Role Reversal: A Response to Readers

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In my 6-29-04 column, "Role Reversal," I pointed out that now it is the Republicans who argue that government can be trusted with any amount of power in the name of the "war on terror." I quoted from Al Gore’s speech at Georgetown University Law Center, in which Gore argued that the "war on terror" was in fact a war against our constitutional and legal rights. I also noted that Senator Robert Byrd had predicted this consequence and described Byrd as "the Constitution’s greatest — and perhaps only — defender in the US government."

I received about 40 e-mail messages reminding me of Rep. Ron Paul. I certainly agree that Ron Paul is a defender of the Constitution. I had considered how to include him while putting pen to paper. The problem is that Ron Paul, while nominally a Republican, is not really a Republican. Nor is he a Democrat. Ron Paul is unique, a throwback to the Founding Fathers. A man of neither party, he does not fit a story of party role reversal.

Some of the e-mail messages took me to task for describing Senator Byrd as a defender of the Constitution, the argument being that he votes for big spending and that big spending is not constitutional.

Alas, big spending became the norm long ago, and Senator Byrd is not responsible for this development. He does his job of getting as much as he can for his relatively poor state — thus his long tenure in the Senate.

Senator Byrd has a long established record as a defender of the separation of powers, by which the Founding Fathers sought to prevent the rise of tyrannical government. Senator Byrd speaks out when the executive branch attempts to make new inroads into the legislative preserve. Many simply take the growing power of the executive for granted, but not Senator Byrd.

A few readers took me to task for attributing any meaning to Al Gore’s defense of our constitutional rights, dismissing Gore’s defense as partisan politics. Perhaps, but the day to fear is when our civil liberties are assaulted and no politician mentions the Constitution or protests a rising executive dictatorship.

Dr. Roberts [send him mail] is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

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