I suppose they just can’t help themselves, sometimes.
I support the American Civil Liberties Union because of its mission, and because it is on the correct side of issues more often than not. Still, it is stocked with left-wing ideologues, and too often is blatantly political, which damages its reputation, perceived integrity and effectiveness. Every American should be a supporter of a non-profit organization that stands for individual rights and freedoms as defined by the Constitution. Once such a group aligns itself clearly with one side of the political spectrum, however, this is impossible. At very least, the organization should refrain from partisan political attacks, which raises questions of conflict of interest, fairness, and independent judgment. The ACLU is too important to sully with political bias, but since it is run by people full of it, such taint is inevitable.*
Thus we have the embarrassing “report” by ACLU Liberty Watch. I can’t tell what the affiliation with the ACLU is; I assume that the ACLU approves and oversees an entity that leads with its name. This report attacks Mitt Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, as being “anti-civil liberties,” using the most dubious and extreme rationales to do so. My instant reaction: How can I trust an organization that proudly publishes such slanted trash with such obvious partisan intent to be a dispassionate watchdog on my civil liberties?
The answer: I can’t. Neither can you.
- The report says Ryan is “anti-civil rights” regarding immigration. Why? Because he “believes efforts should be focused on border security and that pursuing the DREAM Act at this time would be a “serious mistake.” How are either of these beliefs—which I share, incidentally—indicative of hostility to civil rights? By what definition of civil rights is the U.S. obligated not to manage its borders or to provide an incentive for aliens to illegally carry their minor children across the border in defiance of U.S. law? Never mind whether or not you agree with the policy of encouraging and enabling illegal immigration—the contention that supporting strict enforcement of immigration laws is “anti-civil rights” is indefensible.
- The report says Ryan is “anti-civil rights” regarding “reproductive freedom” (a euphemism) because he opposes abortion and government funding of contraception. Regarding civil rights, Ryan, like many Americans, is focusing on the civil rights of individuals—the unborn– that the ACLU chooses to argue don’t have rights. That does not make Ryan any more “anti-civil rights” than the ACLU. Nor has it ever been established that it is a civil right to have the government pay for your contraception. If you think it should be, fine—make the case. But opposing an argument for establishing a right is not the same as opposing civil rights.
- The report says Ryan is “anti-civil rights” regarding torture and indefinite detention policy, and says this is the reason: he “voted against defense legislation that authorizes the President to send the military anywhere in the world to imprison civilians without charge or trial.” Does that make sense to you? I’ve read it ten times. Is this a typo? Can someone explain what the ACLU is arguing here?
- Finally, the report says Ryan is “anti-civil rights” regarding voting rights, because he approves of voter ID laws…you know, like the U.S. Supreme Court. I guess supporting voter registration is also “anti-civil rights.” The ACLU report uses the worst kind of dishonest language here, real attack ad advocacy tricks, saying that Ryan believes “discriminatory voter ID laws are important and improve integrity in elections.” A lie. He believes voter ID laws are important and improve integrity in elections. Nobody has shown conclusively that such laws have the effect of discriminating, and that is not their intent, despite what the President’s politicized Attorney General tells Al Sharpton’s followers. Again, debate the balancing of allowing something as important as a vote be less secure than renting a car or flying in a plane, and making a dedicated voter pay the 20 bucks it might take to get an ID so elections aren’t stolen, but don’t tell us that Ryan is “anti-civil rights” because of the completely legitimate position he has sided with in a close issue.
On a fifth issue, the ACLU is correct that Ryan’s opposition to equal rights for gays in the military, marriage and elsewhere is hostile to civil rights principles. The rest? Pure, unvarnished partisan politicking, with lazy logic and unfair word games mixed in.
Really, really dumb, ACLU. Integrity is a terrible thing to waste.
* I thought this passage was sufficiently clear, but apparently not, based on some of the comments below. Let me be clearer. The ACLU needs to be an absolutist defender of constitutional rights, standing for the rights themselves, regardless of who the violators are and what their reasons may be, and regardless of who the victims are. Engaging in partisanship destroys the organization’s claim to be an unbiased defender of freedom, If it shows itself more sensitive to violations of basic rights by one side of the political spectrum or against one side, while overlooking other equally egregious conduct when it is either engaged in by the other side, then any future position taken by the ACLU is vulnerable to attack on the grounds that it is based on politics rather than an unbiased fealty to the Bill of Rights. If the ACLU is not perceived as being blind to politics and ideology, then cannot be as effective, because it will have no moral authority.
It is not blind to politics. As the Ryan “report” shows, it doesn’t even attempt to be.
Pointer: The Daily Caller
Facts: ACLU Liberty Watch
Graphic: Columbia SEO Consulting