Pima Community College    Tucson, Arizona
September 4 - September 17, 2003
Volume 48    Issue 2


Ashcroft desperate to defend Patriot Act

Graphic by Mark A. Febbo
Justyn Dillingham
Aztec Press

John Ashcroft's massive tour to promote the rightly-reviled Patriot Act of 2001 smacks not only of blatant partisan propagandizing, but of desperation.

While Ashcroft won't be pausing in our neck of the woods on his 16-town tour, he's back on the front page and his slimy attempts to justify his deplorably undemocratic attitude toward the values cherished by Americans for over three hundred years have received far more publicity than they deserve.

The attitude of Ashcroft and his supporters is simple: if you're not with us, you're helping the terrorists. His contempt for dissent manifests itself in even the smallest ways. In Las Vegas, he turned down offers to answer questions from reporters, but he did manage to find the time to do a few high-profile television interviews. "That speaks for itself," snapped one protester.

This sorry tale began almost two years ago. While the rest of us were still stunned and shattered by the atrocity of Sept. 11, Ashcroft and his pals wrote up an allegedly "anti-terrorist" bill and rushed it through Congress. They cleverly made it so long and unreadably complicated that hardly anyone even bothered to read it-including those who voted for it!

Like an unscrupulous used car dealer, the writers of this bill hid the dirty details in the fine print. One section of the Patriot Act gives the government the right to search people's homes and delay notifying them. This tactic is so blatantly Orwellian that the House passed an amendment in July restricting its use.

Ashcroft claims (with the queasily inflated language that has become characteristic of the right) that the government has "used these tools to prevent terrorists from unleashing more death and destruction on our soil." In truth, they have used it mainly to bully and spread fear and paranoia, and if they happen to catch a few terrorists along the way, well, all the better for business.

We've seen this kind of thing before. Back in the Fifties, many Americans were intimidated by the ruthless tactics of self-promoting bullyboy Sen. Joseph McCarthy into going along with his persecution of a mythical Communist conspiracy that consisted of the entire State Department, the Army, Congress, and everyone in Hollywood except John Wayne and Ronald Reagan. After McCarthy was exposed as a reckless liar, the hunt for subversion passed into the hands of CIA director J. Edgar Hoover and his gang of stone-faced voyeurs, who expanded the definition of "Commies" to include anyone with long hair.

In both cases, the assault on freedom required a strong cause to rally the faithful around, to divide the righteous from the wicked. In McCarthy's day, it was the Cold War and the threat of Communist takeover; in the Sixties, it was the Vietnam War. The Nineties has been a slow decade for that kind of thing. How frustrated the freedom-hating cranks of our land must have felt! It's no wonder they wasted two years advertising Bill Clinton's personal life. They were simply desperate.

But then-success! Religious fanatics bombed the World Trade Center, killing thousands. The ensuing chaos and confusion paved the way for the revival of the right, with results that ranged from disastrous, like the Patriot Act, to ridiculous, like the popularity of that shrill clown Ann Coulter, who's not only an Ashcroft fan but a McCarthy fan. Every time I walk into the bookstore I have to avert my eyes from her fiendish grin glaring out at me from the stacks of bestsellers. The horror, the horror!

The kind of crowd that reveres Ashcroft has little respect for the Constitution, with its embarrassing emphasis on outdated concepts like freedom and liberty. As far as they're concerned, Franklin and Jefferson-with their foolish fears of what might happen to the country if the government were granted too much power-were just old-fashioned schmucks.

"Thanks to you, we are winning the war on terror," Ashcroft said in Utah last month. Thanks to whom? Ashcroft has been protested at every stop he's made so far. It goes without saying that he's the left's favorite dartboard - he may be even more "popular" with them than President Bush. Even the right has begun to question the appropriateness of the Patriot Act. In short, Ashcroft's band of brothers grows smaller every day. He may soon find it hard to show his face in public without being pelted with fruit.

It's not often that Americans find a common cause to rally behind. Now we've been presented with one, and if we fail to take advantage of this rare opportunity, we will soon regret it. That cause can be summed up in one phrase: John Ashcroft is out to mangle our liberties.