National Review Discovers Civil Liberties

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 5 2011 @ 10:02am

Good for them, I have to say. Lindsey Graham's insinuation that the First Amendment might have to be compromised because we are at war is indeed an affront. But where were these defenders of individual liberty in war time when the last president effectively suspended the Fourth Amendment? Daniel Luban goes for the jugular:

Steyn and McCarthy profess to be shocked — shocked! — that the Bill of Rights might be abridged for American citizens as a result of what’s going on “over there.” But in fact, Graham’s proposal is rather mild compared to the views of, say, John Yoo, who suggested in a notorious October 2001 memo [PDF] that the President during wartime can override the Fourth Amendment — and by implication, the entirety of the Bill of Rights — at will, provided he deems it necessary for the war effort. (Graham at least seemed to be proposing that the First Amendment should be restricted through legislation rather than presidential fiat.) …

But since leaving the Bush administration Yoo’s been welcomed with open arms by the American right — not least, National Review, which has brought him on board as a contributor along with Steyn, McCarthy, and Stuttaford. If Steyn and McCarthy, at least, have expressed any misgivings about Yoo’s analysis, I haven’t seen them. (Stuttaford is more reliably libertarian.)

Like much of the American right, Steyn and McCarthy seem to have no objection to rescinding the constitutional rights of American citizens provided it only happens to “them” (brown people with funny names) and not to “us” (nice, patriotic white people). They might want to consider, however, whether this is really a tenable line — or whether, as Graham’s proposal suggests, the slope is more slippery than they would allow.