AIER: Congressional Hypocrisy and the Crackdown

James Bovard at AIER talks about Congressional Hypocrisy and the Crackdown

The political frenzy unleashed by last week’s clash at the Capitol between police and Trump protestors poses a growing danger to Americans’ constitutional rights. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer compared the ruckus to Pearl Harbor – a “day of infamy.” Schumer complained that the “temple to democracy was desecrated… our offices vandalized.” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) compared an incursion that broke some windows and furniture with the 1814 British invasion that torched the Capitol.

The pro-Trump mob should not have charged into the Capitol. President Donald Trump should not have fired them up with absurd claims that he won the election “by a landslide.” Even conservative firebrand Ann Coulter declared that “it was assholic [for Trump] to tell a crowd of thousands to march to the capitol.” Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani should never have called for a “trial by combat” when addressing Trump supporters. Once the protestors charged into the Capitol, Trump should have speedily called for an end to the confrontation.

Trump deserves much of the blame for the Capitol chaos. But the debacle would have been far less without blundering by congressional leadership and their small army of protectors. A Washington Post analysis of the “disastrous failure” by Capitol Police noted, “Security at the Capitol building is controlled by Congress itself.”

The Capitol Police have an annual budget of almost half a billion dollars and two thousand officers – equal to the entire police forces of Cleveland or Atlanta. At some points video showed police standing back as people thronged inside the Capitol. The Post noted, “One image posted on social media showed an officer taking a selfie with one of the intruders, and a video seemed to show officers opening the security fence to let Trump supporters closer.”

One policeman was killed when he was dragged into a mob and beaten, and a 34-year-old female Trump supporter was reportedly trampled to death in the clash between police and protestors. Another Trump supporter died of a heart attack and another protestor died of a stroke.

President-elect Biden said that the protestors’ action was “an assault on the citadel of liberty: the Capitol itself…. An assault on the rule of law like few times we’ve ever seen it.” But rather than a “citadel of liberty,” the Capitol is the locale where politicians have negligently authorized endless assaults on the liberties of average Americans and the lives of uncounted victims around the world.

Violence of all types should be condemned, including that which comes from the government itself. SWAT teams carrying out no-knock raids happen thousands of times a year in American neighborhoods across the land. These attacks have been aided by a profusion of military-style equipment provided by Congress and federal agencies, as well as by the Justice Department constantly championing the legal prerogatives of law enforcement to use deadly force in almost any situation. An ACLU report characterized SWAT raids as “violent events: numerous (often 20 or more) officers armed with assault rifles and grenades approach a home, break down doors and windows (often causing property damage), and scream for the people inside to get on the floor (often pointing their guns at them).”

Failure to instantly submit to SWAT raiders can be a capital offense. A New York Times investigation found that “at least 81 civilians and 13 law enforcement officers died in raids from 2010 through 2016. Scores of others were maimed or wounded.” The vast majority of members of Congress have ignored the perennial police carnage they helped bankroll around the nation.

Dozens of protestors have already been charged with unlawful entry. The same standard should also apply to government officials in other contexts In 1984, the Supreme Court entitled government agents to intrude onto private land without a search warrant as long as they did not venture into areas where individuals were involved in “intimate activities” (i.e., nudist camps). “No Trespassing” signs no longer applied to G-men. The same court decision unleashed government helicopters to buzz low over any private land they chose to investigate – no warrant needed. (Private helicopter operators who perform the same trick over federal buildings are entitled to front-page obituaries.)

President-elect Joe Biden condemned the protestors “rummaging through desks. But where was the umbrage on Capitol Hill when the National Security Agency vacuumed up millions of Americans’ emails? Where was the outrage when Edward Snowden exposed NSA documents showing that the agency turns its surveillance dynamos on anyone “searching the web for suspicious stuff“? Thanks to lavish congressional appropriations, the NSA continues devouring Americans’ privacy.

We should also condemn the violence that Congress has authorized by U.S. military forces, which are now engaged in combat in 14 nations. Most members of Congress could probably not even name half of the nations where U.S. troops are fighting. After four U.S. soldiers were killed in Niger in 2017, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Schumer admitted they did not know that a thousand U.S. troops were deployed to that African nation. Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, admitted, “We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world militarily and what we’re doing.”

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius in 2017 proudly cited an estimate from a “knowledgeable official” that “CIA-backed fighters may have killed or wounded 100,000 Syrian soldiers and their allies over the past four years.” Syria has taken no hostile action against the U.S. but few members of Congress have taken any responsibility for the carnage inflicted by the Biden-Trump intervention in the Syrian Civil War. No evidence has surfaced thus far linking Syrians to any broken windows in the Capitol.

We should also condemn the blockades that the US government has imposed on Syria, Venezuela, Iran, and other nations. US Navy ships are ready to intercede even medical supplies to those nations whose governments have raised the ire of Washington policymakers.

In the wake of the clashes at the Capitol, Democrats are calling for a sweeping new “domestic terrorism” law that could profoundly restrict Americans’ freedom of speech and association. Many politicians have called for charging the Trump protestors with sedition, There are already more than enough criminal laws and the feds should concentrate on discovering and vigorously prosecuting the individuals who attacked police.

Shortly before the protestors forced their way into the Capitol, Mitch McConnell declared that American democracy could go into a “death spiral of democracy” if the 2020 election result was not accepted. McConnell warned that challenging the 2020 election would mean “every four years would be a scramble for power at any cost.” He also said that “self-government requires a shared commitment to the truth.” Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) condemned Wednesday’s protestors: “If you just feed this beast in an effort to appease it, it just gets stronger and bolder until it comes after the very people who are trying to appease it.”

It is possible to condemn both the protestors and the career politicians whose perennial abuses have been lessening Americans’ trust in the federal government.

Ron Paul Institute: ‘Choose Your Liar’ Democracy

‘Choose Your Liar’ Democracy comes via the Ron Paul Institute and is written by James Bovard.

The final weeks of a presidential campaign is one of the best opportunities to view political perfidy in spectacular colors. While the media lectures Americans about their civic duty to vote to save the nation, the candidates continue conniving nonstop with no respect for the facts or decency. After the election is settled, the media and the political establishment will announce “the system worked” and Americans must again respect and obey their rulers (unless Trump is re-elected, of course).

Politicians have mandated warning labels for almost everything except voting booths. Federal agencies require full disclosure of risks for everything from mortgages to volunteering for medical experiments. People are entitled to far more information when testing baldness cures than when casting votes that could lead to war.

Hopefully Americans will not be as gullible after the election as many are before casting their ballot. Dishonesty is the distinguishing trait of the political class, going all the way back to ancient Athens and the satirical plays of Aristophanes. In 1799, Thomas Jefferson observed, “Whenever a man casts a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.”

A successful politician is often merely someone who bamboozled more voters than the other liar running for office. Political campaigns rely on deception because, as economist John Burnheim explained, “Overwhelming pressures to lie, to pretend, to conceal… are always present when the object to be sold is intangible and its properties unverifiable until long after the time when the decision to buy can be reversed.”

Lying has long been part of presidents’ job description: the names of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon practically became synonyms for deceit. Former president George W. Bush is being rehabilitated by the media nowadays. But Bush made “232 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and another 28 false statements about Iraq’s links to Al Qaeda,” as the Center for Public Integrity reported. Bush’s determination to dishonestly drag America into another Middle East war led to the deaths of more than 4,000 American troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

President Barack Obama received sainthood even before his election and he retained his halo even though he falsely promised dozens of times that people could keep their doctor after Obamacare’s decrees took effect. Obama campaigned in 2008 on a peace platform and then bombed seven nations. Obama promised “no more illegal wiretapping” but he unleashed the National Security Administration to target any American “searching the web for suspicious stuff.”

The 2016 presidential race was a landmark: never before had American voters been obliged to choose between two such widely despised candidates. Routine deceit by both candidates helped make “post-truth” the 2016 word of the year according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

The 2020 race is also deluging voters with near-record levels of malarkey. Joe Biden denied referring to American soldiers as “stupid bastards” (despite a video of his spiel), denies that his son Hunter has done anything wrong (despite the pesky laptop emails), and exaggerated the Covid death toll a hundredfold. Trump has ludicrously portrayed his pandemic response as faultless, wildly exaggerates the economic achievements of his administration, and perennially denies the damage inflicted here by his trade wars. The one certainty is that the 2020 election will not be won by an honest man.

If a new president is elected next month, the media will insist that “this time is different” and that Americans can safely trust the White House again. In reality, Election Day merely marks a brief intermission between campaigning lies and governing lies. Yet, if Biden wins, Americans will be encouraged to pretend that election victories expunge the sins – or at least the character defects – of triumphant politicians. Winners supposedly deserve a “honeymoon” where people pretend they are trustworthy enough to enact new laws and launch ruinous new federal programs.

But nothing happens after Election Day to make politicians less venal. Presidents and members of Congress take oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution. But, as former U.S. senator Bob Kerrey explained in 2013, “The problem is, the second your hand comes off the Bible, you become an asshole.” When elected officials scorn the Constitution, politics becomes little more than promising and pilfering.

America is increasingly a “Garbage In, Garbage Out” democracy. Politicians dupe citizens and then invoke deluded votes to sanctify and stretch their power. In the post-9/11 era, politicians treat Americans like medical orderlies treat Alzheimer’s patients, telling them anything that will keep them subdued. It doesn’t matter what untruths the people are fed because they will surely forget them.

Lies subvert democracy by crippling citizens’ ability to rein in government. As Willie Brown, the former mayor of San Francisco and mentor for Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, said, “In politics, a lie unanswered becomes truth within 24 hours.” Any lie accepted by a sufficient number of ignorant voters becomes a political truth.

Disregarding political lies paves the way for official crimes. As former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg declared, “When we tolerate dishonesty, we get criminality.” If elected politicians can lie and cover up their actions, then how can any reasonable person not expect to be oppressed?

Politicians assure that voters’ apparent consent is irrevocable regardless of how many lies permeated election campaigns. But there is no such thing as retroactive self-government. Belatedly exposing political lies does nothing to resurrect lost freedoms.

Deceiving voters is as much a violation of their rights as barring them from the polling booth. Only if we assume that people consent to being lied to can pervasive political lies be reconciled with democracy. And if people consent to deceit, elections become little more than patients choosing who will inject their sedatives.

President Obama, in his January 2017 farewell address, criticized Americans who “blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.” By Obama’s standard, the perpetual perfidy of the political class would justify condemning voters almost regardless of how they cast their ballots. Obama also condemned people who did not vote. Obama thereby created a no-win situation – except for politicians.

Obama, in his 2016 speech to the Democratic National Convention, also declared, “We do not look to be ruled.” Regardless of the irony of a heavy-handed ruler tossing out that line, it rings true for tens of millions of Americans who make their own liberty their supreme political value.

In the short run, the political game is rigged so that winners capture far more power than many, if not most, Americans would willingly cede to them and vastly more than the Constitution permits. But citizens can reduce the hazards they face by remembering that winning votes never redeemed a rascal. The winner of next month’s presidential election will be a clear and present danger to Americans’ rights and liberties regardless of his margin of victory.