In an unprecedented, desperate, and politically motivated move, Brother John Ashcroft has taken to the road. Setting up his tent in strategic cities to bring his Traveling Patriot Salvation Show to lost Americans. With apologies to Neil Diamond, “pack up the babies and grab the old ladies.” But take ’em someplace safe, like an old-time religion tent revival, not Brother John’s catechism on the USA Patriot Act.
Brother John senses he is in trouble. According to a report in The Washington Post, 150 local governments– as well as the states of Alaska, Hawaii and Vermont–have passed resolutions condemning all or parts of the legislation. The House also voted earlier this summer to cut off funding for a portion of the law that allows for “sneak and peak” warrants by adopting an amendment by Rep. C.L. “Butch” Otter (R-Idaho) that caught the Bush administration by surprise.
His first sermon in the 2002 summer revival series was to the friendly American Enterprise Institute. Typical of his hell-fire and brimstone manner, he warned the audience (which was a tad like preaching to the choir), that failure to support efforts to renew and strengthen provisions of the Patriot Act would lead to further acts of destruction like those witnessed on September 11. And in characteristic hyperbolic evangelistic fashion, he said that in hindsight the Patriot Act should have been passed before September 11, suggesting that its passage would have prevented the disaster. September 11 was caused, in case you were wondering, because there was no law allowing the information sharing that the Patriot Act enables.
Talk about snake oil and witches’ brew! The world knows that the information to prevent the attack–or at least keep Atta and his crew out of the cockpits–was within the purview of the FBI and CIA well before the attack. And that performing perfunctory searches of the hijackers would have turned up their weapons. But a good preacher never lets the facts get in the way of the sermon.
Brother John refrained from quoting from the Bible, but he did use the names of Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln in vain in support of this attack on civil liberties which he calls the “linchpin” in the war against terrorism.
Waving the flag, Brother John warned that those who would curtail his powers under the act (a not-so-subtle threat to the American Civil Liberties Union and Center for Constitutional Rights, both of which have filed suits against Ashcroft) would “senselessly imperil American lives and American liberty.”
Brother John’s deacons didn’t pass the collection plate or sell propaganda tracts after his sermon, but they did announce the debut of his new web site devoted to the preservation and expansion of the Patriot Act, <www.lifeandliberty.gov>. Confess your sins and commit yourself to the Patriot Act as your lord and savior. Come all you who want life and liberty. Believe in John and he will keep you free.
Justice Department spokeswoman Barbara Comstock said no political calculations went into choosing the cities for the tour. If you believe that, Brother John has a gallon of snake oil to sell you. Guaranteed to restore vim and vigor and burn off warts. His venues have been carefully chosen to maximize political gain for Brother Bush in his upcoming 2004 presidential campaign. They include the key states of Iowa, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio.
And because the Reverend can’t be everywhere, he has anointed his federal prosecutors–those highly paid suits on the government payroll–and ordained them to preach the Gospel of John in their home towns. If you can’t catch the Big Show at the Big Top, check your paper for local listings and times.
I am sure there are a few budding Brothers in U.S. Attorneys’ offices waiting for the spirit to work in them. So they, too, can, in the fullness of time, preach and sing–let’s don’t forget the singing–like Brother John.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org