The Only Thing We Have To Fear…

House Democrats earned for themselves some rare praise from Glenn Greenwald, someone whose obstinance I share when it comes to holding firm on retroactive immunity for telecoms and warrantless wiretapping in general.  As many of my readers know, I am one who firmly believes that one must pick and choose their battles carefully, and there are only a select set of issues in which we must set our heels firmly in the ground and refuse to budge, and this is one of them.

Greenwald’s approval of House Dems thus far stems from two aspects of their latest compromise version of the Protect America Act; the legislation’s shrewdness, and the fact that Democrats have stuck to their guns this long.

Indeed, I initially glossed over the aspect of the bill that Greenwald seems to be the most impressed with; a provision that would allow telecoms to provide classified documentation to a court that would prove their innocence.  The argument from the telecoms has been that they have the proper documentation to provide the information they have been providing, but can’t avail themselves of the documentation due to its classified nature.  The provision that Greenwald speaks of is essentially calling the telecom’s and the government’s bluff.  If they have it, they need to show it and the level of information is allowed to be scrutinized and we can finally have a little accountability of the government.  If they don’t, that’s game over for the telecoms.

That’s what I like to call a win-win.

But what I think may have a more far reaching effect is the fact that Democrats have for once not capitulated under the strain of opponents and critics claiming that they are aiding terrorists.  This has become a key component in the Republican political playbook, to essentially claim that every time the Democrats don’t cave on any given battle, the terrorists win.  It may seem like an absurd attack, but any politician will get a little squeamish if he or she thinks they’re going to get voted out for not being suitably tough on terrorism.

The failure here is not only that we end up with far too many Democrats that cave upon the slightest application of pressure, but also that Republicans are allowed to control the debate on what makes us safer and whether or not the Constitution really matters.

It is this fear of being labeled an aid to terrorism, or being weak on foreign policy that results not only in transgressions upon our civil liberties, but prevents a counter argument on how Americans will be kept safer in a world where terrorism has replaced nuclear annihilation as the chief concern for national security.  The problem is that terrorism is so vastly different to the threats provided during the Cold War that its threat must be addressed in a totally separate fashion, it must be approached from a new perspective.  Unfortunately, the solutions offered by the Republicans are strikingly similar to more conventional means of defense, and their schoolyard bullying tactics of political manipulation have all but shut down meaningful dissent.

This all producing the great irony of making us less safe by being particularly ruthless in claiming the Democrats are trying to make us less safe.

It’s the detrimental effect of the politics of fear, and it has hampered our efforts for far too long.  That Democrats in the House have signaled that they will no longer stand to be manipulated by such tactics may prove to be the glimmer of hope that we’ll finally win not only this debate on FISA and warrantless wiretapping and retroactive immunity, but in other arenas as well.

As Greenwald says, the longer this goes on, the better.

UPDATE: Big thanks to the Xpatriated Texan for linking in!

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