Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Odd Couple

From the Toledo Blade:

Politics makes for some strange bedfellows, but odd unions are exactly what a newly formed left-right coalition hopes will work to its advantage in modifying the Patriot Act. It’s worth a try to prevent some of the more objectionable provisions of the nation’s premier anti-terrorism law from becoming permanent when they expire at the end of this year. Still, the coalition calling itself “Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances” will take some getting used to.

It’s not every day that former Rep. Bob Barr, a conservative Georgia Republican, holds a joint press conference with the head of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is flanked by gun-rights supporters and left wing activists.

And that’s the point. A group of people normally at each other’s throats wants Washington to look past customary divides when hearings on renewing the Patriot Act begin later. In other words, they want the ensuing debate to be framed on its merit, not labeled a liberal or conservative cause – because it is neither.


It is disconcerting, say critics, that many in the administration have adopted an “absolutist” defense of the law in pushing for its complete renewal without change. The President campaigned to that end last year.

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft once insinuated that anyone raising concerns about the Patriot Act was “aiding and abetting” the enemy. His successor, Alberto Gonzales, has indicated that not only is he opposed to any changes in the law he wants to expand government powers therein.

This battle could be bruising. But it is commendable that an unusual alliance of old adversaries has agreed to work together on an issue critical to all Americans, whether they’re to the right, left, or middle.