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Friday, January 20, 2006

Tapped Out

Now that the DoJ has filed its response to the NSA/FISA legal challenges -- and the Administration has moved into a full-on admission that we're spying without warrants and we're gonna keep on keeping on -- aren't we all really asking ourselves: "What next?"

Salon has a great article today (subscription req'd or watch a video for a day pass) from Walter Shapiro, detailing how the behind-the-scenes political consultants have been telling Democrats that the NSA issue is DOA.
Midway through the meal, I innocently asked how the "Big Brother is listening" issue would play in November. Judging from his pained reaction, I might as well have announced that Barack Obama was resigning from the Senate to sell vacuum cleaners door-to-door. With exasperation dripping from his voice, my companion said, "The whole thing plays to the Republican caricature of Democrats -- that we're weak on defense and weak on security." To underscore his concerns about shrill attacks on Bush, the Democratic operative forwarded to me later that afternoon an e-mail petition from, which had been inspired by Al Gore's fire-breathing Martin Luther King Day speech excoriating the president's contempt for legal procedures.

A series of conversations with Democratic pollsters and image makers found them obsessed with similar fears that left-wing overreaction to the wiretapping issue would allow George W. Bush and the congressional Republicans to wiggle off the hook on other vulnerabilities. The collective refrain from these party insiders sounded something like this: Why are we so obsessed with the privacy of people who are phoning al-Qaida when Democrats should be screaming about corruption, Iraq, gas prices and the prescription-drug mess?
Discussion like this makes me want to tear my hair out, because what consultants are really saying is "the hell with doing what is right or protecting the Constitution, it doesn't play well in Peoria."

Here's my response: maybe what hasn't played well up to now is the way you have been describing it. Maybe what we need is a better message.

You know, something like, "The President has already authorized illegal wiretapping. What's to stop him from authorizing house searches without a warrant, compiling a list of all firearms owners without any legal justification and other infringements on what you ought to be able to do as an American citizen?"

Sometimes, governing is about doing what is right, even if it requires you to do a lot of hard work that you wouldn't otherwise have to do -- and which might cut into your fundraising time. Sometimes calling the President on his illegal actions is the right thing to do.

Sometimes, what you really want in your elected representative is for them to grow a spine and actually represent your interests and the interests of the whole nation. Let's call the President's actions what they are: an illegal power grab. And then let's hold him accountable for it.

(Major graphics love to The Propaganda Remix Project. There are some incredibly well done graphics from these folks, many of which are available for sale in poster and other form. Please support their continued freedom of speech and artwork by shopping, if you so desire -- wish this sort of thing had been around when I was in college, my dorm room would have been much more fun.)