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Romney Adopts GOP "Give Me Death" Line on Civil Liberties

December 24, 2007

In an unprecedented and blistering "undorsement" on Saturday, the Concord Monitor implored New Hampshire voters not to support GOP White House hopeful Mitt Romney under any circumstances. Labeling Romney "a disquieting figure" who "most surely must be stopped," the Monitor profiled the serial flip-flopper whose pronouncements on national security and civil liberties issues "are often chilling." Just how chilling, it turns out, Salon's Glenn Greenwald detailed the very next day.
While Americans by now have grown accustomed to Romney's tough talk and testosterone-addled posturing on terrorism (conflating all Muslims, pledging to "double" Gitmo, saying of Bin Laden, "he's going to pay, and he will die" ), little light had been shed on his truly extreme views of presidential power. Until now.
On Sunday, Greenwald dissected a revealing survey of the presidential candidates by the Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Charlie Savage. Savage asked each of the leading Democratic and GOP candidates a dozen questions concerning national security, presidential powers and American civil liberties. And as Greenwald details, Romney's responses were truly alarming, extending "even beyond what the Bush/Cheney cadre of authoritarian legal theorists have claimed."
In a set of mind-boggling claims for the unlimited expansion of presidential power ("the President must also protect the prerogatives of his Office"; "so long as they do not impinge upon the President's constitutional authority"; "remain faithful to commander-in-chief powers and obligations to keep this country safe"), one Romneyism stands out. In a nutshell, for Romney Americans' civil liberties must always take a back seat to war-time presidential powers:

1. Does the president have inherent powers under the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, regardless of federal statutes?
Intelligence and surveillance have proven to be some of the most effective national security tools we have to protect our nation. Our most basic civil liberty is the right to be kept alive and the President should not hesitate to use every legal tool at his disposal to keep America safe.

Here, Mitt Romney is merely echoing the now standard Republican "Give Me Death" defense of infringing upon Americans' civil liberties. As I wrote in February 2006, Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and John Cornyn (R-TX) are just some of the GOP leading lights making that dangerous and disgusting case:

During brief comments to the press, Sessions referring to the rightness of Bush's domestic spying after 9/11 declared melodramatically:
"Over 3,000 Americans have no civil rights because they are no longer with us."
The Republican leadership is singing from the same Karl Rove fear-mongering hymnal to justify the President's lawbreaking. On February 3rd, Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, who has stonewalled the Phase II investigation into the misuses of pre-Iraq war intelligence, similarly claimed:
"You really don't have any civil liberties if you're dead."
Roberts, who also authored a vitriolic 19-page letter defending the NSA domestic surveillance program, merely followed in the footsteps of Senator John Cornyn. Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said on December 20, 2005:
"None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead."
Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold responded with Patrick Henry's clarion call, "Give me liberty of give me death."

In its often-hilarious editorial, the Concord Monitor aptly portrays the robotic Romney. "If you were building a Republican presidential candidate from a kit," the paper suggested, in addition to the perfect hair, beautiful wife and business career, "you'd pour in some old GOP bromides." And when it comes to violating Americans' constitutionally-protected liberties, you would end up with Mitt Romney.

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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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