Saturday, November 26, 2005

Pat Robertson interviews John Ashcroft

My TiVo has just earned itself another Third Path Medal of Freedom. As I write this, it's Saturday, 2005-11-26, but I'm watching the CBN News from a week ago Thursday, 2005-11-17. CBN is the Christian Broadcasting Network, built by and around the Allegedly Reverend Pat Robertson, the batshit-insane lunatic who openly called for the assassination of the President of Venezuela. Mostly, Pat prefers to drink his protein shakes off-camera and let someone else play pretend news anchor, but occasionally he conducts an interview himself. Last Thursday, Marion ("Pat") interviewed former Senator (beaten for re-election by a dead guy) and former Attorney General (anointed himself with olive oil on taking office), fellow batshit-insane lunatic John David Ashcroft. The text of the interview sheds considerable light on both men's psychoses.

John Ashcroft: The Patriot Act has basically taken authorities that already existed in the law, were tested constitutionally, et cetera, in other areas of the law, and brought them over into the fight against terror. For example, the so-called "roving wiretap" [...snip...] We started doing that in 1988 against drug dealers, and it's worked well against drug dealers. I think if it works against drug dealers, we ought to have that authority available against terrorists.

Pat Robertson: That's like a no-brainer. What is all the furor from the people who are opposing it? They certainly couldn't oppose that.

JA: Well, it's sort of furor in theory, because there haven't been any people who have been able to stand up and say, with any convincing authority, that the Patriot Act has been offensive. It fails what I call the "name one" test. People say everybody's being abused by this — well, name one person. It's been in effect now for about 4 years, and I think somewhere, if it's a really dangerous deal, you'd be able to name one. It is important, because we used the Act, because we needed expanded authorities, the same kind of robust authorities we had against drug dealers and organized criminals, we needed that against terrorists.

PR: Well, there was a disconnect, too, between foreign intelligence and domestic intelligence, and agencies didn't talk to each other. Do they talk to each other now?

JA: Yeah, they do. There was a barrier, and it was an official policy, and tragically in August 2001, we later discovered a memo written by one agent that said, "This is going to cost us lives, and the only person that will benefit from this policy of this barrier is Osama bin Laden." That's how prophetic that memo was.

PR: It's interesting — the person who authored the barrier is then sitting on the 9/11 Commission, and you pointed that out in your testimony, as I recall.

JA: Well, I tried to do it pretty gently, but I thought the Commission should include an examination of that barrier. Of course, the Patriot Act explicitly took the barrier down. You know, the President, as soon as we had 9/11, he got rid of the barrier in this respect: he brought the FBI director, the Attorney General, the CIA director, into his office every morning. We met every morning in President Bush's office, and he made sure there was communication. When the President looks you in the eye and says, "Have you guys talked about this?" —

PR: You'd better talk!

JA: — you know, it has a way of loosening up the lines of communication.

PR: What about terrorism now? Is al Qaeda planning something? Do you think they can get a foothold and accomplish something here in this country, or have we shut 'em down?

JA: I have no doubt that we are high on their aspiration list. I believe that they would rather hit us than virtually anybody else in the world. They would love to be able to do something, and I think we need to be very careful, and I don't know if we're ever going to be able to confidently say it can't happen here, because as soon as we say it can't happen here, that elevates the risk of it [sic] happening here.

PR: Well, we're a free society. You can't shut down with so much. One last question: is the President doing it right? The media just beats him up unmercilessly [sic], but he seems to be fighting back. What do you think?

JA: Well, you know, I think there are only two times to fight tyranny. One is when the press will say it's too early, and the other is when the press will say it's too late. I think we went to fight Hitler too late, and it cost the world 50 million lives. If you've got to make a decision to either [fight tyranny] too early or too late, mark me down for too early. When we work to defend our interests and we encounter other nations, it's not for purposes of domination. That's not America's footprint. America's way of doing things is we work for liberation. The best thing that ever happens to a country

PR: — is for us to come in!

JA:is us to be involved, and then to help them have the kind of freedom that I think God intended all people to enjoy.
Okely-dokely. Where do I start? God intended that all people enjoy the freedom that can only come from being "encountered" by the United States. (That must be "encountered" in the sense that the really creepy defendant on Boston Legal "encountered" his 13-year-old victim.) On the topic of roving wiretaps, I see them as a reasonable extension of existing authorities so long as the roving wiretap still has to be under a warrant "upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation," particularly describing the person to be monitored. As for "name one," I challenge you to name one person whose library records have been invaded inappropriately under the Patriot Act. Oh, but wait! The person whose records were invaded probably doesn't know, and the librarian is ordered never to tell anyone!

Now, bear in mind — from watching him hawk his "age-defying shakes" on the NEWS — that Pat Robertson has all the credibility as a religious leader of a spammer pumping "herbal v1agra" in your e-mail. That any supposed religious leader has done anything less than demand Robertson's immediate retirement — from his ministry, from television, from publishing, from making or marketing any product or service — is a sign that those leaders place either Fear or Greed above their belief in God. Pat Robertson is either insane or he is possessed by demons, because he does not follow the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have in the past been unkind in my mockery of televangelist Jack van Impe, but I respect and admire his statement about Robertson:
Not only that, but Mr. Robertson, you are pro-life, and yet you wanted the members of the Supreme Court to die last year, and now the president of Venezuela. We believe this book. Thou shalt not kill — Exodus 20:13. My Bible says that this is wrong, and I want to challenge you right now to change your ways, because we as Christians do not need an Osama Bin Laden leading us. — Jack van Impe, 2005-08-30
What I've been saying for over four years now is that the struggle is not "America versus extremist Islamic zealots." The struggle is "America versus extremist zealots," period. The American people's and the world's best interests are over on one side, and Pat Robertson, Osama bin Laden, George W. Bush, and even sometimes the lefties in San Francisco are on the other sides.

Seriously, as long as we were passing a meaningless resolution, couldn't we have actually said what we really wanted to say: "We, the people of San Francisco, love our country and cherish the freedoms that many have fought and died for. However, widespread reports of abuses in military recruiting, especially when coupled with diminishing non-military opportunities for many disadvantaged young persons, give us great concern. We stand opposed to coercion, manipulation, and deception by any military recruiter, and we support the creation and funding of strong nationwide programs to increase non-military opportunities for disadvantaged high school graduates." Really — was it worth putting our foot in our civic mouth, just to get Bill O'Reilly to say something even more dimwitted than his usual drivel??

But as I was saying, it is extremism that is our enemy, and fundamentalism is immutably extremist in nature. That gets at my title for this blog: the Third path. The third path between the Taliban's perversion of Islam and Pat Robertson's jingoistic parody of Christianity is a little concept called religious freedom. The third path between suicide bombers and launching an unprovoked war is to find the best way to actually stop the suicide bombers. In particular, what is the United States doing to address the concern that we are effectively recruiting new insurgents / terrorists / martyrs faster than we can kill them? Are we really doing all we can to choke off their funding? Are we really doing all we can to improve our intelligence to anticipate their moves? For example, does the money we're wasting on the war on marijuana, or the fact that we kick Arabic translators out of the military just because they're homosekthual, make any sense if we are truly making it a priority to combat terrorism? In Washington and Sacramento, the third path between Republican posturing and Democratic posturing is to work on building a bipartisan consensus.

But most of all I think it should have been left up to the Iraqi people in 2003 to decide if our liberating them was not the best way for them to proceed, and I think it should be left up to the Iraqi people now to decide if our continued military presence is not the best thing for their country. They're having elections in less than three weeks. If the new Iraqi government wants to have any credibility at all, it will ask for an accelerated withdrawal of coalition troops. If the Iraqi government needs support from any foreign troops, it can invite them on terms it negociates.

P.S. You can read the transcript of the full Robertson-Ashcroft interview — not just the segment that aired on The 700 Club — by going here.