The Old “We’re All Gonna Die” Two Step

I can almost imagine Bush in his fine suit seated somewhere in the West Wing, his feet kicked up, and his hands tucked behind his head as he explains what’s really going on with FISA.

“You know, my term’s ending,” he’d drawl in that carpetbagging Texan accent of his.  “It’s been hard work being the decider guy, and I’m just tryin’ to make sure the next fella doesn’t have to worry ’bout things like civil liberties or the constitution gettin’ in his way.  You got the good folks at the telecoms, and they need protectin’ too.  There the ones that let the NSA practice their love with the terr’ists…”

Of course, that’s not what he’ll say to us tonight.  No, tonight when Bush delivers his State of the Union, he’s going to tell us that we’re all going to die, and if that happens, it’ll be the Democrat’s fault.

The funny thing about this entire mess is that the heart of the debate is entirely simple.  All of the protections that these transgressions upon our civil liberties supposedly provide were always available through certain legal channels.  Those legal channels, specifically running things by the FISA court in order to make sure everything was in keeping with proper legality, were at the very least adequate, and given the FISA court’s record on approval prior to the steps taken to bypass it completely, not much of a hinderance.

Put a little more simply, there really isn’t much of a need to bypass the already legal procedure for establishing surveillance and obtaining data and records from companies.  Therefore, there are only two reasons for pushing for the kinds of things that Bush has pushed for.

The first is that people are so scared shitless that they abandon reason and a desire to maintain their civil liberties.  The second is to expand executive power for the sheer sake of expanding executive power, a point that is darkly foreshadowed by the time when Bush quipped things would be so much easier if we lived in a dictatorship.

The fact is, this dance is an old one, and frankly, one I would have thought America was over and done with.  I mean, really, fad’s don’t typically last this long do they?  But there it is.  As Glenn Greenwald reminds us, this isn’t the FISA bill that is at stake, but instead just the Protect America Act, an act which disturbingly expands upon an already overjuiced executive.

In case you forgot how the dance goes, here’s a quick refresher.  Bush does something, people find out about it and get a little upset because it kinda sorta infringes upon our civil liberties.  But Bush really really really wants to do that thing so he picks up his megaphone and screams at the top of his lungs that if we don’t allow him to keep on keeping on, we’re all going to die a horrible death that will probably involve a shopping mall, a jumbo jet, and Al Qaeda.  At which point, the power players of the Democratic party in congress go weak in the knees at the thought of having to treat their constituents with any measure of intelligence and explain to them that Bush is just crying wolf yet again, and therefore they cave and give the President whatever it is he wants.

It’s a dance that works well with all kinds of music, but fits best with a really spicy salsa beat.

Oh, and tangos work pretty well too.

Thus we have a battle in the Senate today where some Democrats are going to at least attempt to shove the warrantless wiretapping and retroactive imunity back in Bush’s face by preventing cloture.  Also, at the same time, there is a push to tack on a thirty day extension to PAA so that congress can take their time and deal with this problem like rational, reasonable adults.

Given the record congressional Dems have had in the past on breaking the old dance routine, they’re probably going to need our help.

Luckily, FDL’s got just the tools we need to give that help; a call list.  Give those folks a call, let them know that we are reasonable enough folks to understand that we’re all not going to die if intelligence agencies spend the extra little bit of time to run things by a court to make sure what they are doing is on the up and up.  Let them know that telecom companies don’t have the right to hand out your personal information to whatever government entity decides you might be a terr’ist.

Call them and let them know this is still America, and there’s more than a few of us who still believe in those great words, “give me liberty, or give me death!”

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