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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Libertarians and the Republican Party -- Irreconcilable Differences

(updated below - updated again re: radio debate with David Horowitz)

Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds responded yesterday to my post regarding the increasingly common tactic of the mainstream Right of accusing particular individuals of treason and then publishing their home address along with the accusations. Several mainstream right-wing blogs, including David Horowitz's and StopTheACLU.com, have begun advocating the publication of the home addresses of private individuals whom they accuse of various sins. And as I noted yesterday, Reynolds minimized and implicitly defended this practice in a post by claiming that it is no different than a whole slew of garden-variety privacy invasions, and even equated it to what the NYT did in publishing its Travel Section story featuring the vacation homes of Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Furthering his justifications for publishing the home addresses of the Enemy de jour, Reynolds added an Update to his original post and said this:


As usual, Glenn Greenwald is clueless . . . . why is your publishing of my email different, exactly, from the "thuggish" tactics you condemn? Grow up.

Reynolds is referring here to two posts I have written in the past regarding blatant falsehoods or hypocricies contained in posts of his which he refused to address, and I therefore encouraged readers to e-mail him asking him to respond. The reason I know his e-mail address is because he publishes it prominently on his blog. The last time I did this was to point out that Reynolds' post on the Virginia Democratic Senate primary contained multiple factual errors, and by encouraging readers to e-mail him, he was finally forced to respond, and did so by retracting two separate false statements he made in his posts.

Reynolds' "point" here is that what I "did to him" in including his e-mail address in my post is no different than what Horowitz and StopTheACLU did in publishing, respectively, the home addresses and telephone numbers of the NYT photographer and the plaintiff-family in the Delaware lawsuit. Listing someone's email address and their home address are, argues Reynolds, indistinguishable and equally "thuggish." Is it really possible that Reynolds is incapable of seeing why this argument is nothing short of laughable? Is there really anyone incapable of understanding the profound difference between these two acts without having it explained to them?

Reynolds lists his own e-mail address on his blog. But he doesn't list his home address. Why might that be? Perhaps if he asks himself that question, he will be able to see the distinction, one that is glaringly visible to any rational person, between publishing someone's email address and publishing their home address. If he really believes that there is no difference between the two, then he ought to publish his home address on his blog right under his e-mail address, just to really drive the point home that they are the same.

What is going on here is transparently clear. Reynolds long ago used to emphasize the libertarian aspects of his belief system, by, for instance, writing for Reason Magazine. But this weekend, he attacked Reason's Dave Weigel for criticizing publication of the home address of the NYT photographer so that Reynolds could justify and defend the actions of Michelle Malkin, David Horowitz and Rocco DiPippo with regard to the Travel Section murder plot. That is a clear reflection of what Reynolds is -- he has long ago dispensed with his libertarianism beyond the most cursory and decorative uses, and he has no meaningful differences with the most extreme elements of the Republican Malkin/Coulter right wing.

Reynolds' transformation is illustrative of a broader and much more significant dynamic. There are no more vibrant libertarian components left of the Bush movement. Libertarians (in the small "l" sense of that word) have either abandoned the Bush-led Republicans based on the recognition -- catalyzed by the Schiavo travesty -- that there are no movements more antithetical to a restrained government than an unchecked Republican Party in its current composition. Or, like Reynolds, they have relinquished their libertarian impulses and beliefs completely as the price for being embraced as a full-fledged, unfailingly loyal member of the Bush-led Republican Party.

Despite the bespectacled professorial costumes of respectability and moderation, Reynolds ceased being different than the Michelle Malkins and David Horowitzs of the world some time ago. That is the camp he has chosen, and any residual doubts about that ought to be resolved by the fact that he will always find ways to defend them even when it comes to blatant garbage like the treason accusations against the NYT and the subsequent, home-address-publishing right-wing lynch mobs which they foreseeably inspired.

The current Republican Party has become the party of the Michelle Malkins, Ann Coulters, James Dobsons, and David Horowitzs -- people who scorn libertarian principles and could not be any more hostile to them. Arguably, there are few conflicts more critical to national electoral battles than this one. As Cato Institute's Brink Lindsey recently observed: "libertarians are in the center of the American political debate as it is currently framed." But nothing has undermined libertarian principles more than Republican rule of the last five years.

For this reason, intellectually honest believers in liberty and restrained government have chosen to abandon the Republican Party because it is devoted to an endlessly intrusive, unrestrained and even lawless government, precepts which could not be any more antithetical to core libertarian principles. But there is a sizeable group of individuals, empitomized by Reynolds, who claimed adherence to libertarianism but who have now fully embraced the most extremist elements of the Bush movement and the Republican Party. In doing so, they have rendered their claimed libertarianism nothing but a hollow symbol, to be trotted out -- when at all -- purely as a manipulative instrument to maintain an image of rationality and moderation ("Extremist? Me? I'm for gay marriage").

That is the choice which national political figures with some degree of libertarian impulses, such as John McCain and Rudy Guiliani, are confronting. With Reynolds -- again and again -- invoking the most frivolous rationale imaginable in order to side with the most crazed schemes of Malkin, StopTheACLU and Horowitz (what's the difference, he bewilderingly asks, between publishing someone's e-mail address and their home address?), it's long past time to stop pretending that he is anything other than one of them.

UPDATE: I will be on the Alan Colmes Show tonight at 10:15 p.m. EST (possibly along with David Horowitz or Rocco DiPippo, if they're willing -- with David Horowitz, who is now confirmed) to discuss issues of privacy versus media freedom, with a focus on the publication of the home addresses of the NYT photographer and the plaintiff-family in Delaware.

Before that, I will be on Air America's Majority Report at 9:30 p.m. EST to discuss How Would a Patriot Act? and recent issues relating to executive power abuses.

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