You wouldn’t go to your dentist about a broken leg. So why hound your county commissioners about national security policy?
Local activists twice have addressed Coos County’s commissioners in recent weeks, demanding they take a stand against the National Defense Authorization Act. Though county officials obviously have no authority over federal law, these folk want Coos County to record a roar of futility, much like the infamous “nuclear free zone” in Berkeley, Calif.
The commissioners should resist the pressure.
Undeniably, the NDAA is a nasty piece of legislative mischief. It gives current and future presidents unprecedented power to imprison alleged enemies of the country — indefinitely, and without trials or even criminal charges.
The law is every bit as worrisome as the Obama administration’s recently revealed use of broad electronic surveillance. The past decade’s dramatic expansion of federal authority should trouble everyone.
But it’s not a county issue. Our commissioners have more than enough problems of their own, including the worsening erosion of county revenue. They have no legitimate role in national security policy.
The commissioners also need to be careful about lending their official credibility to organizations with dubious pedigrees. One of the two groups pressing for county action, the Oath Keepers, is a thinly repackaged revival of ultra-right radicalism. It springs from the same network of discontent that gave us the Posse Comitatus, the survivalists and the militia movement. The other group, People Against NDAA (PANDA for short), is an unlikely combination of political bedfellows, stretching from the Occupy movement to the tea party and beyond.
As individuals, our commissioners may feel moved to stand with these and other Americans in lobbying Congress to repeal the NDAA’s worst elements. That’s fine. Officially, however, they’ll serve taxpayers best by focusing on county business.