19 January 2010

Where's the conservative skepticism?

I posted my thoughts on the Massachusetts special election yesterday. Today, before a trip to the Northwoods of Wisconsin for the rest of the week, I'm back to conservatism and civil liberties.

Thanks once again to Radley Balko's tremendous blog, The Agitator, I discovered an op-ed from the Richmond Times-Dispatch tackling a topic I've dealt with several times before on this site -- 21st century conservatives' unfailing deference to the government on law enforcement issues. My prior thoughts on the topic can be found here and here.

Among the many problems with the Republican Party's espoused position on national security, law enforcement, "enhanced interrogation" and the like is that party kool-aid drinkers are happy to afford Bush, Cheney, et al. all the discretion in the world, but when a Democratic administration sweeps into office, conservatives' opinion of their government takes a sharp 180.

How can a group of people that proclaims so much collective skepticism about the government's ability to do anything correctly -- financial regulation, health care, education and a thousand other issues where the federal government has routinely and completely failed -- be willing to afford such unbridled discretion to their leaders?

Furthermore, how can these so-called "conservatives" -- allegedly, ideological descendants of Edmund Burke, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton -- possibly reconcile their mistrust of the government on virtually every other issue with their support of the Bush administration's unabashed encroachment on the constitutional protections afforded every American citizen?

Furthermore, it is supremely disappointing that most conservatives seem not to care that the information obtained from tortured detainees has been found to be of highly questionable utility. Among the many Americans who have pointed out the folly of inhumane treatment is the man who undoubtedly has the most credibility in America on torture matters, John McCain.

Since the Obama administration took office last January, conservative opinion leaders everywhere -- at the Wall Street Journal, National Review, the Weekly Standard, on Fox News, talk radio and elsewhere -- have repeatedly argued that, to hand over government control of health care to the same people who handle the IRS and the Postal Service would be a disaster.

A. Barton Hinkle, the author of the above-linked op-ed in the Richmond paper, asked this question: "Do conservatives who speculate that the government which would ship granny off to a death panel think it will exercise greater care in deciding who ought to be tortured, and how much?"

I fear that modern conservatism is a movement that has become far too dense to recognize this glaring contradiction.

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