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Ashcroft’s Traveling Patriot Show Not Winning Many Converts

by ELAINE CASSEL

According to a report in The Washington Post, support for the Patriot Act is waning in the country, including Idaho, where Ashcroft’s summer revival tour traveled this week. Idaho’s Rep. C.L. “Butch” Otter (R), is leading an effort in Congress to curtail the centerpiece of Ashcroft’s anti-terrorism strategy, the USA Patriot Act. Otter sponsored an amendment approved 309 to 118 by the House in July, which would cut off funding for “sneak-and-peek” warrants. Ashcroft calls this a “mistake,” and says that those who voted for the amendment “did not know what they were voting for.” Also voting yea was Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho), a former singing mate of Ashcroft’s in the senate quartet, who now is singing dissident chords about the law.

State representatives and city counsels in Idaho are making discordant noises, no doubt a reflection of a state in which people value their privacy and liked the Constitution the way it was before Ashcroft started playing it in another key.

New Harris Poll numbers indicate that less than 50 percent of those polled like the show’s star, and 40 percent disapprove of his performance. And as long as Ashcroft continues to hum the tune that those who would curtail the Patriot Act and not grant Ashcroft new powers are traitors, his popularity is likely to drop.

This is a country that, save for the Rove’s, Falwell’s, Robertson’s, and Ashcroft’s in it, believe in the right to dissent and debate. Ashcroft’s words that he “values debate” and does not want to silence it, is belied by his deputizing his US Attorneys to speak personally with dissident Congressional members and report back to him. Report what? They they disagree? To what end? That they can be prosecuted as national security risks?

“It’s pretty reckless to say that 309 members of Congress want to tip off terrorists,” said Otter, who noted that more than a third of the votes cast for his amendment came from Republicans. “Instead of hitting the campaign trail, the attorney general should be listening to the concerns that many Americans have about some portions of the act.”

ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, whose group has helped organize many of the anti-Patriot Act resolutions approved in recent months by more than 150 municipalities and states, said Ashcroft is now “clearly on the defensive. He and the Justice Department have finally understood that there are large portions of the public raising questions about their policies on terrorism and the Patriot Act. The opposition is springing up all across the country.”

Some suggest that Bush’s handlers sent Ashcroft on the road to test the country’s tone about him and curtailment of civil liberties. If it flops in New Haven (or Idaho), Bush’s producers and directors can tweak the show and maybe even replace its star before it opens at the Republican convention next summer.

Ashcroft fancies himself a martyr and does not mind the criticism or low poll numbers. Rather, they are proof positive that “for every crucifixion, a resurrection is waiting to follow,” in the words he used to assuage himself after his loss to a dead man in the Missouri 2000 senate race. Father Bush, though, is not into self-sacrifice. He may sacrifice Brother John to the cross of political convenience in order to save his presidency from the tomb.

ELAINE CASSEL practices law in Virginia and the District of Columbia, teachers law and psychology, and follows the Bush regime’s dismantling of the Constitution at Civil Liberties Watch. She can be reached at: ecassel1@cox.net

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