Mike Bloomberg Suggests We Need To Sacrifice The Constitution

The Boston Marathon bombing attacks are leading some politicians to make wildly absurd statements.

constitution-preamble-gavel

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested yesterday that perhaps we need to ignore some of our Constitutional rights in response to a crisis:

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg believes that the Boston Marathon bombings have created a unique scenario — one in which traditional interpretations of the U.S. Constitution must change. Rather than shying away from cameras and other security mechanisms that some view as infringements upon individual privacy, the politician claims that the most recent attack calls for a new paradigm.

As for those who fear government intrusion and express serious concerns about how these technologies and other policies could impede privacy, Bloomberg is sympathetic — but only to a point.

(…)

“The people who are worried about privacy have a legitimate worry, but we live in a complex world where you’re going to have to have a level of security greater than you did back in the olden days, if you will,” Bloomberg said during a press conference on Monday. “And our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution, I think, have to change.”

He went on to note that we live in a dangerous world and that there are some who wish to take away Americans’ freedoms, the Observer’s Politicker reports. But in order to protect these sentiments, Bloomberg argued that more intensive security is necessary.

“We have to understand that in the world going forward, we’re going to have more cameras and that kind of stuff. That’s good in some sense, but it’s different from what we are used to,” he continued.

As the Observer’s Politicker notes, Bloomberg also invoked gun control while making his point about the Constitution and security. In connecting what he said is the Supreme Court’s recognition that there are some interpretations of the Second Amendment that give way to “reasonable gun laws,” the mayor said that the nation will also need to “live with reasonable levels of security.”

Bloomberg’s comments remind me of the story, which may well by apocryphal but nevertheless makes an important point, about Benjamin Franklin being approached at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and being asked what the result of the Convention had been. Franklin’s answer, as reported by Maryland delegate  James McHenry, was “A Republic, if you can keep it.” Franklin is also credited with another quote that has become a legendary part of American political dialogue, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Yes, you can dismiss these as as mere slogans, but it strikes me that they get to the heart of what’s wrong with the comments that Bloomberg is saying here. As I said in my post on Monday about surveillance cameras in public, there aren’t necessarily any Constitutional issues raised by the fact that here are cameras in public observing what’s going on. The problems start to surface when you talk about how those cameras are going to be used and what is going to be done with the information that those cameras collected.  Based upon how he has run New York City over the past eleven years, it seems pretty clear that Bloomberg believes that Constitutional rights should take a back seat to safety, health, and a whole host of other issues. So, one can only assume that he views surveillance cameras as not only acceptable, but their unlimited use as completely justifiable.

However, Bloomberg’s comments strike me as going far beyond the acceptable use of surveillance cameras. He is clearly among those class of people, usually people with political power, wealth, or both, who believe that they know what is best for the “little people.” You can see that in his idiotic attempt to ban sodas larger than 16 ounces and other nanny state tactics. Here, though, he’s treading into far more serious territory. He’s arguing that we need to give up our Constitutional rights in the name of “safety” from some amorphous and unknowable threat. It’s not a new argument, of course. We’ve heard it before, and we’re likely to hear it again when the next crisis hits, but it’s essentially the same baseless argument that it’s always been. Give up just a little bit of your freedom, they tell you, and we”ll keep you safe. The truth, of course, turns out to be that they can’t exactly guarantee that they’ll keep you safe, and they aren’t going to give you back you liberty.

Fortunately, it seems like the American people are beginning to see through this charade:

Defending the civil liberties of suspected terrorists is generally not considered a popular position. And yet, in a bit of a surprise, a new poll released today finds that a plurality worries more about government trampling constitutional rights while battling terrorism than it does about government not doing enough to fight it. From the Post:

Which worries you more: that the government will not go far enough to investigate terrorism because of concerns about constitutional rights, or that it will go too far in compromising constitutional rights in order to investigate terrorism?

Will not go far enough: 41

Will go too far: 48

Interestingly, despite the fact that the push for Tsarnaev to be held as an enemy combatant is coming from GOP officials, Republican respondents to the poll are even more strongly tilted towards worrying about government compromising constitutional rights, by 56-34. Conservatives tilt this way by 46-41. Democrats also agree by 48-43.

Once again, it seems that the American people are smarter than the people who purport to lead them.

FILED UNDER: General
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mikey says:

    He’s arguing that we need to give up our Constitutional rights in the name of “safety” from some amorphous and unknowable threat.

    Amorphous, unknowable, and very small.

    I mean, you’re more likely to die from anything else than from terrorism.

  2. Stonetools says:

    With all due respect, I think we are seeing another ” false equivalence” effort by Doug here, prompted by his dislike of Bloomberg’s stance on gun safety and consumer protection. There is no specific call to violate any Constiutional right, other than a call to interpret the Constiution in the light of modern day technology and circumstances. Alert me when he actually calls for a specific suspension of a Constiutional right, the way Lindsay Graham did in the case of the Boston bomber.

  3. stonetools,

    Oh, please, tell me how you feel about Bloomberg’s endorsement of the NYPD’s completely unconstitutional “stop and frisk” policy. Which mostly ends up victimizing mostly innocent young black men who happen to have small amounts of marijuana in their pockets.

  4. JKB says:

    Once again, it seems that the American people are smarter than the people who purport to lead them.

    Well, that is part of the problem, they aren’t leaders, they are hired help. Sadly, we have a serious principal-agent problem with the multiplicity of principals and the agent constantly playing one group against the others.

  5. Mikey says:

    @Stonetools: Bloomberg’s “interpretations” always favor expansion of government authority. He’s too smart to call for outright suspension of Constitutional rights, but he will always push as close to that line as he can get. In this case, he’s trying to use terrorism to institute a surveillance state that will be used for a great many things utterly unrelated to protection from terrorism.

  6. wr says:

    Bloomberg’s a great believer in police authority. It’s pretty easy to think that way when you’re a multi-billionaire, so the police always treat you with respect…

  7. Jack says:

    [Bloomberg] went on to note that we live in a dangerous world and that there are some who wish to take away Americans’ freedoms.

    Apparently Bloomy and his ilk are the only ones in the right position to determine which freedoms should be taken away and which freedoms the little people can keep. This man is a hypocrite and I don’t understand why anyone would listen to his opinions. Jefferson, Washington, Adams, and Franklin would have had this man tarred and feathered, but New Yorkers elect him mayor.

  8. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Which mostly ends up victimizing mostly innocent young black men who happen to have small amounts of marijuana in their pockets.

    More than that, it mostly ends up victimizing completely innocent young black men who happen to have absolutely nothing illegal in their pockets.

  9. Anonymous says:

    “He went on to note that we live in a dangerous world and that there are some who wish to take away Americans’ freedoms,” he is being ironic here, isn’t he?

  10. Stonetools says:

    You are right about the ” stop and frisk “policy, but that wasn’t mentioned in the article. And shouldn’t it be called “Rudolf Guliani’s” stop and frisk policy, to give credit to the one who actually instituted it?
    Bloomberg ain’t perfect. But I don’t see anywhere In the article a call to “sacrifice the Constitution”, nor advocacy of any specifically unconstitutional policy. That’s YOUR gloss on the man’s words. It’s. one thing to call attention to the privacy implications of the ubiquitous employment of surveillance cameras- a policy that began in the PRIVATE sector, by the way (all hail the infallible free market.). But this isn’t really Bloomberg’s idea, any more than it is the idea of the Mayor of Boston. I might add that The SCOTUS seems fine with surveillance cameras, also. All that said, I understand why people are worried by such a policy, and maybe it is time to look into drawing up some limits. But an “amorphous” unease with surveillance cameras isn’t really the foundation for a clear statement of limits, nor is blaming a favorite legal bogeyman.

  11. Stonetools says:

    That should be “liberal” bogeyman. iPad’s auto correction strikes again.

  12. Jeremy R says:

    Libertarian hero and anti-drone crusader Rand Paul also made a statement about civil liberties today:

    http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/04/23/ron_paul_fans_furious_over_rand_pauls_drone_flip_flop

    “I’ve never argued against any technology being used when you have an imminent threat, an active crime going on. If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and fifty dollars in cash. I don’t care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him.”

    Apparently the penalty for robbing $50 from a liquor store is summary execution from on high.

  13. Stonetools says:

    @Jeremy R:

    Yeah, but Rand Paul is a libertarian and a favorite of Doug’s, so that’s totally different.
    I again recommend the Larry Niven story “Cloak of Anrchy” (available on the Internet) for a look at the issue of public surveillance, long before such technology was possible.

  14. Stuhlmann says:

    I’m not sure what oath Mayor Bloom took when he became mayor, but at the federal level, office holders (and members of the Armed Forces) swear to support and defend the US Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. They don’t swear to protect American lives, territory or property; they swear to protect the Constitution, which includes the Bill or Rights. Elected leaders need to keep their priorities straight.

  15. Tyrell says:

    @Stonetools: Very disturbing is Bloombergs actions of trying to dictate what people can eat and drink instead of doing something constructive like education programs and fitness centers. He talks about more gun control while riding around the city in a bullet proof limousine surrounded by heavily armed guards.

  16. legion says:

    @JKB:

    Well, that is part of the problem, they aren’t leaders, they are hired help.

    Even worse; they’re _supposed_ to be leaders, but they actually _want_ to be rulers…

  17. legion says:

    @Jeremy R:

    Apparently the penalty for robbing $50 from a liquor store is summary execution from on high.

    Every time Paul opens his mouth, he shows more of the transparent, venal, say-anything-at-the-time pol he truly is. I tended to think his old man, while often wrong-headed, actually believed what he said & would stand behind it – I have no such illusions about the son.

  18. Franklin says:

    Did somebody call my name?

    Anyway, I’d have to see his specific “re-interpretation” to understand precisely what he’s suggesting. Then we can examine what the possible consequences are. While those cameras didn’t prevent the attacks, they did manage to help find the perpetrators. On the other hand, they helped identify some other completely innocent bystanders to the point they were nearly lynch-mobbed out of existence. Doug’s concern about the usage of more information is well-founded.

  19. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Franklin:

    While those cameras didn’t prevent the attacks, they did manage to help find the perpetrators. On the other hand, they helped identify some other completely innocent bystanders to the point they were nearly lynch-mobbed out of existence. Doug’s concern about the usage of more information is well-founded.

    Just to clarify, those cameras helped law enforcement identify the perpetrators, and when those images found their way to the web it was the mob hysteria of certain members of the public in combination with their xenophobic hatred of certain practitioners of a particular religion that caused the lynch mob atmosphere.

    These cameras are nothing more than a tool with the same indifference to good or evil as any other tool. The ones to watch are the people using these tools, not with fear but vigilance.

  20. Caj says:

    The Constitution should be changed. Some of it’s rules are out of touch with how things are today. The 2nd amendment being one. Guns back then were muskets a far cry from what we have on our streets today. The 2nd amendment has been used and abused for years by those who have ignored its original intent but add their own meaning to it so the whole country can be fully armed and dangerous at all times! The founders would be mortified if they could see how many types of weapons are now out there for sale and how many people own! It’s gone from protecting your home and yourself to being an obsession for some. Time to change it as that change is long overdue.

  21. chester arthur says:

    To put it so simply that even the midget mayor will understand,he is afraid.That motivates everything he says and does.Being very wealthy and very annoying,he is afraid someone will do something to him to take his wealth or power.Of course,since he supports all the expansions of federal power of the chicago ‘muffia’ now in charge,both will happen.He lives in an overprotected bubble,and sees that as the proper way to live.He sees people without his level of wealth,power,and protection as inferior beings that must be coddled or cajoled by people of his station in life.His thinking is as distant from true American thinking as that of the last few presidents.His retirement will be miserable without his current position of power.

  22. tps says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Unrelated to the topic but… I guess you’re a fan of “The WIld Geese”?

  23. Franklin says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I can agree with all that.

  24. grumpy realist says:

    I always get a kick out of pasty white males bloviating on about freedom and Constitutional rights and what should be given up for reasons of safety. When Bloomberg has the same possibility of getting picked up in a “stop and frisk” search as the average 16-year old black kid then I may–just may–listen to his comments on How We Must Curtail Rights For Safety.

    And when Doug has the same fear of being attacked that the average woman walking down a deserted street at 8 pm has–then I’ll listen to Doug’s fulminating about the evils of video cameras in public places.

  25. Rob in CT says:

    Bloomberg’s authoritarian impulses are pretty clear at this point, so this doesn’t surprise me. Dunno what he means when he says he wants change in “interpretation of the Consitution” without actually explaining it.

    That said, I’m not sure he’s exactly wrong about cameras. Cameras everywhere recording stuff really are a boon for good-faith public safety efforts. The potential for abuse exists, yes. Bloomberg is demonstrably willing to – at the least – allow the police to bend the law (stop & frisk). So fair ‘nough, he shouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt.

    The question I have, I guess, is whether cameras everywhere can really be stopped and, if we can stop it, should we really want that? Most of the time – the vast majority of the time, in fact – nobody is watching. But after a crime has been committed, they can be used to track down the perpetrators. I’m pretty liberal on civil liberties, but I’m having trouble freaking out about that.

  26. Rafer Janders says:

    @Tyrell:

    Very disturbing is Bloombergs actions of trying to dictate what people can eat and drink instead of doing something constructive like education programs and fitness centers.

    Um, what do you mean “instead of”? NYC government sponsors, runs and/or funds plenty of education programs and fitness centers.

  27. Rafer Janders says:

    @tps:

    I am not. My friend Sean Flynn recommended that to me, and I watched it, but it’s the most blatant and inaccurate rip-off of my life that I’ve ever seen. For one thing, the mere fact that I’m posting here shows that I actually made it onto the plane as it was taking off.

  28. stonetools says:

    Wopw, a lot of Bloomberg hate here. I’m not a big fan, but let’s take a step back. In that same event, he said:

    Bloomberg went on to argue that the Boston attack should not be used to go after specific religious groups. And he heralded the importance of striking a balance between enjoying personal freedom and ensuring security.

    “What we cant do is let the protection get in the way of us enjoying our freedoms. You still want to let people practice their religion, no matter what that religion is,” he said. “And I think one of the great dangers here is going and categorizing anybody from one religion as a terrorist. That’s not true…That would let the terrorists win. That’s what they want us to do.”

    The ACLU would not agree with Bloomberg on Stop and Frisk, but they would cheer that statement . Also too, we should remember his strong stand on the building of Cordoba House against the right wing’s attempt to whip up outrage against the “Ground Zero” mosque.
    As I’ve said, Mayor Bloomberg ain’t perfect, but compared to the average Republican Senator, he’s a civil rights champion.
    More interesting than the question of Bloomberg’s standing on civil rights is whether the mass development of surveillance cameras represents a shrinking of civil rights at all. As Grommit Gun so ably stated, it may actually represent an expansion of a woman’s right to travel freely on the public streets.The fact is that any improvement in the public’s ability to move safety in publkic areas is going to represent an increase in safety for the many, civil libertarian’s objections to certain police tactics (or even the idea of police forces) notwithstanding.