Senator George Allen of Virginia declared “We’re all conservatives” as he addressed the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). But Allen was badly misinformed. One group attending and sponsoring CPAC this year was the Marijuana Policy Project, which is actually run by a convicted drug dealer. Other groups attending and co-sponsoring CPAC were the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the George Soros-funded Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).
This bizarre turn of events demonstrates that some conservatives have lost their nerve in the war on drugs-and also in the war on terrorism. It is a story worth telling, especially because so many true conservatives told me how disgusted they were by the strange nature of this year’s “largest gathering of conservatives nationwide,” as CPAC advertises itself.
This year the DPA and Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) were actually put in charge of a CPAC panel on drug policy, which they were going to dominate 2-1 against Calvina Fay of the Drug Free America Foundation. Fay pulled out in disgust, even complaining that members of the pro-drug groups were harassing her associates.
Informed about this development, Rep. Mark E. Souder put a statement in the Congressional Record asking, “What on earth were the CPAC organizers thinking? Why would the American Conservative Union (ACU) allow extremist liberals like George Soros and Peter Lewis (who is responsible for most of MPP’s funding) to access a meeting of conservatives? And, in exactly whose estimation would there be balance in a debate moderated by the MPP?”
In another case of strange bedfellows, the DPA has joined the ACU and other conservative and liberal groups as a member of the Liberty Coalition, which sponsored the Martin Luther King Day speech by Al Gore attacking the Bush Administration’s NSA surveillance program. Left-wing members of the Liberty Coalition include the ACLU, People for the American Way, MoveOn.org, Common Cause, Democrats.com, and others.
Bob Barr, a former conservative congressman who helped impeach President Clinton, is in the middle of this. Barr, who has become an ACLU consultant and member of the Liberty Coalition, debated Viet Dinh, a former Bush Justice Department official, at CPAC on the issue of privacy rights and the war on terrorism. One member of the audience, during the question-and-answer period, put Barr on the spot, demanding to know why he was associating with Al Gore and far-left groups like MoveOn.org, another Liberty Coalition member.
While he was in fact scheduled to introduce Gore at that Liberty Coalition event from a remote location, technical difficulties prevented him from doing so. Barr defended his association with Al Gore and the Liberty Coalition but said that he had nothing to do with MoveOn.org, a group created to save President Clinton from the impeachment drive that Barr helped organize. Nevertheless, they are members of the same “coalition.”
It is interesting to note that Barr’s biography, as published in the official CPAC program, omitted his work for the ACLU. Instead, it highlighted his work with the ACU and NRA. But the bio on his own website admits it, saying that he “provides advice to several organizations, including consulting on privacy issues with the ACLU?”
The omission in his CPAC bio may suggest that Barr knows that he is associating with a group that is anathema to conservatives. The first President Bush made political gains by attacking his Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis, as a card-carrying member of the ACLU. Among its controversial positions on domestic and social issues, the ACLU favors the legalization of the possession and distribution of child pornography, as well as the legalization of dangerous drugs. On foreign affairs, it is quick to go to the defense of suspected terrorists in U.S. custody who claim to have been mistreated.
Working with the ACLU might make some sense if Barr and his left-wing associates had come together to protest specific and documented cases of abuse of civil liberties by the administration. One such case, which AIM has written extensively about, is that of Steven Hatfill, the former U.S. government scientist whose career and life were ruined after being unfairly targeted as a “person of interest” in the FBI investigation of the post-9/11 anthrax murders, which are still officially unsolved. Hatfill has not been charged, and there is no evidence against him. But the FBI won’t apologize or clear him. Hatfill has been forced to go to court against the Justice Department and the journalists who defamed him.
More than a year ago I provided Bob Barr extensive material about the case, thinking he would write about it for the Wall Street Journal in a column about the federal government and civil liberties. But his Journal article appeared without any mention of it.
I never expected that the ACLU would go to Hatfill’s defense. He isn’t the ACLU’s kind of client because he is a patriot who believes in fighting the war on terrorism. The ACLU and the media tend to go to the defense of those with a left-wing or anti-American bent. It’s inexplicable why Bob Barr and other conservatives in the Liberty Coalition have not rallied to Hatfill’s defense, in a case where they could really make a difference for the better.
If they won’t defend Hatfill’s civil liberties, in a concrete example of federal abuse of power, then what is the point of their “Liberty Coalition” anyway? Like the case of CPAC, the Liberty Coalition looks like an exercise in which the left-wingers are taking conservatives for a ride. And it also looks like Al Gore’s friend Ted Kennedy is the driver.