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January 24, 2006

NSA Controversy In A Nutshell

At the Waterglass:

"Federal courts have consistently ruled that a president has authority under the Constitution to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance against our enemies. Predecessors of mine have used that same constitutional authority," Mr. Bush said.

Yes, but you're using it, Mr. Bush. That's the problem. As long as your political enemies consider you a more dangerous entity than they do a group of murdering fanatics bent on destroying western civilization, you're going to be under attack in this way. Partisan Democrats and civil liberties absolutists don't truly believe we're at war. I'm glad that the people who have the authority to make decisions do.

A week or two back a commeter challenged a liberal to say precisely what he would or would not do to protect this country's security. Apart from the obvious (don't invade Iraq, unless, I guess, the feared French Army was contributing 90% of the troops and airpower), he basically insisted that the Dems would do everything to protect this country as Bush has been doing.

Except they'd be... nicer and less polarizing about it, or something. Prompting the commenter to sum up the liberals' position as:

The Liberal Democratic Party

We'll do everything Bush is doing! But we won't be HITLER!

That's something I've noticed. The left likes to complain that Bush is acting as a dictator, etc., but when you suggest that they wouldn't do as much on security as Bush does, they claim "Oh dear, no, you misunderstand! We'd do everything Bush is doing! Plus maybe a little extra!"

I don't get it. How can you simultaneously be for and against something? The Democrats have had this problem for, ummmm, forever, but especially in the past five years.

You have to take a position at some point, people. You cannot simply perpetually whine about Bush's decisions and then claim "We'd have made the same decisions, only better and smarter." The very fact that you're making these nonsensical, self-contradictory criticisms sort of casts doubt on that "better and smarter" bit.

Thanks to The Blogometer.

Meanwhile... Andrew "Wild Horses" McCarthy makes the pretty compelling case that the "probable cause" requirement for surveillance and searches is pretty well met by the fact that we're, you know, at war and everything.

Congress retains the power of the purse. Nothing prevents it, tomorrow, from passing a law that denies all funding for any domestic surveillance undertaken by the NSA or any other executive branch agency.

The president could do nothing but veto such a bill. But if, as leading Democrats and civil-liberties extremists maintain, the NSA program is truly one of the most outrageous, execrable, impeachable acts ever committed in recorded history, that veto would easily be overridden.

So why doesn't Congress just do it. Why doesn't it, literally, put its money where many of its mouths are? Why don't the people's representatives bring to heel this renegade, above-the-law president and his blank check? Because they'd lose, decisively and embarrassingly, that's why.

Because they'd have to take an accountable position on life-and-death. Because such a vote, in the middle of a war in which millions of American lives are at stake, would say, unambiguously, that they actually believe the government should not monitor enemy communications unless a federal judge β€” someone no one voted for and voters cannot remove β€” decides in his infinite wisdom that there is probable cause. It's so much easier to carp for a scandal-happy media about "the privacy rights of ordinary Americans," as if that were really the issue.

But the sound and fury signify nothing to those ordinary Americans. Two wartime Novembers ago, with national security β€” that is, their own safety β€” the defining campaign issue, they went to the polls in record numbers. This may be news to some, but upon considering in whose hands to place the weighty responsibility of defeating al Qaeda, they didn't elect the judges of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Well played, Blaine. Very well played.


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posted by Ace at 01:29 PM

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