Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Paranoid Style of William Kristol

William Kristol opines, in the Weekly Standard, that liberals don't care about the war on terror, so transfixed are they by the imaginary threat that George Bush will turn the repressive powers of the state against innocent American citizens. The political opposition and the mainstream media, he declares, are infected by The Parnoid Style in American Liberalism.
Was the president to ignore the evident fact that FISA's procedures and strictures were simply incompatible with dealing with the al Qaeda threat in an expeditious manner? Was the president to ignore the obvious incapacity of any court, operating under any intelligible legal standard, to judge surveillance decisions involving the sweeping of massive numbers of cell phones and emails by high-speed computers in order even to know where to focus resources? Was the president, in the wake of 9/11, and with the threat of imminent new attacks, really supposed to sit on his hands and gamble that Congress might figure out a way to fix FISA, if it could even be fixed? The questions answer themselves.

So Kristol thinks that the law was "broken" and that it is too hard to conduct necessary surveillance under the law. Is he right? Citizen Cain hasn't formed an opinion, and the reason that he hasn't is that we haven't had a proper national debate on this topic, because the President decided that he was above the law and didn't need to change it.

Citizen Cain might well support an expansion of surveillance powers, if it could be shown, for instance, that data mining approaches that could be useful against terrorists could not be conducted under current law, and if a revised law could provide for adequate judicial oversight of how the data mining was conducted, and how the results were used. Citizen Cain could even forgive President Bush if he had, for a brief time after 9/11, violated the law while at the same time asking Congress to change it.

But Kristol says that Bush was right to violate the law indefinitely without Congressional or judicial safeguards, because of the possibility that Congress might not "figure out a way to fix FISA." Because liberals have dared to criticize the Preident and to suggest that he is improperly assuming powers that the law and the Constitution don't give him, liberalism is on the verge of descending into a "fever swamp."

Kristol's lack of respect for the constitution is appalling. At the risk of descending into the fever swamp, Citizen Cain declares that we might as well be a banana republic if we allow the President to ignore the law because of the possibility that Congress won't do what the President wants.