Big Brother Is Listening, Too


There is an increasingly common theme running through the rhetoric of Republican candidates for elective office and their hangers-on and cheerleaders in the press. The theme is that Democrats can’t or won’t protect and defend the United States from those who would do us harm.

Historically, this represents quite a turnaround. Once upon a time Republicans attacked Democrats for being excessively interventionist and getting us into one war after another. Back then the Democrats were too warlike. Even the post-McGovern Democratic Party, having lost in a landslide in 1972 with an outright antiwar candidate, was believed susceptible to the bewitching sound of war drums. In the very next election, in 1976, Bob Dole, then the running mate of President Gerald Ford warned that, "All the wars of the 20th Century have been Democrat wars." I guess the muscular GOP, having recently presided over a rout of America in Vietnam, was warning us that those wimpy Democrats would get us into another war.

Indeed, one of the tributes America has paid to war since the Grand Old Party got over its grand old isolationism is that we have given the case for war, however flimsy and fabricated, bipartisan support. That is why Sen. Hillary Clinton, in her quest for the Democratic presidential nomination, is rather suddenly having a hard time selling her message that she is ready to lead "from Day One." Her rival, Sen. Barack Obama, in suggesting it is "more important to be right from Day One," has made much hay from the fact that Clinton has been wrong from the start on the Iraq war. And it goes back even further than her vote in October of 2002 in favor of authorizing the president to wage a preemptive or, more accurately, a preventive war against Iraq. Oh, hell, let’s just call it what it is. Hillary Clinton and the vast majority of her cohorts, Democrat and Republican, in the craven Congress authorized a war of aggression.

Prior to that the Clinton administration, all eight years of which, Sen. Clinton includes in her "35 years of experience," convinced a compliant Republican Congress to make "regime change" the official U.S. policy on Iraq. And President Bill Clinton conducted bombing raids on Iraq a number of times, absent a specific or even general authorization of military action by Congress. So what Sen. Clinton has lately been calling "Bush’s war" in Iraq might fairly and accurately be described as the Clinton-Bush-Clinton war.

And woe to anyone who opposes it. And woe again to anyone who opposes giving the commander-in-chief, Generalissimo Chiang Kai George, all the powers he wants to monitor phone calls without warrant and throw people into prison and hold them there indefinitely, without charges and without trial, if he deems them to be "unlawful enemy combatants." Anyone who opposes any of that must be some kind of "Islamo-fascist," or at least a sympathizer or dupe of same.

So now a group called Defenders of Democracy has targeted a number of Democrats in the House of Representatives for allowing the expiration of temporary legislation authorizing the president and others in the executive branch to monitor (eavesdrop on) international phone calls without going to the FISA court for a warrant as the FISA law and the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States require.

The Protect America Act, as passed by the Senate, also grants immunity from lawsuits to the telephone companies that turned private phone call records over to federal investigators in violation of federal law. Absent the retroactive immunity, the phone companies face potentially billions of dollars in legal fees and damages.

So if you don’t go along with all of that you are undermining American security, according to the self-proclaimed "Defenders of Democracy."

Fergus Cullen, Republican state chairman in New Hampshire, has thrown in his two cents (allowing for inflation) worth by echoing that charge in particular against first-term Democrat Carol Shea-Porter, who represents New Hampshire’s First District in the U.S. House.

"As much as she would like to pretend otherwise," Cullen charged in a recent press release, "Shea-Porter and House Democrats have left the US intelligence community without all the necessary tools to protect the nation."

This would be laughable were it not so serious. On the one hand, Republicans have been boasting that no terrorist attack has been carried out on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001, proving what a good job the Bush administration is doing in protecting us. (Excuse me, but on whose watch did the first foreign attack in the continental United States since the war of 1812 occur?) At the same time, they tell us that same administration cannot continue to protect us unless the FISA law that has been in effect from the late 1970’s until six months ago is overridden. The same White House gang that did effectively nothing upon receiving the Presidential Daily Briefing of August 6, 2001, warning of a major al Queda attack in the United States, now claims it will protect us by exercising the authority to listen, without warrants, on our international phone calls.

And, of course, they and their flunkies among the political distraction groups and on "hawk" radio will smear those, mostly Democrats, who oppose that. Wimpy apologists for the rule of law and the Bill of Rights are naïve, weak in the knees, not strong like the muscular Republicans when it comes to defending the nation.

How many times have you heard a Republican say, "Thank God Al Gore was not the president on September 11"? Yeah, right. We couldn’t trust Uncle Albert to act decisively in a crisis. He might have remained hidden away for several hours, with no one knowing where he was, while the mayor of New York became, by default, the symbol of America responding, as best we could, to a horrible attack. Not being smart like the Bush-Cheney gang, goofy old Gore might even have invaded the wrong country, like, say, Iraq.

And we might never have heard of the Defenders of Democracy. And then we might never have had the opportunity to ask ourselves this question:

What would defenders of totalitarianism sound like?

Manchester, NH, resident Jack Kenny [send him mail] is a freelance writer.