June 08, 2002


THREAT ASSESSMENT: Brian Doherty's Reason profile of John Ashcroft is mostly fair, but I was disappointed to see yet another libertarian fall into an intellectual dishonesty trap over this quote, taken widely out of context:

We need honest, reasoned debate; not fearmongering. To those who pit Americans against immigrants, and citizens against non-citizens; to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty; my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists - for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies, and pause to America's friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil.
By selectively editing that to "Those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty... your tactics only aid terrorists," Doherty, like countless writers before him, makes it sound like Ashcroft called everyone who disagrees with him a terrorist. In reality, Ashcroft called for "honest, reasoned debate"-- and got dishonest attacks.

That's a shame, because there are some reasonable critiques the AG deserves, and they get drowned out by all the panic. Ashcroft has violated federalist principles and squandered resources that might be better-used on the terrorist front with his assaults on physician-assisted suicide in Oregon and medical marijuana in California. Doherty lists these in a sidebar, unfortunately mixed in with some other spurious statements, particularly about secret tribunals (has Doherty heard of classified evidence?).

Posted by John Tabin at June 8, 2002 12:23 PM