Conservatives today agree almost universally that getting rid of ObamaCare is their No. 1 goal — not only because it is too costly, but if we don't get rid of it now, it will become a permanent part of American political life, much like Social Security and Medicare. The very notion that our federal government can now force citizens to purchase health insurance is unprecedented in American history. It is also absolutely unconstitutional and completely un-American, and, hopefully, the Supreme Court will agree.
But if conservatives are worried about the institutionalized permanence of a monstrosity like ObamaCare more than anything else, it's curious that some, or at least the neocons, are completely comfortable with, or have even encouraged, giving the federal government new, unconstitutional police powers under the National Defense Authorization Act, a piece of legislation that is even worse than the Patriot Act.
Whereas the Patriot Act allowed foreign terror suspects to be arrested and held without trial, the NDAA allows American citizens to be arrested and held without trial if they are suspected of being terrorists. Of course, throwing citizens in jail without due process is not unprecedented in history. Totalitarian regimes do it all the time. But it is unprecedented in American history — for now.
Like ObamaCare, the courts might strike down the NDAA's indefinite-detention provision. A group of journalists has sued the U.S. government over one particular section of the act, 1021, arguing that according to the legislation's language, a reporter merely interviewing al-Qaeda or Taliban members could be construed as being in cahoots with terrorists. Last week, the Huffington Post reported, "Saying the measure has 'chilling impact on First Amendment rights,' U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest, of New York's Eastern District, found that a group of reporters and activists who brought the lawsuit had no way of knowing whether they could be subjected to it. That makes it an unconstitutional infringement on the First Amendment's free speech right and the Fifth Amendment's right to due process, Forrest said in a written opinion."
HuffPo continued, "The law defines the suspects who can be detained as a 'person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces.' Forrest found the language too vague and repeatedly tried to get government attorneys to say that the reporters' fears were unfounded. The lawyers declined."
The federal government's attorneys could not even say, in good conscience, that the reporters' concerns were unwarranted. What's amazing here isn't simply that our government is trying to assume new tyrannical powers; such is the nature of any government. It's that the unprecedented powers conservatives deplore when it comes to trying to regulate healthcare are not as roundly denounced when the feds attempt to circumvent the First, Fourth, and Fifth amendments.
If Section 1021 were to stand, it would no doubt have the same sort of permanence as ObamaCare would if it remains. Look at how permanent the once controversial Patriot Act has become? Do conservatives really want Barack Obama to have the power to throw citizens in jail without trial? And for the president to have this power forever?
The allegedly conservative Wall Street Journal certainly wants Obama to have this power, and they have criticized conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill who've joined some principled Democrats in fighting NDAA's indefinite detention provision. In an op-ed called "The Tea Party's Inner ACLU," the WSJ laments, "The movement is also spreading to Capitol Hill, where the ACLU and Tea Party conservatives led by Michigan's Justin Amash are trying to block terrorist detentions in the House version of the defense authorization. House leaders are opposed, but they could lose a floor vote this month if someone doesn't educate the freshmen about the difference between common criminals and the laws of war."
"Educate" Republican House freshmen? The WSJ freely admits what Rep. Amash knows and rightly fears about the NDAA, noting that the bill affirms "the long-standing distinction between civilian justice and the rules of war by letting the president detain terrorists (including U.S. citizens) captured anywhere and question them as long as necessary."
There was a time when conservatives distrusted government power in all its forms. A permanent new set of executive branch police powers should be feared as much as a permanent new set of federal health mandates and regulations. Each will be unbearably costly in ways not now imagined or foreseen. Conservatives' characteristic distrust of government is needed now more than ever, but it must be comprehensive.
Jack Hunter assisted Sen. Jim DeMint with his latest book, Now or Never: Saving America From Economic Collapse. He is also the official campaign blogger for GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul. You can hear Southern Avenger commentaries on The Morning Buzz on 1250 WTMA.