The RAPT file

July 16, 2006

RAPT stands for “Republicans Are Patriots Too”.

John Dean came out with a new book this week, “Conservatives Without Conscience”. In it, he examines the willingness of most elected Republicans and established conservative pundits to embrace a set of policies on the part of the Bush administration which are not at all conservative, but profoundly radical: both in the way they massively increase governmental power, concentrated in the executive branch, and in the way they base foreign policy on a grandiose vision of preventive war and unilateral interventions.

Dean is a lifelong Goldwater conservative. His positions, he says, have not changed, but now he finds himself classified as a “liberal”, because of his criticism of the Bush administration’s departure from conservative principles.

Here I’m interested in the complementary phenomenon: conservatives with a conscience.

From the moment when 9/11 handed Bush and Cheney the tools with which to frighten the American public into agreeing with pretty much anything they proposed, there have been principled conservatives who have pointed out the folly of the Iraq adventure, and the danger to the Constitution of the new dedication to secrecy and to the supremacy of the executive branch. But the Republican establishment laid down a narrative claiming that all criticism of these policies was coming from “the far left”, “the Bush haters”, and from partisan motives.

The mass media supinely accepted that narrative. In the runup to the war, on the rare occasions when they invited opponents of invasion to speak, they selected people like Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, leftists far out of even the liberal mainstream, who could be counted on to go off on tangents about all the horrible things “American imperialism” had done in times past. They did not invite conservatives who were cautioning against the war: Brent Scowcroft, the Cato Institute, Pat Buchanan. That would only have confused the public, which had to understand and accept that no one but America haters could possibly object to the onset of Shock and Awe. And now the same “only partisans and America haters object” narrative is being used in an attempt to silence critics of mass warrantless eavesdropping, torture, rendition, denial of habeas corpus, presidential nullification of laws by “signing statement”, and so on.

I believe it is critical to counter that narrative. So I have begun to collect a little list of pieces by writers with solid Republican, solid conservative credentials, who understand the danger of Bush’s New World Order, and his campaign to eliminate all constitutional checks and balances on executive power. I disagree strongly with much of the political philosophy of these individuals. But our disagreements fall within the long and honorable tug of war between liberal and conservative, whose balance has kept our ship of state on a pretty even course over two hundred odd years. What George Bush, under the tutelage of Vice President Cheney, has undertaken in the past five years is to bore holes in the hull of the ship of state: the seaworthy hull known as the Constitution, which until now had framed and bounded the country’s central political disageements.

This honor roll of conservatives – and there are many more I will never get to – has put patriotism above party. That takes a special order of moral courage, and I am grateful for each one who has stepped forward.

The first batch aren’t in chronological order:

  • William Sessions, named by Reagan as head of the FBI, in a Seattle Post intelligencer op-ed: Bush Stretches Executive Power
  • Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s chief of staff, in the Baltimore Sun: “Is US Being Transformed Into a Radical Republic?”. Mirrored by Truthout
  • .

  • Bob Barr was one of the House managers who argued the case for impeachment against Bill Clinton before the Senate: “Patriot Act Games: It Can Happen Here.
  • Bruce Fein, Associate Deputy Attorney General under Reagan. Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the NSA warrantless wiretapping program.
  • The Cato Institute, a conservative think tank:”Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W. Bush”.
  • The Financial Times, a stolidly pro-business paper in the UK. Behind subscription wall, cached here and here.: “Bush administration’s telephone snooping”.
  • On Iran, even Henry Kissinger advises against pre-emption, and acknowledges that democracy is not the natural result of eliminating a dictatorial regime.
  • Andrew Bacevich, formerly a writer for Weekly Standard and National Review, author of The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War. A two part interview in Tomdispatch,Part one, “The Delusion of Global Hegemony”, and Part two, “Drifting Down the Path to Perdition.”
  • Ronald Bailey of the libertarian Reason magazine, explains why he’s voting Dem for the first time since 1972.

I will update this post periodically over here, to add links to accounts about or by Republicans who are standing up against the Cheney Administration’s seizure of extraconstitutional powers.


One comment

  1. Ron Paul (R-TX) has been an opponent of the USA-PATRIOT Act from the start. He’s one the few real conservatives in Congress, as distinct from the many minions of the Flying Monkey Right.

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