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Editorial: The ACLU eats its young

Published: February 27, 2009

AN ARTICLE of faith among this nation’s ultraliberal interest groups during the recent presidential campaign was that nearly everything George Bush did was wrong, and that Barack Obama, the savior, would set everything right ASAP.

But it only took about five minutes for groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union to become bitterly disappointed by Obama’s actions as President of the United States.

Now that he’s in office, and has access to national secrets, you’d think decisions made by Obama might be assumed by the ACLU to have some legitimate basis, and that Obama might know what he’s talking about and have the benefit of the nation at heart when he takes a stand on an important issue — even if that position isn’t what the ACLU wants. Instead, as soon as he crossed paths with the ACLU, the group blasted Obama for “reneging” on the promises he made as a candidate.

The most pertinent example of this is a lawsuit being considered in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals — a suit in which the ACLU seeks to hold a private air charter company responsible for transporting prisoners from one foreign country to another without extradition. The ACLU considers the practice an egregious violation of the Constitution and international law. Furthermore, it wants to discourage private businesses from cooperating with secret government programs.

But the Bush administration argued that, under the president’s power as commander in chief and his obligation to protect the country from foreign enemies, it was perfectly legal for the military or the CIA to capture someone who took up arms against this country and move him to a more convenient location for questioning and captivity. Put another way: If it would be legal to shoot somebody through the head or blow him up, why wouldn’t it be OK to capture him and put him on an airplane?

When the case came before a United States District Court judge, the Bush administration even went so far as to argue that the suit should be immediately dismissed, because letting it go to trial would endanger the nation’s security by bringing secrets to light. The ACLU sarcastically dismissed this claim as just one more example of Bush “shredding the Constitution.”

But, lo and behold, on Feb. 9, the Obama administration’s lawyers went into court and made the same argument put forth by Bush. Letting the ACLU’s suit against the charter company proceed would endanger the American people, the Obama administration said. The ACLU was horrified.

But we were relieved. When Obama sits in the Oval Office, his obligation is to the American people, not the ACLU. And he has shown he recognizes it.

Editorial: Whose money is it?

WHILE WE found little to disagree with in President Obama’s speech to the nation Tuesday night, we would like to point out one sentence in his remarks that starkly highlighted the difference between Democrats and Republicans on taxation.

Describing the tax cuts of the Bush years, Obama said this:

“A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future.”

In other words, in Obama’s view, letting someone keep more of his own money is the same as “transferring wealth” to him.

A Republican might disagree with the belief that all the money in the world belongs to the government, and that every dollar not taken in taxes is a kind of gift.