Politics & Policy

Off Course

Some conservatives keep the strangest company.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the February 13, 2006, issue of National Review.

Just for the record, David Keene doesn’t hesitate to say what he thinks of Al Gore–”He’s a fool”–or the former vice president’s followers at MoveOn.org–”These are nutty people.” Of course, sentiments like that might not seem newsworthy coming from Keene, who, as the longtime head of the American Conservative Union, has spent a career fighting just about everything that Gore and the nation’s largest left-wing activist group stand for. But these days Keene’s thoughts are news because Gore and MoveOn, along with some of their allies on the left, are claiming a number of conservative groups, including Keene’s, as partners in what might be called the war on the War on Terror–and on George W. Bush.

On January 16, for example, when Gore traveled to Washington to give a blistering speech in which he accused the president of curtailing Americans’ civil liberties, shredding the Constitution, and “breaking the law repeatedly and insistently,” organizers told reporters that the event was the product of a coalition that included groups as disparate as the American Conservative Union and MoveOn; the ACLU and Americans for Tax Reform; and Amnesty International and the Free Congress Foundation. “We’re not interested in Democrats versus Republicans or Republicans versus Democrats,” said Michael Ostrolenk, head of the Liberty Coalition, which organized the event (along with a liberal legal group, the American Constitution Society). “We think this is an issue of the American people versus the state.”

The Liberty Coalition is a little-known group that calls itself “transpartisan” and says it is dedicated to “preserving the Bill of Rights, personal autonomy, and individual privacy.” The organization enlisted its biggest-name supporter, former Republican congressman Bob Barr, to introduce Gore.

Despite, or perhaps because of, his past as a member of the Clinton impeachment team, Barr’s name was a major selling point for groups on the left, who were delighted to have a right-winger on their side. MoveOn sent a mass e-mail to its members, urging them to attend the Gore event. “This is a big moment,” wrote Eli Pariser, MoveOn’s executive director. “We’re coming together from across the spectrum to protect the principles that are core to our identity as Americans.”

In the end, Barr didn’t appear with Gore, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. . . .

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