Wednesday, August 8, 2007

New fans for wiretapping

Not surprisingly, questions are being raised (by me, among others) about Congress's approval of the Bush administration's wiretapping bill. The conventional wisdom is that Democrats won control of Congress on a wave of public revulsion toward the war in Iraq and related incursions into civil liberties here at home. The Republicans got booted so that Democrats could at least provide some legislative opposition to the Bush administration's excesses.

So why did the Democrats vote to expand the government's power to spy on Americans' without warrants?

It's one thing for Congress to be unable to actively bring the troops home; President Bush would veto any such measure (although the symbolic value would be important, I think). The most Congress can do about the war is refuse to approve funding--not that Congress critters have even gone that far. (In fact, I think Democrats like the continuation of the war so they have an issue with which to bludgeon Republicans.)

But the wiretapping vote was completely unnecessary. Congress could have voted the measure down, pleasing many Americans, especially among the Democratic Party's core constituents.

The answer, I think, lies in Democrats' anticipation of victory in next year's presidential election. All of the powers and precedents accumulated through eight years of George W, Bush's presidency will be available to the new resident of the White House. Quite clearly, Democrats--the party's leadership, anyway--aren't so much opposed to civil liberties violations as they are opposed to civil liberties violations by their enemies. The possibility of wielding such powers themselves is too tempting a prospect to resist.

It's true that the law "sunsets" after 180 days, but I won't be surprised to see yet another extension of wiretapping authority when that time is up. Democrats will allow themselves to be dragged--kicking and screaming, of course--into creating new powers that they themselves will ultimately use.

Whichever of the major parties you look at, the constituency for liberty as a value in and of itself is vanishingly small.

Look for the next administration to be roughly as nosy and intrusive as the one currently in power.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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March 18, 2009 11:28 PM  

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