Monday, August 20, 2007

Pandering for the Sake of Pandering

Last week, Rep. Pat Tiberi had an op-ed published in the Newark Advocate. Russ Childers did a response at Progress Ohio, but I had initially decided on taking a pass. The right-wing mouth-foamers (The Center for Vigilant Freedom???) have been up in arms about a case in which a group of Muslim men who feel they were singled out on the basis of their ethnicity are suing the fellow airline passengers whose suspicions got them kicked off a plane. The solution? Make sure that nobody can ever sue anybody who calls them a criminal or reports them to authorities, no matter how ridiculous or prejudicial the claim. Well, apparently, you can sue them if they are not acting in good faith.

According to whom...?

This is a tiresome issue. Frivolous lawsuits (and I do suspect that parts of the trigger case here might fall into that category) tend to get dismissed. Immunity provisions like this one (as is typical of 'tort reform') tend to do a whole lot more to protect the guilty than the innocent. A number of people discussing this issue point to the Fort Dix plot and/or an airline employee on 9/11 who hesitated in the face of suspicious behavior on the basis that they might be being racist. What these commentators are missing is that in neither case did the person with the information worry about being sued, they worried about acting in a moral way and doing the right thing. Far too many people advocationg for the John Doe law are confusing morality and legality, a common affliction of a subset of conservatives. If you see behavior, you report that behavior to authorities, and your report is accurate, the law has always been on your side. If you generally mistrust African-Americans and suspect that they all deal drugs, especially the ones in the apartment down the hall, well, now the law is on your side, too.

Anyway, I'm only posting to contrast the Tiberi Talking Point with the statement of one of those "vehement" Democrats...


But the attitude of the Democratic majority worries me. Prompted by the "Flying Imams" incident, when six Islamic leaders were removed from a flight after fellow passengers reported suspicious behavior, Republicans included a "John Doe" measure in the 9/11 Commission Recommendations bill that would protect those people who report suspicious activity from being sued. That measure passed the House as part of the overall bill by an overwhelming vote of 304-122.

But when members of the House and Senate sat down to iron out the differences, Democrats vehemently resisted including that measure in the final bill.Thankfully, common sense prevailed, and the "John Doe" measure is included in the final piece of legislation

From "The Hill" (a non-partisan newspaper covering the federal legislature):

The provision was not included in either the original House or Senate version of the 9/11 bill, but it was included in a separate transit security bill that the House passed in March. That has irked some Democratic senators, who say the upper
chamber has not had a chance to review the measure’s ramifications.

The so-called “John Doe” provision “has not had any committee review or hearings in the Senate and had not been in the original 9/11 bill, so its inadvertent effects had not been examined,” said an aide to Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). “Looking before legislating is important because court-stripping bills tend to be overly broad.”

Pat seems to feel the need to distort the facts, even when the truth would win him points in his district. I'm the first to admit that there are probably more objective viewpoints out there, but Pat seems to be unable to stop himself from turning into a caricature of a Right-Wing Republican Congressman.

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