Bush Sound Bites

We can hope that everybody heard the sound bite, just one more unremarkable non-sequitur in a sea of remarkable, incomprehensible, jumbled effluvium of self-serving, self-justifying Washington opinion.

Had it been in newsprint, we might have missed it. But no, courtesy of radio KCBS, came a report (if you can believe it) that many people are starting to think the Patriot Act is eroding and endangering civil liberties.

And then, there was the reassuring, confidence-inspiring voice of President George W. Bush, Jr., America’s Great Pronunciator, calmly explaining that he believed that the Patriot Act is defending and protecting our freedom.

You can bet that heads turned and eyebrows arched in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. This country controls 46% of the world’s trillion-dollar defense budget, and this man controls that budget.

No, it wasn’t an impassioned speech, or a tightly reasoned syllogism spelling out, once and for all, why we really do need to strip-search grandma at Airport Security. But, what George Bush did do, is he said, “See, this is what I believe.”

When you put it that way, it’s amazing more of us didn’t see the perennial sense in what he said. As Woody once observed on Cheers, “Any fool could see it coming. I saw it right away.”

What does not kill us, makes us strong. Who can not believe that taking away a little liberty, maybe just the small unimportant amenities our heritage made us take for granted, can make stronger those privileges that survive? Does not the gardner prune the lesser twigs and branches, that the whole tree may grow to our design?

Taking away a little liberty protects freedom, just as stealing small change and dollar bills off the old man’s dresser makes him guard the bigger bills more vigilantly. Loss of a few small businesses here and there strengthens the economy by redistributing remaining demand among larger, greedier businesses. Lack of tar paper and a few modern appliances gives a home character.

The law of averages assures us that once in a while, any policy, no matter how idiotic, will accidentally accomplish the consequences for which it was so nobly drafted. For every 10,000 cargo containers that slip uninspected through the Port of Oakland, there will be one Richard Reid, the blundering buffoon who tried to ignite a fuse on his exploding sneakers, on a full passenger flight at 35,000 feet, with a disposable lighter that didn’t flick. And we caught that buffoon.

Well, the passengers caught him. But, we incarcerated him. If you don’t believe it, wait until the jury returns their verdict. Wait a minute, there won’t be a jury. And that’s why the Patriot Act strikes terror into the hearts of suicide-bomber terrorists. We will deal with them harshly. Harshly, but fairly, as we do at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

You do believe that all we have to surrender is grandma’s privacy and a few disposable cigarette lighters, don’t you? See, now, I believe that’s what freedom’s all about.

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