The 52-47 roll call by which the Senate voted to reject reauthorization of several provisions of the USA Patriot Act. Score one for the republic!??
No, no Mark, please pierce this veil:
Ask yourself one simple question: Why did Bill Frist pull the Patriot Act rather than allow a temporary extension in its curent form while civil liberties concerns were worked out? (he said, for the record: definitely not; the House wouldn’t approve it and the President wouldn’t sign it)
After all, Orrin Hatch just got finished saying that failing to renew would be “interpreted by our enemies as somehow inviting or even enabling further terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.” (N.B., this is very different from saying failing to renew would “diminish surveillance capacity which would lead to greater capacity for or likelihood of terrorist attacks” Nope, this is saying the failure to renew, without practical consequence, but strictly as a symbolic event, would “invite” terrorists to attack; i.e., could be next week). How then could the same leadership say “what the hell, we’ll let it lapse?” Don’t they care about America’s safety?
Here’s how: the war on “terrorism,” set off by 9-11, has, as we know, been very good to the right, the executive, the military, and Bush. When it was “fresh,” his approval was 90% (not for doing anything in particular but just for being there), and he was beyond the pale of criticism. A long series of lies and blunders later, his approval is sub-40 and the criticisms and inquiries are coming fast and furious.
Well the “war on terror” kind of loses its steam if you don’t have any “terror” around to stoke it. But you can’t simply turn on the “terror” spigot (and, whether or not you accept the evidence that 9-11 was an inside job, it is clear that the regime, if not the reservoir of “terror” itself, at least has its fingers on the spigot), four or five years into Bush’s watch with the regime fully empowered by the Patriot Act to guard us. No, that would not do at all.
But hey, if we can lapse the Patriot Act and hang it on Russ Feingold and the Dems and the Civil Libertarians, there’s our opening fellas. The city is in flames, the radiation is in the air, blackened anthrax-infected bodies are rotting in the streets (or perhaps just an ominous tickle on the scale of, say, Madrid): who is actually going to listen to those alternative media folks saying “yeah but it was Frist who pulled it off the table?”
Nope, it will be a righteous and oblivious chorus (study the murder of Cinna the poet in Julius Caesar to see how that works) at long last convinced that civil liberties are a luxury we just can’t afford and ready once again to vote for the candidate who can sing the most “patriotic” song and against anyone who says “yeah but” or otherwise equivocates.
We have seen this already and it was but a dress rehearsal for the night that is to come.
So, Mark, think this through again. The word needs to start going out immediately if there is to be any chance at all of withstanding the post-event tsunami. I wish we could truly celebrate the events in the Senate today, but to these haunted eyes it looks unmistakeably like an immense trap for the unwary, a stake through the heart of dissent, liberty and democracy, with enormous collateral benefits for the ruling party, laid by a regime which has nothing but contempt for its people.
Yours with deepest and most urgent concern–Jonathan