Bush… I Mean… McCain Still Supports Warrantless Wiretapping

That clicking sound you hear when you talk on the phone?  Yeah, McCain wouldn’t do a thing to stop it.

For as much as McCain tries to distance himself from Bush, he just can’t seem to part with some of the more unsavory aspects of Bush’s administration (and don’t bother asking what the savory parts were).  This time, it’s warrantless wiretapping:

Now, as McCain continues to court his base, he’s all for Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, and would probably continue it, but what did he say six months ago?

Mr. McCain was asked whether he believed that the president had constitutional power to conduct surveillance on American soil for national security purposes without a warrant, regardless of federal statutes.

He replied: “There are some areas where the statutes don’t apply, such as in the surveillance of overseas communications. Where they do apply, however, I think that presidents have the obligation to obey and enforce laws that are passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, no matter what the situation is.”

Following up, the interviewer asked whether Mr. McCain was saying a statute trumped a president’s powers as commander in chief when it came to a surveillance law. “I don’t think the president has the right to disobey any law,” Mr. McCain replied.

Do you smell a flip-flop?  I sure do:

David Golove, a New York University law professor who specializes in executive power issues, said that while the language used by Mr. McCain in his answers six months ago was imprecise, the recent statement by Mr. Holtz-Eakin “seems to contradict precisely what he said earlier.”

Mr. McCain’s position, as outlined by Mr. Holtz-Eakin, was criticized by the campaign of his presumptive Democratic opponent in the presidential election, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. Greg Craig, an Obama campaign adviser, said Wednesday that anyone reading Mr. McCain’s answers to The Globe and the more recent statement would be “totally confused” about “what Senator McCain thinks about what the Constitution means and what President Bush did.”

“American voters deserve to know which side of this flip-flop he’s on today, and what he would do as president,” Mr. Craig said in a phone interview.

There are, in reality, two issues at work here.  The first is straight up civil liberties.  The warrantless wiretapping fiasco is simply a blatant infringement upon our civil liberties, and my question is, why aren’t these people getting warrants?  It’s not like FISA is on Court TV for crying out loud.

But the second, and potentially the more important, is the reach of executive power.  Bush greatly broaden the extent of the power of the executive, assisted greatly by the rubber stamp congress existed through much of his presidency.  One thing that we, as Americans left, right, and center, should be demanding is that our next president work to pare down extent of power.  It’s not how our government is supposed to work, and the Bush administration is a seven and a half year long example of WHY the executive is not supposed to have that much power.


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