[FoRK] Turn them over, they're done

Paul Sholtz paulsholtz2004 at hotmail.com
Mon Apr 26 10:04:36 PDT 2004

I really don't like this trend of justifying any governmental action (and 
certainly not something like the Patriot Act) by citing "polls" and "popular 
support" .. Republics (like what the U.S. is *supposed* to be) are designed 
to protect against this type of "mob-ocracy" ..

>From: Owen Byrne <owen at permafrost.net>
>To: fork at xent.com
>Subject: [FoRK] Turn them over, they're done
>Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004 11:28:13 -0300
>In other news, The Bush Administration announced the setup of a national 
>system of Gitmo-type concentration camps to eradicate the Muslim Problem. 
>The bill named the "America, Love it Or Leave It Act" was described by one 
>Bush official - "Americans are by and large sub-literate, as long as the 
>name is good, the talking heads will fill in the blanks for people."
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>April 25, 2004
><http://www.latimes.com/la-na-patriot25apr25,1,7266438,email.story> E-mail 
>story <http://www.latimes.com/la-na-patriot25apr25,1,7266438,email.story> 	 
><http://www.latimes.com/la-na-patriot25apr25,1,6934194,print.story> Print 
>Politics of Patriot Act Turn Right for Bush
>Times Headlines
>more > <http://>
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>By Peter Wallsten, Times Staff Writer
>WASHINGTON — Only months ago, Democrats were targeting the controversial 
>USA Patriot Act as an ideal issue to use in their campaign against 
>President Bush, assailing the law as an intrusion on civil rights. But in a 
>turnabout, the act has suddenly emerged as a cornerstone of Bush's 
>reelection campaign, while Democratic rival Sen. John F. Kerry and others 
>have toned down their criticism.
>The Patriot Act is proving to be more popular in opinion polls than once 
>expected, given its diverse range of critics. Also, both Democratic and 
>Republican strategists now believe that public debate over the Patriot Act 
>and other aspects of the nation's response to terrorism only enhance Bush's 
>national security credentials, while threatening to paint Kerry as soft on 
>The result is that the Democrats have lost what once seemed like a useful 
>tool for rallying opposition to the president.
>"There's a dangerous trap here for Democrats," said Jim Mulhall, a 
>Democratic strategist working with independent groups targeting Bush. "It's 
>a terribly unfair characterization, but … if Democrats are not careful, 
>they will sound more like they're worried about technical concerns than 
>they are about locking up terrorists."
>Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has recently been 
>couching his positions on the law as "fixes," whereas in December the 
>Massachusetts senator called for "replacing the Patriot Act with a new law 
>that protects our people and our liberties at the same time." Kerry has 
>even argued that his ideas would make the law, bashed repeatedly last year 
>by nearly all the Democratic presidential contenders, tougher than it is 
>Bush showcased his aggressive support for the Patriot Act last week, 
>appearing in Buffalo, N.Y., with the federal prosecutor who uncovered a 
>suspected terrorist cell dubbed the Lackawanna Six after the 2001 terrorist 
>attacks in New York and on the Pentagon.
>Bush argued that the law "defends our liberty" against terrorists and 
>should be strengthened. He said terrorists had been caught in part because 
>of the new law, drawing applause from a crowd of invited guests.
>"The true threat to the 21st century is the fact somebody is trying to come 
>back into our country and hurt us," Bush said. "And we ought to be able to 
>at least send a signal through law that says we're going to treat you 
>equally as tough as we do mobsters and drug lords."
>Passed with overwhelming support from lawmakers and signed by Bush within 
>two months of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Patriot Act gives officials more 
>powers in conducting searches and seizures and in sharing information.
>It allows the government to cite terrorism and computer fraud as the basis 
>for requesting wiretaps; allows roving wiretaps to follow suspects, no 
>matter what telephones they use; and allows secret searches in which the 
>authorities delay notifying a suspect.
>Among other provisions, it allows the attorney general to detain any 
>noncitizen believed to be a national security risk, in some cases for long 
>periods of time.
>One key provision aims to remove a legal "wall" that limited the sharing of 
>information between criminal and intelligence investigators. Testimony 
>before the independent Sept. 11 commission has suggested that the barrier 
>inhibited authorities from learning more about the Sept. 11 hijackers 
>before the attacks.
>The Patriot Act has been an awkward issue at times for Bush, drawing heat 
>from some in his own conservative base. Critics have included not only the 
>Democratic presidential candidates and the American Civil Liberties Union, 
>but also libertarians, advocates for smaller government and members of the 
>National Rifle Assn.
>*Critics Versus the Polls
>*Many critics denounced the act as an intrusion on privacy rights and civil 
>Last fall, the very mention of Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's name and his link 
>to promoting the Patriot Act was easily the biggest applause-getter in 
>Democratic rallies. When Ashcroft embarked on a national tour to highlight 
>the law's benefits, he was greeted at nearly every stop by protesters.
>But a series of new polls published last week have led strategists to 
>conclude that the deftly named Patriot Act is a winner for Bush.
>Those polls also gave the president a lead over Kerry, despite weeks of 
>potentially damaging footage of deadly chaos in Iraq, tough questions about 
>Bush's leadership on terrorism by the Sept. 11 commission and a new book 
>suggesting Bush was intent on invading Iraq far earlier than was initially 
>While the president's numbers have sagged on issues such as the economy and 
>the war in Iraq, a Washington Post/ABC News survey found that 63% approved 
>of the president's handling of the war on terrorism. In a Gallup Poll 
>conducted for CNN and USA Today, more than twice as many respondents said 
>they thought Bush would do a "good job" on terrorism as thought Kerry 
>And though polls have shown that certain aspects of the Patriot Act are 
>unpopular when they are explained to voters, responses to broader questions 
>suggest general support for the law.
>More than six in 10 respondents to a February Gallup/CNN/USA Today survey 
>said the law is just about right or does not go far enough, though only 
>about one-fourth said it goes too far.
>Experts think the law will grow in popularity, at least in the short term, 
>as dramatic pictures of bomb blasts in Iraq, Spain and Saudi Arabia 
>heighten fear that an attack could happen in the U.S. again.
>Administration officials have even speculated openly in recent days, 
>without revealing any evidence to back up their claims, that terrorists 
>could be planning attacks to coincide with the presidential election in 
>"It's the only area where Bush gets positive numbers, and his strategy is 
>to find every way to talk about the war on terror, whether it's the Patriot 
>Act or Iraq," said Steve Murphy, a Democratic strategist who managed the 
>unsuccessful presidential campaign this year of Rep. Dick Gephardt of 
>The change in tone is evident in the words of Kerry. In December, weeks 
>before the critical Iowa caucuses, Kerry delivered a blistering speech 
>railing against key elements of the Patriot Act and chiding Ashcroft, 
>telling a partisan crowd that the law should be replaced.
>"At this very moment, an FBI agent could be rifling through every website 
>you've ever visited, and you would never know it," Kerry said in his Iowa 
>City speech.
>"A Justice Department official in Washington could be reading every e-mail 
>you've sent in the last few months — and they wouldn't need a judge's 
>permission or even a reason to do so," he added.
>"Federal investigators could be demanding and receiving upon request your 
>private hospital medical records," Kerry said. "Law enforcement officers 
>could be entering your house while you are gone — rifling through your 
>possessions — and leaving without every letting you know they had been 
>At the time, Kerry was struggling to explain why he voted for the law, 
>parts of which are set to expire in 2005. He said it contained "good 
>ideas," even taking credit for writing part of it, but that Bush and 
>Ashcroft abused their new investigating powers for purposes beyond fighting 
>"It clearly wasn't a perfect bill — and it had a number of flaws — but this 
>wasn't the time to haggle. It was the time to act," Kerry said in December.
>In recent days, though, Kerry's assessment has been delivered in a far more 
>positive context.
>*Kerry's Message
>*After Bush used his weekend radio address recently to urge a continuation 
>of the Patriot Act, Kerry issued a written statement listing ideas for 
>"improving" and "fixing" the law by strengthening provisions on money 
>laundering, cracking down on terrorists' assets, improving 
>information-sharing policies and enhancing other sections that specifically 
>target terrorists.
>A Kerry spokesman insisted later that the candidate's message has not 
>changed, arguing that it is the challenger, not the president, who brings 
>the most muscular view of the Patriot Act to the race.
>"The president is misleading America into thinking that the current law is 
>doing all it needs to do," said Phil Singer, a Kerry spokesman. "The fact 
>is that it's failed to address many of the problems that were exposed by 
>9/11, including the intelligence sharing problems that continue to plague 
>the FBI, CIA and other security agencies."
>Some who agreed with Kerry's early tough stands against the law's potential 
>intrusions on civil liberties now say they are not quite sure where the 
>senator stands.
>"I'm concerned where Kerry will ultimately come down," said Laura Murphy, 
>director of the Washington office of the American Civil Liberties Union. 
>"There's going to be a bump in support [for the Patriot Act], and Kerry 
>needs to come out informed and swinging the way he did in December."
>/Times staff writers James Rainey in Washington, Maria L. La Ganga in San 
>Francisco and Matea Gold in New York contributed to this report.
>If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at 
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