Surveillance Debate: Today Show Quakes for Quakers

Who would have thought the peaceful Quakers* [though see info at foot of column suggesting some Quakers are not so harmless] would be used as a spearhead?

Yet ironically, in the debate over national security and surveillance, liberals are attempting to beat the Quakers' plowshares into swords.

This morning's Today show offered a prime example.

In to debate was that patrician of the left, Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation and that most unreliable of Bush defenders, Pat Buchanan.

Credit Couric for at least identifying The Nation as a 'liberal' magazine.  Needless to say she labeled Buchanan "conservative."

And in fairness, Katie hit Vanden Heuvel with a tough first question:

"Many people say, including the President, including Vice President Cheney, that there's a reason why there hasn't been a terrorist attack, that the country is safer, it needs the Patriot Act, it needs to be able to conduct these kind of spying things.  They need more latitude because it's a different environment."

Vanden Heuvel responded with breathtaking condescension.  "Katie, Katie," she purred, with a tone befitting a teacher remonstrating with a recalcitrant third-grader, "there must be a balance struck between security and liberty . . .  but this President has committed the most abuse of executive power in modern American history.  He thinks he's above the law."

Echoing Russ Feingold, vanden Heuvel declared: "we need a President not a king," and accused Bush of "crushing the Constitution."

Katie quickly got on board.  She responded "some liberals are concerned," then 'corrected' herself, "some Americans are concerned that it's not just potential Al-Qaeda plots that are being spied on.  We're talking about Quaker meeting houses, animal rights activists.  Are there other organizations that cause you concern over this?"

For vanden Heuvel, it's shades of '1984': "We're seeing only the tip of the hidden surveillance state that is being built up in these last few years.  9/11 is being used and abused by this administration."

Vanden Heuvel again referred to surveillance of Quaker meeting groups, declaring "these are innocent Americans exercising their duty to fulfill the promise of America through dissent."

She then added, among groups being surveilled: "Catholic Worker Groups? Katie, these are not terrorist organizations."

Buchanan agreed that "they ought not to be going to Quaker meetings."

Couric would not be mollified: "You kind of blew off the notion of the Quaker meeting house.  Doesn't that concern you? Maybe it's gone too far?"

Buchanan had to go further: "if they wasted their time with Quaker meetings, they ought to be fired,  Congress should take a look at it. But there are enemies in our midst who did these things right in the United States."

Vanden Heuvel accused President Bush of "shredding" the Constitution.

Buchanan called the Dems' bluff: "if he shredded it, they should impeach him, but you and I know they don't have the guts to put a bill in the hopper."

Mused vanden Heuvel darkly: "if the Democrats take back the House, look for articles of impeachment."

Look, I don't know if or why surveillance was conducted of the Quakers.  But when vanden Heuvel lumped them in with the Catholic Workers, she seriously overplayed her hand.

Its innocuous name notwithstanding, the Catholic Workers is a radical, far-left group.  Right here in my home town of Ithaca, a group of Catholic Workers was convicted in federal court for having sprayed blood over a military recruiter and a recruitment center.

* Query just how harmless some Quakers are.  This web site indicates that the Quaker group known as the Friends Service Committee has supported the Vietcong and the PLO and calls for revolution in the US in these terms:

"Revolution then is needed first and foremost in the United States, thoroughgoing revolution, not a mild palliative."

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.