Coburn is nothing if not consistent. In the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, he was part of a House contingent that helped delay and soften an antiterrorism bill. This cohort even tried to strip out a provision blocking domestic fund-raising by foreign terrorist organizations like Hamas. Why? The far right, in league with the National Rifle Association, was angry at the federal government for aggressively policing America's self-appointed militias.
One important distinction between the Clinton and Dole bills was that the Dole bill created an explicit exception to the "material support" statute: "'Material support'...does not include humanitarian assistance to persons not directly involved in such violations." Thus, under the Dole approach, sending a Christmas food package to an I.R.A. or A.N.C. prisoner would constitute material support, but giving money to a fund that assisted the orphaned children of I.R.A. or A.N.C. members would not. The final legislation did not include the proposed Dole exception.
Thus, under the new terrorism bill, a donor to the I.R.A. orphanage would be a federal felon, subject to ten years in prison, as would be a person who spent five dollars to attend a 1980s speech of a visiting lecturer from the African National Congress. If the "material support" language had been law in the early 1980s, persons who gave money to church relief groups in El Salvador and Nicaragua, which opposed American policy in Central America, could have been labeled "terrorist." When pressed about this problem at Congressional hearings, a Clinton administration spokesperson acknowledged that minor support for the A.N.C.'s peaceful activities could have been felonized, but that the American people should simply trust the President not to abuse the immense power which President Clinton was requesting.
So back then, we were supposed to simply trust Clinton not to abuse his power, and saying "No, we need actual hard guidelines" meant you were trying to 'soften an anti-terrorism bill." Uh huh.
Kind of hard to take Rich seriously about his concerns when he wrote this about Ashcroft:
John Ashcroft, testifying before the Senate on Thursday, declared that those who challenge his wisdom "only aid terrorists" and will "give ammunition to America's enemies." Tough words. They make you wonder what the guy who's charged with helping us whip Al Qaeda is afraid of. The only prominent traitors in sight are the usual civil-liberties watchdogs and a milquetoast senator or two barely known beyond the Beltway and their own constituencies. Polls find the public squarely on the attorney general's side, and even the few pundits who knock him are ridiculed by their journalistic colleagues as hysterics so busy fussing about civil liberties that they forget "there's a war going on."
Be nice if Rich would make up his mind; are we supposed to blindly trust the Administration, or not? Or- as seems to be the case- does it depend on who's in the White House?
One of the things Coburn said that seems to have really set Rich of was
"Well, I'm troubled any time when we stop having confidence in our government," the senator said, "but we've earned it."
Damn straight; both Houses of Congress, both parties, have earned it. Rich's problem seems to be that Coburn points it out instead of being a nice little defeatist senator and exempting the Evil Party and Obama from that statement.