The Patriot Act and Political Posturing

The Patriot Act and Political Posturing July 28, 2004

The Patriot Act, the most misnamed legislation in history, was used last year to levy a $10 million fine on Paypal, owned by Ebay, for allowing their clients to use the service to send funds to online gambling sites. What does this have to do with stopping terrorism? Not a goddamn thing. But it’s yet another reason why this law should be repealed, and why we should throw out of office everyone who voted for it – which would be virtually everyone in Congress. In the Senate, only one Senator, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, voted against the bill. And yes, that includes John Kerry, who is now campaigning against the Patriot Act in his effort to beat Bush in November.

In fact, contrary to the civil libertarian pose he is trying to strike, Kerry has an abysmal record on constitutional rights. Not as bad as Bush’s record, but that’s like saying that he’s a slightly better actor than Keanu Reeves. In the 1990s, Kerry was a defender of the Clinton administration’s attempts to ban encryption software (the maker of PGP, the most popular personal encryption tool for computer users, was actually in prison for a while). Clinton was, in my view, the worst president on civil liberties since Nixon – until the current administration, of course, which is off the scale – and Kerry was a cheerleader for Clinton’s policies. Now, Bush isn’t going to say that in the campaign because he’s busy portraying Kerry as soft on crime and soft on terrorism, and because if he criticizes Kerry as anti-civil liberties, he makes himself look even worse by comparison.

All of this makes me all the more amazed that people take the political rhetoric of campaigns seriously. After the Democratic convention is over, Kerry will probably jump 10 points in the polls based solely on the pomp and pagentry and empty words being spoken. And then after the Republican convention in a few weeks, Bush will take a similar jump. It’s called the post-convention bounce and it happens every time. That alone should scare the hell out of you. That means that a sizable percentage of the voters have views that are so shallow that they can be swayed, and then swayed back, by what amounts to a 4 day informercial. And most of the rest of the voters are even worse because they actually believe the rhetoric being shoveled out by one party or another. They actually get inspired by empty platitudes like “it’s time to get America moving again” and “we must invest in our future”, as if those phrases actually mean something. Yes, it appears, people really are that stupid and easily led.

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