Give Me Honest Debate, Not Demonizing

NSA Phone Call DatabaseStop the presses!

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, who helped pen the Patriot Act, is “extremely troubled” by that secret court order forcing Verizon to turn over phone records of millions of U.S. customers to the National Security Agency.

He says it’s “un-American.”

Of course, the Dairy State solon would swear his indignation has nothing to do with the fact that he’s a Republican and the president’s not. I might believe him when hogs fly and kids don’t shoot hoops in my native Kentucky any more – nah, not even then.

If memory serves, mum was the word from Republicans like Sensenbrenner when their guy in the White House collected the same sort of phone call data. The Bush administration said it was crucial to the “war on terror.”

Surprise! Sensenbrenner and his soul mates don’t buy it when the Obama White House says the data harvest is “a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States .”

No matter, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t for the president.

Had Obama tried to weaken or get rid of the Patriot Act, or had he suspended the phone data gathering, Republicans like Sensenbrenner would have accused him of being “soft on terrorism.” You can bet they would have linked the Boston Marathon bombing to any such “softness.”

mini meThe president is in the same bind with the justice department’s seizure of journalists’ phone records. The administration said the idea was to plug high-level leaks of national security information, not to muzzle the press.

Heretofore, the Republicans railed against the “liberal lamestream media.” Now they’re crooning a different tune (until the next Republican president): Our great and glorious free press is under under assault from the president and his justice department censors.

Had Mitt Romney won and done exactly what Obama did, I’d bet the farm that Sensenbrenner would be congratulating the commander-in-chief for working diligently to prevent “vital military intelligence” from falling into “terrorist” hands via, you guessed it, the “liberal lamestream media.”

The issue with Obama, just as it was with Bush and will be with future presidents, could hardly be thornier: Where is the right balance between legitimate national security needs and John and Jane Q. Citizen’s right to privacy and the media’s right to report on what the government is up to?

Berry CraigAt least liberals are consistent. They claimed Bush went way too far in the “war on terrorism” and said so in no uncertain terms. More than a few liberals — including Democratic members of Congress — are criticizing Obama. Some of them are flat-out flaying the president, calling him Dubya II and morphing his photo with Bush’s.

Like many, if not most, of my fellow Americans, I don’t know what to make of all this post 9/11 domestic spying. I’m hopeful we can move past the partisanship and posturing and have a meaningful national debate as free as possible of political agendas and grinding axes. Maybe that’s mission impossible, but it’s worth a shot.

Berry Craig

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Published by the LA Progressive on June 11, 2013
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About Berry Craig

Berry Craig is an emeritus professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and a freelance writer. He is a member of American Federation of Teachers Local 1360, the recording secretary for the Western Kentucky Area Council, AFL-CIO, and the author of True Tales of Old-Time Kentucky Politics: Bombast, Bourbon and Burgoo, Hidden History of Kentucky in the Civil War, Hidden History of Kentucky Soldiers and Hidden History of Western Kentucky. He is a native of Mayfield, Ky., where he lives with his wife of 33 years and their 20-year-old son.