Setting the record straight

“Badges? We ain’t got no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!”
—Gold Hat, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

For the newly initiated, this place is reserved for the “liberally challenged.” As such, your host is frequently assailed with letters from readers who like to think they have called me on the proverbial carpet. I like to call it the “gotcha” syndrome. I write an opinion, they say, “Aha, here’s why you’re wrong.” Gotcha.

With the recent flap over the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping (and the great Satan that is George W. Bush), many left-leaning types have discovered this thing called the United States Constitution. I’m suspicious because the mention of the Constitution by anyone of the liberal camp is usually only included with the terms “living document” and “right to kill a baby.” The same people who tell me I can’t (or shouldn’t be able to) own an AR-15 or AK-47 because the Founding Fathers couldn’t have imagined such weapons would ever exist assert that the Fathers envisioned abortion as a “right"—despite that term (unlike arms) appearing nowhere in said document.

In any event, last month, I did a piece on the fact that Democratic presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton exercised similar powers as those being asserted by the Bush administration.

One such gotcha letter was published in the Jan. 19 edition:

“I looked up executive orders 12139 and 12949, which Mr. Lafferty said show how Democrats violated civil liberties in the past. What he neglected to tell us were the last sentences of the executive orders.

“In both executive orders, it says that the attorney general must make certifications required by section 50 U.S.C. 1801, which states that a court order is not needed for electronic surveillance or physical searches for foreign nationals only, which means that Mr. Lafferty was withholding information.

“In reality, American citizens cannot be spied on according to these executive orders. Only non-citizens can be spied on. Mr. Lafferty, next time you want to spew your propaganda, make sure all your readers are dumb enough to believe it.”

First, let me say that I didn’t “neglect” or “withhold” anything. I have roughly 600 words to make my point and have to make decisions on what’s relevant and what isn’t.

Second, I would ask that you look at the 5th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Both expressly provide in part: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

In other words, and contrary to what the letter-writer said, “foreign nationals"—even those in the country illegally—are entitled to the same constitutional protections as U.S. citizens.

Another reader correctly pointed out that the aforementioned executive orders required the attorney general to certify such warrantless actions. This apparently is the equivalent of oversight that is acceptable to Democrats. Let’s see, the AG—a person appointed by and reporting to the President—says it’s OK. And that’s OK?

The point here, ladies and gents, is that the feds pose less threat to your liberties than the states do: Forty-one states have laws permitting DUI “safety” checkpoints. In short, you may be stopped without reasonable suspicion that you have done anything wrong.

Twenty-one states have primary seatbelt laws. That is, you may be stopped and cited for not wearing your seatbelt. This is apparently way cool because the Constitution-loving liberals were nowhere to be heard from when the laws were enacted.

But George W. Bush is drunk on power. Or something.