Sunday, July 15, 2007

Conservatives Challenge Presidential Power Grab, Demand Reforms to Restore Checks and Balances, Protect Civil Liberties

The following is a press release from American Freedom Agenda

WASHINGTON– An alliance of prominent national conservatives today announced the formation of the American Freedom Agenda (AFA), a campaign to restore governmental checks and balances and civil liberties protections under assault by the current Administration.

The AFA’s mission is to reign in abuses of executive power that reach into three primary realms of our national foundation of government that have the greatest likelihood of adversely affecting personal liberties without appropriate checks and balances: the judicial and criminal justice system; national security; and the proper role of congressional oversight.

The launch of the AFA, and its mission to restore executive accountability, Tuesday coincided on the same day that the Justice Department’s Inspector General testified before Congress on his findings regarding DOJ’s misuse of its power to use warrantless searches to secretly go through people’s financial, Internet and other records. In addition to these hearings, the introduction of the AFA occurred in a week where Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez is facing calls for his resignation from some Members of Congress in light of a series of revelations over the abuse of executive power ranging from the FBI’s exploitation of national security letters of inquiry to controversy over misleading statements by DOJ and White House officials regarding the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys.

“The controversy with the Attorney General is symptomatic of a more serious illness within this Administration – which is the desire for unchecked power,” said AFA Chairman Bruce Fein. “As fellow conservatives, we believe we have a greater responsibility than most to stand up to this particular Administration and demand that it respect the checks and balances established by the Founding Fathers. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, regardless of party affiliation, and we can no more remain silent to the abuses occurring under President Bush than we could if a President Clinton were in office. In advancing the American Freedom Agenda, we are all Conservatives, we are all Liberals, we are all Republicans, we are all Democrats. We are above all Americans who cherish the Constitution more than partisan advantage.”

Fein, a constitutional scholar and former Associate Deputy Attorney General under President Reagan, was joined at the launch of the AFA by David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots conservative lobbying organization; Richard Viguerie, a writer and political activist who is considered one of the main architects of the conservative grassroots movement over the past quarter century; and Bob Barr, a former Member of Congress who served as an impeachment manager of President Clinton.

At its launch, the AFA outlined a legislative package that would bind the current and all future occupants of the White House, irrespective of party affiliation, to restore congressional oversight, personal civil liberties, and governmental checks and balances through the following:
*Restore habeas corpus to prevent the illegal imprisonment of American citizens;
*Prohibit torture and extraordinary rendition;
*Prohibit unconstitutional wiretaps, email and mail openings via warrantless searches;
*Protect journalists from prosecution under the Espionage Act for reporting on stories on national significance that do not reveal troop locations;
*Prohibit Presidential Signing Statements that allow the President to sign into law legislation passed by Congress while rejecting line-item aspects of that same law;
*Reform the ability of the federal government to win dismissal of constitutional grievances by private parties by claiming state secrets;
*Reform executive privilege by creating legislative-executive committees to arbitrate disputes.

“We do not favor a crippled Executive,” said Congressman Barr, who will work with his former colleagues to seek passage of the AFA’s legislative package. “Rather, it is our belief that in times of danger, checks and balances will make for a stronger – not weaker – government because the people will more readily accept a muscular Executive if barriers against abuses are strong. We want to ensure that no man is above the law.”

Keene and Viguerie, two of the most active conservatives in working to build a national grassroots conservative movement during the past decades, noted that one of the key objectives of the AFA would be to create a national grassroots network of support for the effort to return to basic conservative values that cherish individual liberty over excessive governmental power.

“We’ve spent the greater part of our lives working to build a national network of like-minded conservatives who remain true to the founding principles of our country, outlined in our Constitution, and we do not believe that any President– Republican or Democrat – trumps these principles,” the two men said. “We plan to work through our networks, and to reach out to all Americans, regardless of partisan or ideological affiliation, to build a movement that demands that our government return to those principles upon which our nation was founded.”

As a means to gauge the seriousness of current candidates for the Office of the President, the AFA unveiled a "Freedom Pledge," based on the principles outlined in its legislative package, which it is issuing to all Presidential candidates of both parties to sign.
Congressman Ron Paul, who has announced his candidacy for the Presidency, has signed the pledge, and the AFA will continue to work with the campaigns of all other candidates of both parties to secure their signatures, especially Republican aspirants.
My commentary: I applaud these prominent conservative luminaries for their patriotism and putting country above party and initiating the freedom pledge. Look at the list of complaints. These are serious charges. With our constitutional liberties under attack, it is no time to play partisan politics. Richard Viguerie has been called the “funding father” of the modern grassroots conservative movement and has been the fundraiser for dozens of conservative organization for the last thirty-five years. With people like Barr, David Keen and Richard Viguerie taking the lead, no one can claim that the criticism of Bush is simply a left-wing effort to get Bush. It is time for other Republican candidates to step up to the plate and take the pledge.

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