The upside of being a Liberty Republican is that when either party gets elected there’s always some reason to be hopeful. When the Republicans get elected we can hope for fiscal responsibility, smaller government and robust capitalism. When the Democrats get elected we can hope for some progress on civil liberties and social issues. The downside is that this also means we can be disappointed when the parties don’t follow through on the more positive parts of their agendas. For the last eight years the Republicans let us down pretty consistently, failing to live up to their promise of smaller government and fiscal responsibility and giving only a few small victories on issues like gun rights and taxes. Now it looks like the Obama administration is setting us up for another round of disappointments as they move to the center and pass up the opportunity to take genuinely liberal positions on social issues.
The Clinton administration was certainly known for its weakness on social issues and civil liberties outrages. Clinton escalated the drug war and established the farcical “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military. His Attorney General, Janet Reno, oversaw a bumper crop of civil rights abuses including the Mt. Carmel massacre, the suppression of the Freemen in Montana, the return of Elian Gonzales to Cuba and the erroneous leak of Richard Jewell’s name as the Olympic bomber. The fact that Obama has chosen to bring so many Clinton appointees into his administration raises the concern that he will follow the same pattern and has little interest in protecting civil rights or making progress on social issues.
Most troubling is his recent choice of DC lawyer Eric Holder as Attorney General. Holder held the second position at the Justice Department under Reno and later under John Aschcroft. Before that, he was US Attorney for the District of Columbia. In those two jobs, his record on civil liberties issues was truly abominable.
Holder was one of the lead figures in the midnight military-style assault and forced deportation of little Elian Gonzalez. It was a long time ago, but the images of a little kid being dragged off by force to the dictatorial darkness of Castro’s Cuba by agents of the US government was one of the first things which began to open our eyes to the fact that something has gone very wrong with justice and law enforcement in the United States. He also defended a company accused of paying for the support of death squads in Colombia and other human rights violations. At the end of the Clinton administration, he even promoted Clinton’s pardons for 16 FALN terrorists and politically connected megacriminal Mark Rich. Hard though it is to believe, these are just footnotes; there are much worse things on his record.
Holder has been a rampaging drug warrior, advocating much harsher drug laws for the District of Columbia, including making simple possession of marijuana a felony, and harsh minimum sentences for drug users. In an interview, he said, “We really have to concentrate on the hard-core drug users that continue to use drugs, continue to have negative impacts on the communities in which they live, and so we have to redouble our efforts I think in that regard.” His choice to focus on punishing users over dealers or importers is the kind of inhumane policy which has uselessly filled our jails with minor drug offenders.
Throughout his career, Holder has adamantly opposed gun rights, supporting the Clinton efforts to restrict gun sales, enthusiastically enforcing the DC gun ban and even filing a brief to try to stop the Supreme Court from striking down the ban in DC vs. Heller, which said, “The Second Amendment does not protect firearms possession or use that Is unrelated to participation In a well-regulated militia.” He also proposed a new law providing “the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms a record of every firearm sale,” and has advocated federal licensing of handgun owners, a three-day waiting period on gun sales, limiting handgun sales to no more than one per month and even totally banning possession of handguns.
Perhaps worst of all, Holder has advocated laws restricting freedom of speech on the internet, saying:
“It seems to me that if we can come up with reasonable restrictions…reasonable regulations on how people interact on the internet, that is something which the Supreme Court and the courts ought to favorably look at.”
Holder’s record on free speech and dissent is bad in other areas as well. After 9/11 he condemned those who might try to obstruct government power in pursuit of terrorists on the grounds of civil rights; he was even part of the legal team which looked at ways to get the PATRIOT Act reauthorized in 2005. It turns out he also wants to take away internet porn, as indicated in a 1998 Justice Department memo:
“In particular, priority also should be given to large-scale distributors of obscenity over the Internet. Because of the nature of the Internet and the availability of agents trained in conducting criminal investigations in cyberspace, investigation and prosecution of Internet obscenity is particularly suitable for federal resources.”
With such a terrible record on so many issues, I was surprised to find that Holder had never taken a position opposing gay rights and gay marriage. I guess that issue never crossed his desk. It can be argued that Holder was following the policies given to him by bosses from successive administrations, but he certainly made no effort to question or challenge any of the abusive and unconstitutional programs which he has spearheaded.
For years, Eric Holder has worked to degrade our civil liberties and weaken the Constitution and the values which on which our nation was founded. That Obama should have picked him for Attorney General is a very discouraging sign for those of us who had hoped to see liberal policies on social issues and more respect for human rights and individual liberty from this administration. It’s past time to see a liberalization of marijuana laws and the basic rights to free speech and self-defense should never be abridged. Holder is one of the bad guys. He’s not the kind of change people were looking for from this administration.
If you didn’t like Alberto Gonzales, John Ashcroft or Janet Reno and their oppressive and draconian policies, you ought to be really worried about Eric Holder, who seems to be their most gung-ho ideological successor.Dave Nalle has worked as a magazine editor, a freelance writer, a capitol hill staffer, a game designer and taught college history for many years. He now designs fonts for a living and lives with his family in a small town just outside Austin where he is ex-president of the local Lions Club. He is on the board of the Republican Liberty Caucus and Politics Editor of Blogcritics Magazine. You can find his writings about fonts, art and graphic design at The Scriptorium. He also runs a conspiracy debunking site at IdiotWars.com.