August 4, 2006


What would Lincoln do? -- Trading our liberties for security (Jonathan Zimmerman, 7-29-06, Providence Journal)

LIKE MOST of my friends and colleagues, I'm outraged by President Bush's assault on basic civil liberties in the so-called War on Terror. We invoke Thomas Jefferson on the rights of man, James Madison on checks and balances, and, most of all, Benjamin Franklin on the dangers of compromising these values: "Those who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security."

But here are two words that you'll never hear us say: Abraham Lincoln. [...]

The most critical state was Maryland, of course, because it bounded the District of Columbia on three sides. On the fourth side lay Virginia, which had already left the Union. If Maryland seceded too, Lincoln would find his national capital surrounded by the enemy.

And he couldn't have that. There were clear pockets of secessionist sentiment in Maryland's biggest city, Baltimore, where many houses flew Confederate flags after the war began. So rather than risk losing the city -- and, quite possibly, the war -- Lincoln sent Army officials into Baltimore to arrest alleged secessionists and jail them at Fort McHenry. (The prisoners included a grandson of Francis Scott Key, who had written "The Star Spangled Banner" while the fort was under British fire, in 1814.)

A few months later, as the Maryland legislature was preparing to vote on secession, Lincoln had 31 of the lawmakers imprisoned on suspicion of Confederate sympathies. They stayed in jail until the next state election, to ensure that pro-Union candidates won.

No charges. No evidence. No trial.

Sound familiar?

Then, as now, the president's enemies mounted constitutional challenges to his actions. One of the people imprisoned in Baltimore, John Merryman, sued for his freedom in federal circuit court. The senior judge was none other than Chief Justice Roger Taney, a Marylander and author of the infamous Dred Scott decision. Taney ruled that Lincoln had no right to jail Merryman without cause, because the Constitution gave Congress -- not the president -- exclusive power to suspend basic liberties in times of war.

Lincoln's response? Go to hell. His primary job, he said, was to win the war, and he needed every possible weapon to do so. He refused to obey Taney's opinion, which would have freed hundreds of Confederate partisans. Who knows what they would have done if they'd been let loose?

That should sound familiar, too. Indeed, almost everything President Bush has done in the "War on Terror" echoes Lincoln's actions during the War Between the States.

Give them security--they think it's hell.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 4, 2006 10:49 PM

The terrorists are easy to beat, the main enemy of free-market Democracy is the Dems.

Posted by: lebeaux at August 5, 2006 12:21 AM

Come on, comparisons to Lincoln (or FDR, for that matter) would be more accurate only if Bush had detained Susan Sontag, Dennis Kucinich, Ward Churchill, David Weston, Howard Dean, Russ Feingold, Tom Hayden, Markos Moulitsas, Duncan Black, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Wilson, the board of CAIR, Bill Keller, Eric Lichtbau, and every suspected leaker from CIA/State/NSA. 99% of the ranting from the Left on civil liberties is just their fawning self-importance gushing out.

Posted by: ratbert at August 5, 2006 1:04 AM

"No charges. No evidence. No trial.
Sound familiar?"

No actually it doesn't sound familiar, to anything happening today.

Posted by: h-man at August 5, 2006 3:06 AM

A Republican president following the example of the first president of his party ? I'm shocked...

In reality, Bush is for more moderate in his response. There is little doubt that the present-day Democrats would have ended up in jail (or worse) under Lincoln.

Posted by: Peter at August 5, 2006 4:39 AM

Check out this NYT Ad for the names of more moonbats. h/t The American Thinker

It's hard to believe that BDS could become even more virulent, but the evidence is clear, they've gone over the previous high and still climbing.

Posted by: erp at August 5, 2006 8:59 AM