Last night, former 2000 presidential candidate Pat Buchanan and Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), debated on the subject of civil liberties to a half-filled audience at Bailey Hall. Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations, acted as mediator of the event.
The debate opened with approximately twenty-minute introductory remarks by each speaker. Strossen stressed the necessity of the government to protect individual freedoms as it implements policies to ensure the safety of its people. She specifically criticized the Bush Administration’s current increase in governmental autonomy over the rights of the people.
“This is about the core traditional American values enshrined in our Constitution. We should look behind any label the government places on its policies and see to it that they enforce maximal security with minimal costs. Too many of their policies after 9/11 have made us less free without being more safe,” Strossen said.
According to Strossen, “examples of such unjustified post-9/11 policies” include the Total Informational Awareness Program, secret military tribunals, deportations and arrests, new FBI guidelines that allow spying without suspicion and the unilateral Presidential power to imprison citizens without trial or charge.
“Bush, Ashcroft and others have constantly targeted people not because of what they’ve done but who they are. All of us, every single one of us is significantly less free without corresponding gains in security,” Strossen said.
As a counterargument to Strossen’s emphasis on the governmental assertion of authority during the current terrorism and Iraqi crises, Buchanan responded with historical accounts of presidential violations of national laws.
“During the Civil War, President Lincoln made himself an absolute dictator, and now liberals regard him as one of the greatest heroes in the country,” Buchanan said.
He also pointed to the espionage and sedition acts that were implemented during the Wilson Administration and the encampment of Japanese Americans during the Roosevelt Administration.
Because of the historical pattern of policy violations by the government that have resulted in national success, Buchanan fully supports the policy measures of the current Bush Administration.
“Whatever you say about Mr. Bush’s act, you must keep in mind that he went to Congress for authorization. Every act that has been passed so far has gone through Congress, and if it should’ve been discarded, it would’ve by now,” Buchanan said.
The debate was then opened up to the audience for questions which the speakers then continued to discuss. Some of the questions were solicited beforehand from several campus political organizations and leaders. Other questions were posed by audience members.
One of these questions came from the Cornell Political Forum, which inquired about the Sept. 11 impact on the civil liberties of illegal immigrants.
Strossen responded in support of a guarantee of rights to everyone living in the United States.
“[Illegal immigrants] do have Constitutional rights because the language of the Constitution states in the all-important due process and equal access clauses that no ‘person