At his town meeting in New Hampshire, President Obama urged people not to listen to those who seek to “scare and mislead the American people.” Meanwhile, his new White House website “Reality Check” – your tax dollars at work, folks, on political propaganda – warns supporters that “the road ahead will surely reveal more aggressive efforts from defenders of the status quo to confuse and scare Americans with half-truths and outright lies.”
I immediately thought of former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s notorious declaration in December 2001: “to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve.”
Presidents and their teams don’t like criticism. They have total access to the media – primetime, nationally televised speeches and press conferences, weekly radio addresses, websites, massive party and political organizations, journalists at their beck and call. Their every passing comment is news. Their speeches dominate the headlines. They set the agenda, whether it’s the Patriot Act or health care bills. And yet they can’t abide criticism.
And when the criticism is effective, they lash out. They denounce their opponents for seeking to ”scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberties” or “confuse and scare Americans with half-truths and outright lies.” (Quick: which one of those was 2001, and which was 2009?)
But the fact is that the Bush administration’s actions after 9/11 really did result in a loss of liberty, and the Obama administration’s plans for our health care really should scare Americans. And libertarians have been, and will continue to be, in the forefront of Americans resisting intrusions on liberty by administrations from both parties. They won’t be dissuaded by Nixonian claims that dissent and criticism are divisive and damaging to national unity.