranoia and destructive self-scrutiny that stifle ideas and have a chilling and degenerative effect on intellectual life itself.

Jason KEuter - 12/15/2005

EXACTLY! I recall a Noam Chomsky interview where he said power can be measured by the ability to define your opposition as extreme. He was, of course, referring to New Deal Liberals being accused of closet communism.

On this point, Chomsky offers a valuable lesson: only it is now conservatives, holding entirely rational positions (limited regulation of business, tax- cuts, social security reform) who are labeled extreme.

According to many left-wingers, sober and moderate professors all, liberals like Schlesinger are closet fascists, genocidal maniacs, etc....they chant the mantras of "whose side are you on?" and "you can't be neutral on a moving train", as if there are only two sides.

To regard conservatism as an embryonic form of fascism without being laughed out of the lecture hall is indicative of the power the extreme left has gained. Moreover, it demonstrates the natural trajectory of extremist, polarizing ideology. The radical leftist professsors of today, like Lenin and Stalin, attack liberals as being "conservative", thus demonstrating the inherent destructiveness of extreme leftist ideology: first you kill the rulers; then you kill the class from which the rulers come; then your criticized for being like the old rulers by those who supported you coming to power and weren't astute enough to hear the venom in your rhetoric, and you kill them; and on and on and on , forever broadening your class of enemies, so that eventually you embrace almost of all of humanity. The universities have followed a very similar course, which is why so much of the curriculum is pretty much an overt attack on the students themselves, masquerading as analysis of the historical origins of a twisted AMerican culture that produces people who choose business majors over the self-flagellating cult of the humanities.

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/14/2005

"The "Walt Disney definition" of Political Correct is
courtesy of Webster's... dissing Webster's... is nothing sacred? PC is just a way to seek a little human kindness, dignity and respect. It is not a requirement. So explain to someone like me, who has been living in a trailer down by the river, how exactly (500 words or less) "redressing social ills results in censorship"?"

Redressing social ills as it is practiced by the supporters of Political Correctness is rife with censorship. Any statement or concept
judge to be "offending" is not or cannot be allowed thus particular groups--minorities, gays, women, etc. are protected from "offense" to the degree that needed conversations cannot be held or, if held, are so general as to be useless. Non protected groups, white males, conservatives, christians, the military do not enjoy the same protections--one may say, blame, charge, condemn with impunity.
Campuses are alive and vibrant for those that smugly follow strict politically correct mantras and beliefs and for those few of us that are willing to beard these monsters when the occasion and evidence permits.
If your memory of the campus of 30 years ago is so positive, it is good that you stay removed--you would not find the diversity of thought on our current campuses equal to your long gone experience and you would not find these halls as vibrant as you remember. That is unfortunate for both you and me.
There are exceptions in the hard sciences and business schools that keep the wheels turning but our liberal arts curriculums, out of an intense determination to not "offend", have become trite and predictable in their view of a reality that does not exist beyond the campus grounds. As witness, look no further than so many of the articles posted here (the subject article, of course, excluded) that rely more on passionate, unsupported philosphical opinion and less on solid evidence.
I think it all is the result of old English professors who were expert on Anglo-Saxon verbs that found students much more willing to listen to their rantings and ravings about matters of international politics in the 60's. These old phonies, once on their soap boxes, were the sires of the current crop of liberal arts types that know no bounds when it comes to launching into matters far afield from their specialties of even more Anglo-Saxon verbs. We probably ought not to talk about current "historians" who have their own set problems dealing with current history, that isn't even history yet!
Trust me when I say that the Left is much more dangerous to civil freedoms in America than the religious Right--they most certainly are. I know of nothing the religous Right is seeking to change in America with the exception of abortion--the poor folks are spending too much time trying to hold on to their most basic beliefs to even think about going on an offensive.

Michele Mary Dupey - 12/14/2005

President Woodrow Wilson was distinctly NOT for women's suffrage. A good volume to read is "Jailed for Freedom" -- a firsthand account by suffragist (note word is NOT suffragette) Doris Stevens.

Quaker Alice Paul, from Moorestown, NJ, led the last leg of the women's suffrage movement to secure women's voting rights by leading demonstrations in the streets of Washington, D.C. President Wilson responded by arresting these women -- some of them, wives of prominent U.S. Senators; others, in their 70s! -- for loitering (!) and creating a nuisance. When Alice Paul led a hunger strike because jail conditions were deplorable and Wilson wouldn't agree to signing on for women's suffrage, the jailed women were force-fed through nasal tubes. They were beaten, as well.

Women did prevail, and yes, President Wilson signed the 19th Amendment on August 26, 1919, thus giving women the vote, starting in 1920. But his behavior up until that signing was definitely NOT in support!!!

Bill Heuisler - 12/14/2005

Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power, and want a certain result with all your heart, you naturally express your wishes in law, and sweep away all opposition. To allow opposition by speech seems to indicate that you think the speech impotent, as when a man says that he has squared the circle, or that you do not care wholeheartedly for the result, or that you doubt either your power or your premises. But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas -- that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That, at any rate, is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year, if not every day, we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. While that experiment is part of our system, I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country. I wholly disagree with the argument of the Government that the First Amendment left the common law as to seditious libel in force. History seems to me against the notion. I had conceived that the United States, through many years, had shown its repentance for the Sedition Act of 1798, by repaying fines that it imposed. Only the emergency that makes it immediately dangerous to leave the correction of evil counsels to time warrants [631] making any exception to the sweeping command, "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech." Of course, I am speaking only of expressions of opinion and exhortations, which were all that were uttered here, but I regret that I cannot put into more impressive words my belief that, in their conviction upon this indictment, the defendants were deprived of their rights under the Constitution of the United States.

Bill Heuisler - 12/14/2005

Mr. Ebbitt,
You need better sources. Your latest ridiculous examples make that point most emphatically. Your statements in defense of correct constructs of chic dogma and Lefty talking points often turn out to be not only wrong, but often so absurd as to be comical.

Point by point:

Specific people have always been invited to President's speeches for the protection of the President. These people are always vetted by the Secret Service and kept on lists and given tickets. This has been SOP since Harding was shot. The media is always invited. There are no secrets.
No one's free speech is surpressed.

FCC vs. Pacifica did not do anything more than hold Carlin's well- known
"ten words" obscene when broadcast during a time children were apt to be listening. No sanctions at all. FCC obscenity rules written seventy years ago under FDR were upheld.

Sullivan vs, NYT held that, libel damages to a public official for defamatory falsehoods shall not be awarded unless he proves "actual malice" - that the statement was made with knowledge of its falsity or with reckless disregard thereof.
You should know this has nothing to do with free speech or civil rights.

McCarthy's Senate Committee did not ban books, it was formed to find security risks in government. Your knee's jerking and you don't realize.

Your fondness for, "changing or avoiding language that might offend anyone, especially with respect to gender, race, or ethnic background", however is a smarmy means to abridge the freedom of speech in the First Amendment to our Constitution. There is no right not to be offended.

So, your examples are silly, wrong, obscene or inept and you defend the abridgement of free speech because you apparently believe the right not to be offended is more important than our right to free speech.

Amy Goodman is a solipsistic, anti-American malcontent. Choosing such flawed intelligence on which to base HNN comment reflects badly on your judgement and assures embarrassment.
Bill Heuisler

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/14/2005

Yes, this could be the case since one gets throughly immersed in "Recycled gibberish" by reading the critics of the Bush Administration! Perhaps my mental processes have been ruin by reading the continual fallacious claptrap about "Bush Lied", "It's all about Oil", and "Saddam wasn't involved in 9/11" from historians who so appreciate both the precise nature of language and well tempered research.
However, even with the damage, I know a couple of things Peter, there is no Santa Claus and there are Liberals.

Hans Vought - 12/14/2005

All of the presidents who egregiously abused civil liberties were wartime presidents. It would seem, then, that the issue is not the president's ideology (remember that Lincoln and FDR set the precedents Bush is using for military tribunals and suspending habeas corpus), but rather that civil liberties are usually a victim of war. There is always tension in America between the celebration of diversity and the desire for unity. In wartime, opposition to war looks dangerously like treason, so demands for conformity and "100 Percent Americanism" grow strident. The insidious nature of terrorism only heightens this trend.

Oscar Chamberlain - 12/14/2005

I think I might draw the line at inviting Ann Coulter; her simplistic broadstroke assertions and smears have attracted even conservative critics. Nor is she an important conservative thinker. Horowitz, like it or not, is a figure of importance in the university arena. Not inviting him makes less sense.

As for Political Correctness, much of it is actually simple politeness; to call people by the names they ask to be called by, and on balance to accept differences in values rather than ban them.

Where PC has failed is when people have tried (1) to limit classroom discussion and formally limit public debate in pursuit of said politeness and acceptance. While I find the desire comprehensible in some circumstances, the result is wrong on its face and, ironically, counterproductive in its impact.

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/14/2005

Patrick you are too easy, even for an old codger like me. You want 20 examples? Ok, the last ten times Ann
Coulter tried to speak on a college campus (freedom of speech denied) and the last ten times David Horowitz attempted to speak on a college campus (freedom of speech denied). Add the last ten times anyone tried to have a logical conversation about the cause of 80% of all Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the United States on a college campus!
Thanks for your Walt Disney definition of Political Correctness Patrick but those of us that have spent the last 20 years in Academia know that your idea of "redressing social ills" results in censorship (freedom of speech)by the left of any idea, statement, question, comment with which this bunch happens to disagree.
Now, may I ask where you have spent those 20 years? Perhaps you are too young to remember when campuses were truly the market places of ideas, where open and honest discussions could be held, where all sorts of opinions could be held.

Jason KEuter - 12/14/2005

I'm sorry, but I forgot to include the punchline:

looking at the assumptions underlying the original question, one is to assume that if a President is strong on civil liberties and civil rights that this would presumably represent a "good" era in Civil Liberties; that is true for some (most likely a minority), but one man's Civil Liberties is another man's federal imposition. People find they don't like federal mandates, go to state or local governments and are told by those governments that nothing can be done. It as at that point that such people seek to limit the power of federal government and restore power to state and local governments. In other words, they feel that their powerlessness is an infringement of their liberty, and they seek redress in eliminating the power of an alien national government they deem captive to a minority interest.

One last point : if you want to find a hey-day of Civil Liberties, look to the history of the Supreme Court. This would be equally disruptive, as it would show that the hey-dey of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties was not initiated nor sustained through the most democratic part of the political system but the most aristocratic; the result was a long process of political mobilization by the "right" (a term I use for convenience, even though I think it loaded and grossly misleading) to : retore power to state and local government and, ultimately, capture such strong majorities in the national government that they could appoint a court mor reflective of their views. The reader will think this undemocratic and contrary to "liberty"; and, the longer the "right" retains control of the national government and the courts, the more likely it is that the "left" will look to local governments to preserve their "liberties".

I can't help but return to Hofstadter and see in this story an amazing degree of persistent regional conflict and an underlying political consensus.

Jason KEuter - 12/14/2005

Politically speaking, this is an issue, but historically speaking, it is a bad question, since there are so few modern presidents to choose from and most presidents don't really count. Why? Because throughout most of American history, the national government was weak; if one wants to more honestly examine the history of civil liberties in the U.S., the focus should be more on state and local governnments. Prior to incorporation (a very long process through which the protections against abuse by the national government were gradually extended to all government), this is where these battles were fought.

And the state and local level illustrate better, perhaps, America's ambigious history on civil liberties. Focusing on the Bush allows people to make this an elite versus mostly unknowing masses story, with the progressive intellectual at the forefront of the struggle to bring the doings of Washington to the attention of liberty loving people. But that is grossly misleading, as it suggests a national consensus on issues related to Civil Liberties that doesn't exist. this view also validates Richard Hofstadter's ideas about an underlying irrational paranoia shared by all parts of the political spectrum. The left rhetoric criticizing Bush refers to "cabals" and other perfidious elites manipulating the less knowing. It is strikingly similar to the rehtoric of the populist right.

But such rhetoric contains some truths. Incorporation of the Bill of Rights has led to greater uniformity on issues of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties; it is easy to imagine, however, that without incorporation, it would be quite evident that no such consensus exists, and state and local governments would pass a hodge podge of laws - from gay marriage in San Francisco to creationism in Kansas and I would guess mandatory prayer in fottball huddles in Texas - all of which would reveal that the federal government IS imposing a uniform vision on an American society that is far less uniform than, historically speaking, the new found power of its national government.

Steven R Alvarado - 12/13/2005

Come January of 2009, President George W. Bush like every other president before him will leave the White House to whomever is elected in 2008.On that day every person who called him "fascist" or referred to this adminsitration as a "regime" will be made a fool. Fascist regimes do not give up power but democratically elected ones in America do.

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/13/2005

Civil liberties have eroded more rapidly as the religious right came to the forefront in the early 1980's. Fortunately, the Bush administration appears to have only squelched civil liberties when expedient to the direct needs of their inner circle. This administration doesn't really care about, or for, the American people all that much so our concerns may be much deeper than preserving what few civil liberties we have left."

I would absolutely love to see you support these fallacious claims with any good evidence Patrick!
Matter of fact, I can support a strong argument that the Liberal Left has been more detrimental to civil liberties with their political correctness than the religious right could ever imagine. The censors are not coming from the right Patrick, the majority are alive and very well on the left and, worse, thriving at our institutions of higher learning.
Care to take up the challenge? I can give you five examples of restriction of free speech by the left for every half example you conger up that has been the result of conservative thought.

samuel walker - 12/12/2005

You are right about the violations of civil liberties perpetrated by the presidents you mention. But I think any fair assessment leads to the conclusion that Bush has violated more civil liberties across the board.

Of course, if you are a conservative who believes there is no constitutional right to an abortion, then you would not see Bush violating that right. Similarly, if you think the Supreme Court has been wrong on the Establisment Clause, they you won't see Bush violating civil liberties on that issue.

samuel walker - 12/12/2005

You are right about Debs, and I plan to mention that. Also, Coolidge actually cleaned up the FBI. (Well, actually his AG Harlan Fiske Stone did.) It was FDR who unleashed J. Edgar Hoover in the mid 1930s.

samuel walker - 12/12/2005

Thanks. I appeciate your kind comments.

samuel walker - 12/12/2005

Good point, but I am afraid that with regard to church-state issues and the idea that as president he is not bound by the Geneva Convention or any other human rights standards, he really does understand what he is saying and doing.

samuel walker - 12/12/2005

I appreciate the comment, but gee, I thought I was being pretty tough on Woody. Have you read what other historians have written about him? He is consistently rated among the "near great" in the ratings games.

Steven R Alvarado - 12/12/2005

Big problem with the left, they need to "feel" a little less about life and think a bit more.
The posts listed on this subject speak volumes about the thinking of the person who wrote the article. Any historian who starts to make historical judgments about history when they are in the midst of that history as it is being created need to re-think their professional choice, maybe Political science or Mass Communication should have been their major. Or at the very least stop trying to us their status as a historian as a means to lend credibility to their statements.

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/12/2005

"...it is also true that the Bush administration feels more like a regime" Really Glenda? Well, if you were a Japanese citizen of the West Coast in 1942 maybe you would "feel" differently. Maybe if you were an anti-war activist in 1917 you would "feel" differently. Maybe it is only you that "feels" that way Glenda and since when has how one "feels" become a universal truth?
Better do a gut check Glenda, one woman's "regime" is another critic's
responsible leadership during a time of real war!

Glenda Turck - 12/12/2005

While it is certainly true that no president has been entirely liberal or conservative per se it is also true that the Bush administration feels more like a regime. The issue is over how the country feels about itself and its future and remembering Eisenhower we felt positive. Ditto with JFK and Johnson (for awhile at least). The Reagan aura stems entirely from the man making many feel good as opposed to actually making things good.

John Chapman - 12/12/2005

As much as I dislike this President, I must admit others did worse. So far. Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt were liberal in their use of arresting and detaining US citizens at will. Bush hasn’t come close to the excesses of these past chief executives, though he is not wholly free of what I believe to be very questionable actions.

President Franklin Roosevelt rounded up at least 120,000 Japanese Americans on the East Coast and put them in government interment camps. He is less well known for curtailing the civil liberties for thousands of Italian and German Americans who were also interred or placed under house arrest or were followed by government agents all across the country.

Is this administrations bent on the destruction of our civil liberties? To be completely objective, I don’t think we’ll really know about that until the curtain rises. But they are saying , trust us. Well, that’s a tough one for those who like to think for themselves. Also we have an administration unsure of its definitions, confused about its authority and questionable in some of its choices. The term "enemy combatants" is not even satisfactorily defined on solid legal grounds. A reverent observance for the rule of law should be followed because this "democracy" badly needs at this time a level of legitimacy in the eyes of the world. If we want to rule by example then we’d better be damn sure of our own sense of justice first.

Stu R. Burns - 12/12/2005

It is difficult to fathom how any administration could be worse on civil liberties than that of John Adams. Granted, Adams did not make the egregious use of the Sedition Act that popular history has sometimes ascribed to him, but the entire concept government criticism being criminal by nature is contrary to every American ideal.

Frederick Thomas - 12/12/2005

"In an informal poll last year, professional historians rated George W. Bush the worst president ever in American history..."

These "historians" must have been very informally polled indeed, putting Bush behind such failed incompetents as LBJ or Jimmuh Cottuh. The true characterization of this poll would have been "a cabal of far left ideologues, during a bull session in a Starbucks, agreed they don't like Bush."

Then we have this, without any support at all: "On civil liberties issues, Bush clearly has the worst record of any president."

Bush worse then Wilson, FIDDER, Lincoln, or Jackson, who really did widely violate civil rights to large numbers of people? How can this be?

The answers lie in substituting leftist interest group politics for the rights and liberties found in our founding documents. These phony non-civil liberties are "separation of church and state," "abortion rights," "gay and lesbian rights," and repeal of the PATRIOT Act. None of these came from our founding documents, directly or indirectly. They come from interest group politics, pure and simple.

Consider what really is in the Constitution, such as the right to life. What about the human rights of the aborted child, not to be ripped limb from limb? Abortion rights is the inverse of the right to life in the constitution, except for the whack-o Warren Court, chaired by the man most responsible for Japanese internement and the pack of lies called the Warren Report.

The constitution forbids establishment of religion and laws that interfere with free exercise of religion. Somehow the lefties pervert that into a mandatory interfering with the practice of religion by the state. They instead demand state establishment of aethism.

The constitution requires equal treatment under law. The lefties pervert that into special rights and privileges for special interest groups. Special interest judicial rulings or legislation has always been the great corruptor of our legal system, and here that corruption is enshrined as a constitutional right.

The Patriot Act, while restricting some wartime liberties, is far less intrusive or unconstitutional than the arrests of journalists, etc. which took place in the Lincoln, FDR and Wilson administrations, or the abuse of tax data and spy agencies under LBJ and Nixon. Would the lefties prefer to have what Wilson did to journalists and opposing politicians?

Perhaps the lefties, starting with Mr. Walker, should be more honest when they vituperate against the current president, in both job performance and human rights record, and admit that they are just sore because he beats them so frequently.

Jeffery Ewener - 12/12/2005

Excellent article. But while I wouldn't want you to go soft on the current President, I think Wilson deserves a harder assessment. Even given the travesty of the 2000 election and the lingering doubts about 2004, the whisper attacks on McCain during the 2000 primaries and other cases in other races, I don't think even Karl Rove has ever forced an opponent to campaign from inside Leavenworth, as Debs was forced to do against Wilson.

William J. Stepp - 12/12/2005

Harding and Coolidge had pretty good civil liberties records. Harding freed some dissenters who had been jailed by Wilson, and he had Eugene Debs to the White House. Unfortunately, he didn't free them all, so Coolidge freed some more. FDR freed the poor remaining stragglers.

I had a seance with Harding a while back, and he opined that Bush 2 should be impeached, and expressed shock that he hadn't been.

Charles Edward Heisler - 12/12/2005

Finally an article appears in these pages that is devoid of all the usual mantras surrounding evaluating George Bush!
Why I'll be darned, it is possible to reflect on history with accuracy, wonderment, and (sigh)balance.
Guess we can't use that old "Those damn liberal professors......" anymore.
Thanks for pointing up the obvious conundrums surrounding American Presidents, especially those that are engaged in World Wars.
Not sure I would have started with Wilson tho--given the Civil Rights records of Presidents prior to and including Lincoln as well as his successors in the White House but that is minor.
Maybe the best question is simply, what would Bush's record on civil rights have been without 9/11? Alas, we will never know.

Stephen Kislock - 12/12/2005

Dr. Walker,
How can G.W. Bush be a party in the Attack on Our Liberties, he does not read, he only signs what is presented to Him..

Was it 97 or 98 Death Warrants he signed without reading, as governor of texas?

His place in history is in "Fiction", thou he did do serious Damage, to Our Constitution and Bill of Rights!