There Stands Schweitzer Like a Stone Wall

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The pernicious
and blatantly unconstitutional REAL ID Act has met with strenuous
objections from many state officials, and, to their credit, some
states have actually taken legislative action to forestall the program's
implementation. Even so, as the Associated Press reported
on March 21, 2008, only Maine, Montana and South Carolina have not
"sought extensions to comply, or already started toward compliance
with Real ID." New Hampshire has asked to be exempted, but
the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has deemed that request
"not legally acceptable." So thus far, out of fifty states,
only four have had the courage to tell the federales to go jump
in a lake.

Now, I understand
that, by filing requests for extensions, other states may be trying
to drag the issue out until after the general election. Some state
lawmakers don't want to comply, but they're afraid they'll be accused
of being "soft on terrorism" (or, even worse, breaking
party ranks — horrors!) if they oppose it outright, so they'd rather
stall in the hope that a new Congress and a new administration might
repeal REAL ID and thereby solve the problem for them. But this
solution, while pragmatic from a certain political point-of-view,
is exacerbating the overall problem of federal usurpation. By filing
for a compliance extension, states are playing by the federal government's
rules, and in doing so they are tacitly acknowledging the legitimacy
of those rules (and the supremacy of those making them). On the
other hand, the non-complying states are sending an entirely different
message to Washington. They are denying that the federal government
has any rightful authority to impose this program at all. In the
process, they are also tacitly arguing that states have a right
to interpret the Constitution for themselves, and to decide when
the federal government has overstepped its bounds.

Enter Montana
Governor Brian Schweitzer.

Schweitzer
is not your typical Democrat. Indeed, he has been called the "antithesis
of the Democrat stereotype." In a 2006 article
in the New York Times, it was said that Schweitzer has "seized
the heartland imagery generally monopolized by Republicans,"
and represents a new "Democratic brand of libertarian-tinged
prairie populism" that may threaten the GOP's traditional hold
on the western states. I can't support Schweitzer on every issue
but I'll take his brand of Democrat over Hillary or Obama anytime.
For instance, on the topic of guns, Schweitzer has remarked that
he owns "more than I need but less than I want," and says,
"In Montana we think gun control is hittin' what you're shootin'
at."

It's hard not
to like a man who thinks that way.

Schweitzer
is also a leading opponent of REAL ID, which he has called
"another harebrained scheme, an unfunded mandate to tell us
that our life is going to be better if we'll just buckle under on
some other kind of rule or regulation." Among America's governors,
he is easily the most outspoken on the issue, and has promised that
Montana will not yield. Regarding the powers-that-think-they-be
in Washington, Schweitzer recently told NPR, "We usually just
play along for a while, we ignore them for as long as we can, and
we try not to bring it to a head. But if it comes to a head, we
found that it's best to just tell them to go to hell and run the
state the way you want to run your state." After hearing Schweitzer
on NPR, Matthew Dunlap, Secretary of State for Maine, commented:
"We were pretty impressed. We hadn't heard rhetoric like that
in many a year."

Schweitzer's
impressive rhetoric stems from the fact that he possesses qualities
that have become increasingly rare in American politics: namely,
principles and guts. He has the courage of his convictions, and,
God bless him, he's doing what he can to inspire others to cultivate
brains and backbones of their own.

On January
18, 2008, Schweitzer sent a letter
to the governors of seventeen states, appealing for their help in
stopping REAL ID. The following are some excerpts from the letter:

Last year,
the Montana Legislature unanimously passed, and I signed, a bill
to prevent our state from participating in Real ID…We recognized
that Real ID was a major threat to the privacy, constitutional
rights, and pocketbooks of ordinary Montanans…

Today, I
am asking you to join with me in resisting the DHS coercion to
comply with provisions of Real ID…I would like us to speak with
one, unified voice and demand that Congress step in and fix this
mess…

[DHS] Secretary
Chertoff's remarks yesterday, albeit about WHTI,
not Real ID, reflect DHS continued disrespect for the serious
and legitimate concerns of our citizens. I take great offense
at this notion we should all simply "grow up." Please
do not accept the Faustian bargain of applying for the DHS extension.
If we stand together, either DHS will blink or Congress will have
to act to avoid havoc at our nation's airports and federal courthouses.

According to
the Associated Press, as of March 14, Schweitzer's office had been
flooded with a grand total of two replies, "both simply acknowledging
receipt of the letter." Tragically, this fact upholds my long-standing
suspicion that, among America's elected officials, the women aren't
the only ones wearing panties.

For his part,
however, Schweitzer continues to soldier on.

On March 21,
Montana's Attorney General, Mike McGrath, sent a letter
to DHS Secretary Chertoff, informing him that Montana's licensing
requirements are already "one of the most secure in the nation,"
and that he cannot authorize implementation of REAL ID because the
Montana legislature has forbidden it. McGrath also asked that DHS
not take any steps that would "penalize Montanans' ability
to use their valid Montana drivers licenses for federal identification
purposes and commercial air travel." DHS replied that it would
have to treat McGrath's letter as "a request for an extension,"
to which Governor Schweitzer responded,
"I sent them a horse and if they want to call it a zebra, that's
up to them. They can call it whatever they want, and it wasn't a
love letter."

Principles
and guts, ladies and gentlemen. Principles and guts.

The battle
over REAL ID is one that we cannot afford to lose. Its implementation
would mark the beginning of a new era in America's decline, and
not just because it would limit the average American's ability to
board an airplane or enter a federal building. REAL ID will do far
more than that. If successful, it will very quickly become the standard
for identification purposes in every area of life and business where
the federal government is involved, and there are precious few areas
where it is not involved these days, thanks mainly to the war on
drugs and the People's glorious income tax system. You may be required
to produce a REAL ID if you start a new job; open a bank account;
buy a gun (and most likely ammunition, too); or even to purchase
certain over-the-counter medicines, as DHS Assistant Secretary for
Policy Stewart Baker recently told
the Heritage Foundation. I can even foresee a time when you may
not be permitted to vote without the Mark of the Bush on your person.

REAL ID will
also become a patriotic shibboleth test and a law enforcement red
flag. The Department of Homeland Security, working closely with
law enforcement officials in collaborating — er, cooperating — states,
will instruct officers to be on the look-out for vehicles with tags
from non-complying states. Drivers of such vehicles will be pulled
over more often, searched more often, and generally harassed and
subjected to thuggery more often. Count on it. DHS and state officials
may deny it — or not, in this age of brazen police-state tactics
and intimidation — but, either way, it will happen. These people
are on a witch hunt, and anyone who dares to challenge their methods
is automatically under suspicion of having a broom and a pointy
hat hidden away in his or her closet.

In a nutshell,
REAL ID will, for the first time, give the federal government real
power to destroy the lives of political dissenters; not by direct
means, as this would assuredly spark a rebellion, but by indirect
means. By simply denying an individual the ability to live a normal
life. By blocking them in at every turn. By treating them like outcasts,
if not virtual traitors. If you doubt that such things could ever
happen here in America, I would encourage you to research civil
liberties under Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt, and particularly
under Abraham Lincoln. There was a time in this country when it
was considered the height of patriotism to harass and imprison those
who criticized the government, to burn the towns and fields of dissenters,
and to steal food from the mouths of women and children in the name
of the flag. Our leaders are openly following
in the ideological footsteps of the tyrants of the past, and, sadly,
some
in the highest courts in the land are prepared to excuse their abuses.

Not
only can it happen here, it already has happened here.
And it can and will happen again unless those in positions of responsibility,
like Governor Brian Schweitzer, stand up to tyranny, look it in
the eye, and call it what it is, even when it comes wrapped in red-white-and-blue
packaging. Furthermore, such brave men and women will need the support
— the very loud and public support — of every single American who
cares enough about freedom to do something more than complain about
its decline. The Washington establishment must know that people
like Schweitzer have our active support, and that we will
do everything in our power to oppose the overthrow of this republic.
Write and call your elected officials. Let them know that REAL ID
is an affront to the principles of American liberty and that it
must be repealed. Give them the example of Schweitzer. Ask that
they not let him be the lone voice for sanity and freedom among
America's governors where REAL ID is concerned. Encourage them to
stand with him. Point out that REAL ID was never
even debated
by Congress, but was attached as a rider to an
"emergency" war-funding bill! Remind them that states
do have the right
to oppose
unconstitutional federal edicts. In fact, I would
go further than that — remind them that they are sworn to uphold
the Constitution of the United States, and thus that they are obligated
to oppose its violation. And above all, let them know that, if they
will stand for you, you will stand with them.

There stands
Schweitzer like a stone wall. Rally behind the Montanans!

April
2, 2008

Robert Hawes
is the author of One
Nation, Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution
.
This article, along with his past writings, can be found on his
blog
. He lives in South Carolina with his family, and is working
on a career as a freelance writer.

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