Looks like Bush tried out some rhetorical jujitsu yesterday to dodge the clear embarrassment he faces since the New York Times revealed he broke the law by directing the NSA to spy on American citizens without warrants. In general, I'm not the kind of die-hard civil libertarian who refuses any compromises of privacy rights for security. There is a balance; that's what the Social Contract is all about. Even ECHELON doesn't bother me that much, and neither did FutureMap or any of the DARPA-developed data collection and pattern recognition systems the diabolically clever Admiral Poindexter wanted to implement. Hell, I don't even have that much of a problem with the fact all of our rights can be suspended by a SECRET COURT where the government can request the ability to monitor our communications with no recourse for redress on our part. That's the FISA court, the one that has never turned down the government's request for surveillance authority -- but even that was too much of a check and balance for Bush the Overreacher.
Bush's dismissal of the law, which he stood before the country to defend yesterday, is outrage enough. But even more outrageous is what it represents: the belief that the President, or more specifically, President Bush, is above the law; that authority emanates from him and him alone; that the Social Contract has only one signatory and he sits in the Oval office. Didn't we fight some kind of war about that some time in the late 18th century?
Apparently, a secret court that has never turned down a government request for a wiretap on American citizens is not enough to "connect the dots." Bush said he broke the law "to protect us," and then tried to get a little dirty by calling out the senators from "New York or Los Angeles or Las Vegas to go home and explain" why their opposition leaves those cities unsafe. (I guess it's easy to forget that Senators represent states and not cities when you believe you are the Royall Authoritie of the Lande.)
It would be one thing if we were safer. But our modern day Sun King cloaks his seizure of power in so much poll-tested national security language despite that he is not, in fact, protecting us at all. The residents of the three cities Bush cited voted overwhelmingly against him because they rightly sensed that Bush's reckless foreign adventures and lack of a real domestic security policy MAKES US ALL LESS SAFE. It doesn't take much critical analysis to figure out why. Here is a guy who, after September 11, failed to increase funding for nuclear non-proliferation, which the non-partisan commission the President himself appointed called the single greatest threat to our safety. Collecting the world's loose nukes was the first thing on my mind on September 12th, 2001, so I'm a little confused as why it's taken the President four years to catch on.
Then there's Iraq, where Bush has decided to throw away $200+ billion -- money that could have paid for an entire wish list of domestic security programs. Right now, our own military, fueled by Bush's swaggering cowboy routine has become the most effective recruiting tool for anti-American sentiment and insurgents in Iraq. If you find that to be a subjective assessment, here's a joint study by the Israeli and Saudis (!) that quantifies the Iraq Effect. And who doesn't recall Rumsfeld accidentally wondering aloud if the insurgents weren't replacing their numbers faster than our troops could ever kill them?
"To protect us"?
Is that why the 9/11 Commission's report card earlier this month had a single "A" out of 41 categories, while the bottom was filled out with 12 "D"s and 5 "F"s? The President got a "D" on Securing WMD's, the supposed reason we're stirring up the hornets' nest in Iraq. Commission member and former republican governor of Illinois James Thompson said it straight: "Are we crazy? Why aren't our tax dollars being spent to protect our lives?"
It's telling that when the President does turn his sights to the domestic front, it's to spy on people rather than roll up some sleeves and get some actual work done. His one big initiative, the DHS, has managed to re-organize half the government with only some color-coded alerts to show for it. Of course, we all saw the outcome of Bush's "preparation" efforts when Katrina exposed the absolute inability of the government to deal with a regional natural disaster that had been predicted in extremely precise detail for years. And when Bush stood in front of a stage-lit Jackson Square two weeks after the Katrina debacle to say that "our cities must have clear and up-to-date plans for responding to natural disasters, and disease outbreaks, or a terrorist attack," and that's why he was ordering the "Department of Homeland Security to undertake an immediate review, in cooperation with local counterparts, of emergency plans in every major city in America," wasn't he admitting that HE'D BEEN THE ONE WHO LEFT OUR CITIES UNPREPARED FOUR YEARS AFTER SEPTEMBER 11th?
Oh no, right, I forgot -- Bush had been "protecting us" by plopping a feckless crony at the head of FEMA. Which reminds me that Bush's promise to review all those emergency plans seemed strangely similar to the statement he made in May, 2001 when he created the Office of National Preparedness, an agency inside FEMA, and put Dick Cheney in charge of "a coordinated national effort [to] do the very best possible job of protecting our people from catastrophic harm." Big success there! Looks like Cheney really dropped the ball on that one. Where's that story? Cheney's had the most important job in the country and has had zero results. Yet he and Bush go around the country calling themselves the great protectors and all critics unpatriotic.
How's that for connecting some dots?