Kerry's Record on Civil Liberties

In a recent post I used the term "unknown quantity" to describe John F Kerry. The following
illustrates Mr. Kerry's historical ambivalence with civil liberties and how he and John Aschroft, though long time political rivals, have argued from different sides of the fence.

Consider then Senator Ashcroft's response to the Secure Public Networks Act, co-sponsored by John F Kerry back in 1997.

"To date, we have heard a great deal about the needs of law enforcement and not enough about the privacy needs of the rest of us," said then-Sen. Ashcroft in a 1997 speech to the Computer and Communications Industry Association. "While we need to revise our laws to reflect the digital age, one thing that does not need revision is the Fourth Amendment... Now, more than ever, we must protect citizens' privacy from the excesses of an arrogant, overly powerful government."


Curbing privacy in the service of a hungry state has been a bipartisan game for some years now. Prior to the current Administration, I considered the Clinton Administration to be the most civil-liberty unfriendly administration.

It was also disappointing to see Senator Kerry allow himself to be stampeded into voting for the USA PATRIOT Act.

However, unlike Atty Gen Ashcroft or President Bush, he is willing to fix the Act's most serious problems. I learned in the last week that he is a cosponsor of the SAFE Act, S 1709. You can find the text of this Act at>. I think it contains some common sense fixes and provides protection for American's reading habits that shouldn't be controversial if the Atty Gen is serious about not caring about reading habits.

The following senators on both sides of the aisle cosponsored this sensible reform:

Sen Akaka, Daniel K. [HI] - 4/7/2004 Sen Bingaman, Jeff [NM] - 10/2/2003
Sen Cantwell, Maria [WA] - 11/11/2003 Sen Corzine, Jon [NJ] - 3/26/2004
Sen Crapo, Michael D. [ID] - 10/2/2003 Sen Dodd, Christopher J. [CT] - 2/2/2004
Sen Durbin, Richard J. [IL] - 10/2/2003 Sen Feingold, Russell D. [WI] - 10/2/2003
Sen Harkin, Tom [IA] - 4/6/2004 Sen Jeffords, James M. [VT] - 2/27/2004
Sen Kennedy, Edward M. [MA] - 11/18/2003 Sen Kerry, John F. [MA] - 11/11/2003
Sen Lautenberg, Frank R. [NJ] - 5/6/2004 Sen Lincoln, Blanche [AR] - 1/20/2004
Sen Murkowski, Lisa [AK] - 10/15/2003 Sen Reid, Harry M. [NV] - 11/25/2003
Sen Specter, Arlen [PA] - 3/22/2004 Sen Sununu, John E. [NH] - 10/2/2003
Sen Wyden, Ron [OR] - 10/2/2003

Do I wish that Kerry had seen the light earlier? Sure. Would I speak out against him if changes his mind after the election? You bet! However, to me, betting on someone who says, "OK, we need to fix things, but perhaps I'll change my mind" is better than, "I'm definitely going to give you more of the same, and if you don't like it, you must love terrorists!"

In light of his sponsorship of SAFE, I guess Kerry does see a few more problems with PA than "John Ashcroft." May he persist in his wisdom.

It was also disappointing to see Senator Kerry allow himself to be stampeded into voting for the USA PATRIOT Act.

Daniel, respectfully, we are speaking of a United States Senator here, not a Kansas prairie dog. Why the victimization here? Why the pass on accountability? Certainly a fellow like you, whom I respect, hasn't become so blinded by your hatred for anything remotely Bush as to make statements such as this. Why not rip him just as you would Cheney et al for the Patriot Act?

That was then, this is now. Bush pere did much the same thing, swinging an opinion into party-line when Reagan tapped him to be VeeP. Bush fils has a few examples of blowing hot and cold that I'm aware of.

What difference does it make? They're all murderous pigs anyway.

Hi Tomeboy,

I need some clarifications so I can better answer your question, because I wonder if you might have conflated my response with others. Please elaborate on:

1) Why the victimization here? - Who am I victimizing?

2) Why the pass on accountability? - I pointed out that Kerry voted for USAPA -- the same as everyone except Sen. Feingold -- that sounds like a stampede to me. I pledged to work against Kerry if he drops his support for the SAFE Act. How am I not holding him accountable?

3) "your hatred for anything remotely Bush as to make statements such as this."

I have praised the President for specific actions in the past (sending peacekeepers to Haiti, etc) and in a few cases, pointed out where his critics are wrong. I do not use personally insulting language to describe the President and discourage others from doing so.

I do believe that overall, the President's policies are bad for America, leading to less freedom and more intrusive government at home, and to greater hatred and terrorist recruitment abroad. I also object to his administration's obsession with secrecy. Still, I do not believe that this adds up to "hatred for anything remotely Bush"

Every time I read LISNews at break time, I tell myself that I'm not going to post any responses, even if I have one ready. Nearly every time, I break this promise to myself, often to my regret.

So, Tomeboy, in this spirit, I withdraw my first "request for clarification" as to "victimatization." I believe that your context makes it clear that I make Kerry out as a victim for "allowing himself to be stampeded", along with the rest of the Senate save Russ Feingold.

This seems like a fair charge for you to make, seeing as how Kerry isn't saying he was bamboozled into voting for USAPA. If Feingold and some House members could stand up for what was right, then Sen. Kerry could have too.

Let me amend that part of my original posting to "I was very disappointed that Kerry voted USAPA, but somewhat mollified that he has cosponsored the SAFE Act."

I still think that I am holding Kerry accountable and don't believe that I harbor "hatred for anything remotely Bush." If the President decides to support the reasonable reforms set out in the SAFE Act, I will write here and elsewhere about his newfound belief in protecting America's civil liberties.

Anyway, next time I'll try to let more time elapse between reading and writing.

Fair enough!