P.J. O'Rourke on John Sununu

John Sununu is the subject of a Weekly Standard piece by P.J. O'Rourke, who came away impressed with what he heard. A few excerpts:

I went to see Senator Sununu at his office in the Russell Building and said that I assumed he had a political philosophy. "I like to think so," he replied. "But it's not something I have written down on an index card."

As a gut reaction conservative myself, I take the senator's point. In fact, however, Senator Sununu could write his political philosophy on a small piece of paper: "I have a deep-seated belief that America is unique, strong, great because of a commitment to personal freedom--in our economic system and our politics. We are a free people who consented to be governed. Not vice-versa." (Italics added for the sake of the multitudes in our government's executive, legislative, and judicial branches who need to fill out that index card and keep it with them at all times. And if the multitudes are confused by "Not vice-versa" they may substitute, We aren't a government that consents to people being free.) . . .

I asked Senator Sununu if there were many politicians in Washington with a political philosophy. "There are many," he said, "that would make the argument that they have a core set of values. But these values don't reflect a philosophy. Rather, they reflect a personal goal. 'I believe government should be fair and just.' 'I believe government should represent both the strong and the weak in America.' They're describing characteristics of what they'd like the government to be. They aren't describing principles of organizing a government." . . .

"Applying the philosophy isn't difficult," he said. "Applying the principles isn't difficult. The Patriot Act, for instance. It was a tool to find and prosecute criminals. Some of the laws we had were outdated. The biggest trouble with the Patriot Act was that the earliest version contained provisions for unlimited detention of suspects.

"Under no circumstances should we be allowed to detain people indefinitely. The provision was dropped, and we put a sunset on the whole Patriot Act. It had to be reauthorized in '05. You make sure, if you're giving powers to law enforcement, they're balanced with powers for civil liberties.

"Guantánamo, on the other hand--even if everything you're doing is legally approved, something can still be implemented in a way that's counterproductive to our moral perspective. We must be right and seem to be right. Guantánamo is a political, diplomatic, and moral liability. Give the Guantánamo detainees access to federal courts to appeal the determination."

O'Rourke also came away impressed with something he saw, but you'll have to read the piece to the end to find out where.

(AP photo by Jim Cole)