Thune supports earmark moratorium contrary to Red State report
A proposal for an earmark moratorium among GOP senators — backed by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and opposed by Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) despite tea party pressure for the measure — has already touched a nerve among conservatives concerning a possible 2012 Republican presidential nominee.
Wednesday afternoon, Red State’s Erick Erickson pronounced Sen. John Thune’s (R-S.D.) potential bid for the 2012 nomination as dead when sources informed him that Thune sided with McConnell on the proposal. Erickson wrote:
Thune is whipping votes for Mitch McConnell in order to defeat the Coburn-DeMint earmarks moratorium. There is no way Thune would so blatantly defy the grassroots of the GOP, the tea party movement, and virtually every major conservative group in Washington if he had any interest in being President in 2012.
However in an e-mail to TAI, Thune’s spokesman Kyle Downey refuted the Red State piece. “Senator Thune is not and has not been whipping against Senator DeMint’s earmark ban. Senator Thune has supported earmark moratoriums in the past and he continues to support an earmark moratorium,” Downey wrote.
Though Thune may avoid the ire of the Republican base in this instance, it does highlight a unique position for the senator from South Dakota that his potential primary opponents will be able to sidestep. Many of names bandied about as possible GOP nominees are figures such as Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich who have retired from their official political perches. Others such as Tim Pawlenty, Chris Christie and Mitch Daniels serve as the executive of their state governments. Both groups of Republicans can avoid taking part in the politically messy and widely unpopular process of legislating in the U.S. Congress.
Besides minor idle speculation of a DeMint campaign, Thune is the only Republican senator whose name is mentioned as a possible 2012 opponent for Barack Obama. Even on the House side, there is only a repeat long-shot bid from Ron Paul, or Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, who recently resigned his leadership position partially to free up his time in order to run a campaign, but also likely to distance himself from the compromises the newly elected Republican majority will be forced to make.
Pence might be able to fade into the background of his chamber when difficult issues arise, but that option will not be as readily available for Thune in the Senate where each member can hold significant power on every issue. Thune’s positions have already threatened to hamstring a potential presidential bid. Few tea party activists are likely to support Thune after his vote to pass the TARP bill, even though many in the GOP field supported the legislation at the time and can avoid their past stance since they were not in a position to vote for the measure at the time.
Thune may sidestep the issue of earmarks, but over the course of the next year before presidential primaries begin, there is likely to be a number of votes before the Senate where he will be forced to decide between his more moderate leanings (than the tea party) and the ire of the Republican grassroots. As one tea party leader told TAI’s sister site The Washington Independent, “Our members will put immense pressure on every senator to vote against earmarks. This is a fundamental issue.”
(Photo: LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE/WDCPIX.COM)
Senate Bill 3081 and John Thune: National Security Trumps Essential Liberty
S.3081, the Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010, is proposed by Senator John McCain and co-sponsored by eight others, including his good friend, John Thune. It’s been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for review.
It’s appalling that two patriotic men, one who spent five years as a North Vietnamese POW and another with professed “heartland values” like John Thune, could promulgate such an intellectually dishonest, poorly defined, ill-thought-out, and blatantly unconstitutional law that shreds the 5th. and 6th. Amendments.
S.3081 promises to streamline the identification, capture, interrogation, and detention of terrorists and others who represent a clear and present danger to the United States. Further, an ever-increasing number of U. S. citizens at home and abroad wish us harm, so they are included, without distinction, in the bill’s language.
However, S.3081 lacks clear definitions for the operational terms “material support,” “The potential intelligence value of the individual,” and the all-inclusive phrase “Such other matters as the President considers appropriate.” It’s Catch-22 with no way out.
Under this law as currently written, any U. S. citizen who is a war protester, publicly exhibits anti-government sentiments, is a Tea Party activist, or a political opponent of a given Administration could fall (or be made to fall) under one or more of its ill-defined and ambiguous conditions.
If the Feds believe you are committing a “suspicious activity” or “supporting hostilities,” you can be hauled off and held indefinitely in military custody with neither legal recourse nor due process. Your Constitutional rights to free speech and personal liberties would disappear with the stroke of a hidden pen.
Nobly intended to counter growing terrorism, S.3081 offers no controls nor checks and balances to prevent it being used for politically nefarious purposes.
Imagine what Richard Nixon would have done if he’d had such peremptory or discretionary presidential authority? Any of his antagonists, like Daniel Ellsberg, would have disappeared from sight and been held for questioning for an indefinite period for providing “material support” to the enemy in a time of war. Ironically, the unintended consequences of S.3081 are eerily reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s Discriminatory Decrees, enacted on February 28, 1933.
Assurances I received from a senior Thune staffer that S.3081 is well-intended and necessary don’t cut it; our Federal government offers no moral high ground regarding corruption or outside influence. Should S.3081 pass, no Senator or court will have any say over its implementation. It contains zero safeguards to prevent a paranoid and power-hungry President (think Johnson or Nixon), or his/her national security team, from using it to mete out threats and/or punishment to political enemies, particularly given the exigencies of war or a domestic emergency like 9/11.
For national security purposes, Americans are already subject to warrantless wiretaps of calls and emails, the warrantless GPS “tagging” of their vehicles, the domestic use of Predators or other spy-in-the-sky drones, and the Department of Homeland Security’s monitoring of all our behavior through “data fusion centers.” (Google that, it’s an eye-opener.)
Given this toxic mashup of losses of privacy, S.3081 is a slippery slope for civil rights and an horrific abrogation of the Constitution.
If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then S.3081 is a superhighway to an Orwellian panoptic gulag.
America’s promise has always been the power of the many to rule, instead of the one. S.3081 returns unilateral power to the one. It’s ill-conceived, elitist, and end-runs our inherent Constitutional protections.
Founder and Framer Benjamin Franklin famously warned: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Or as I now like to say, “Those who fail to watch the pot will end up in it.”
Sam Kephart is CEO of Virtual Acumen, a Spearfish-based creative media firm. He may be reached at [email protected].
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