The NSA controversy, which continues to develop, has been useful in a lot of ways. It’s gotten people talking after a long period of quiet about the surveillance powers of the state — and whereas the national security state had legions of defenders back in post-9/11 days, in these post-post-9/11 days it has no end of opponents, including many rightbloggers who once upon a time (i.e. during the Bush Administration) were very much in favor of it.
It would be wonderful if this increased opposition led to serious legislation to curtail government spooks, but so far rightbloggers seem much less interested in that than in beating up Obama so they can get their own guys back in control of the spy apparatus.
It’s getting harder to find rightbloggers who’ll admit they still think what was good about spying under George W. Bush remains good under Obama. At National Review, Andrew C. McCarthy is pretty much holding the torch alone for Total Information Awareness: “National security should not be nearly as partisan an issue as it has become since the Bush years,” he recently sighed.
But in the same post McCarthy said that “the officials we have cannot be trusted” — mirroring the spin by old Bush hands like Dick Cheney, who’ve been defending NSA while attacking Obama’s “credibility.”
And that’s become the battle order for most of the brethren: Using the NSA news as a force multiplier to get the other DC “scandals” they’ve been promoting for the past month — Benghazi AP IRS etc. — up to weapons grade in time for the next congressional elections.
“The idealist [Obama] wants credit for ending the war, while the alleged pragmatist [Obama] wants to keep a surveillance apparatus that has no justification if the War on Terror is truly over,” wrote Jonah Goldberg. “Maybe he’s right on the merits.” But because of Benghazi AP IRS etc., said Goldberg, “the problem is that fewer and fewer people are willing to take his word for it.”
Goldberg’s column did not back this judgment up with recent poll results, which show Obama’s approval only slightly down from last month. Maybe Goldberg was thinking of the jump in sales of Orwell’s 1984 after Obama referred to “Big Brother” in talking about the controversy; many of the brethren believe these purchases are not signs of curiosity, but a vote of no confidence in the President — or at least they hope it will be read as such: “If you are upset by what you’re hearing about the IRS, the NSA, the Justice Department, and Homeland Security these days,” pleaded Kevin DuJan at HillBuzz, “be part of something and send a message by picking up a copy of ‘1984’ for your family and friends.” This could be as big as the boom in Atlas Shrugged sales that presaged the election of Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson to the Presidency in 2012.
But the lack of relevant metrics don’t matter — the campaign’s young yet, and other rightbloggers are working hard on pushing the correct way of looking at things.
“All can agree that the Obama administration is mired in myriads of scandals,” claimed Goldberg’s colleague Victor Davis Hanson, perhaps speaking on the authority of an office survey, “but as yet no one can quite figure out what they all mean and where they will lead.”
Thence ensued a litany of rightwing talking points — Benghazi AP IRS etc. — on which Hanson poured NSA accelerant: “The problem with the NSA monitoring is not just Obama’s hypocrisy of once decrying elements of the Patriot Act only to embrace them,” perorated Hanson, “…nor is the problem that the U.S. does not have a need to monitor the communications of potential terrorists” blah blah blah. The real issue, said Hanson, was that the spying hadn’t stopped “the Tsarnaev bombing, [or] Major Hasan’s murder spree,” and thus “fairly or not” — ha, that’s good, isn’t it? — “there is the impression that a James Rosen of Fox News or the tea-party affiliates were more likely to earn unlawful federal attention than was a possible terrorist… And of course the NSA disclosures do not appear in a vacuum, but amid a multitude of other scandals…”
Eventually Hanson moved from sketchy connections to wishful thinking: “If it turns out that Washington IRS officials were communicating with the Obama administration about inordinate scrutiny of political opponents,” hypothesized Hanson, “then the scandal will reach Nixonian proportions.” And if skunks had a college, they’d call it P.U. Nonetheless Hanson closed, “paranoia over reelection, in classic Nixon style, is the common key that unlocks much of the mystery surrounding the administration’s reckless, unethical, and often unlawful behavior,” and as soon as they find that key, boy, they’ll have something.
“The ‘revelations’ of National Security Agency data-mining of phone records and Internet use were no news to those who’d been paying attention,” said Michael Walsh at the New York Post. “It’s only the rest of the Obama ‘scandalanche’ that makes it a hackle-raiser.” Though the NSA “has been quietly monitoring Americans for years,” Walsh admitted, Benghazi AP IRS etc. combine to create “a perfect storm of mistrust,” Walsh claimed, “now exacerbated by the fears of the surveillance state that has mushroomed since the panicky post-9/11 ‘reforms.'”
At tea party outfit FreedomWorks, Jon Gabriel struck a bipartisan note, applauding the “disruptive innovation” that had politicians breaking party ranks over the controversy, but in closing dropped the Kumbaya act: “I am glad that conservatives aren’t the only ones upset that Obama’s NSA is snooping on Americans while his IRS punishes political enemies.” His IRS? Does that mean when Obama leaves office, he gets to take it with him?
The news wasn’t all bad for the Fourth Amendment, though, When they learned that the Obama Administration was keeping the FBI from spying on houses of worship, the newly civil-liberties-conscious rightbloggers were relieved… Ha, kidding! Those houses of worship were mosques, so the rightblogger outrage was severe. “We’re at war with an ideology,” cried Daniel Greenfield at FrontPageMag. “Singling out members of that ideology is the only rational way to fight that war.” “Our government has refused to racial profile,” wept Exposing Liberal Lies. “Isn’t it ironic that President Obama feels a need to snoop into every area of our life, but he refuses to snoop into mosques, the very place where the terrorists reside?” asked Rebecca Brittingham of Liberty News. We bet these folks are in favor of profiling as an urban police procedure, too, and for similar reasons.
One common response to the news, in rightblogs and in comments sections, was that “surveys of American mosques… reveal some 80% of them preach violent jihad or distribute violent literature to worshippers,” though none of these cut-and-pastings, alas, linked to an authoritative source that would tell us whether these surveys were taken in the mosques themselves or among aged, embittered white shut-ins.
“The FBI is not monitoring mosques,” said Rush Limbaugh. “…the last two, three days I’ve been saying that I want to find a pathway to the shadows, and Snerdley said, ‘Go to a mosque.'” Limbaugh later explained, “This regime is attempting to eliminate all opposition. This regime… looks at its opposition as its enemies, and they’re trying to rid the playing field of its enemies.” Well, letting Obama’s Muslim terrorist pals run wild might accomplish that over time, we guess, though we don’t see why he wouldn’t just kill us all with nuclear weapons instead. Wouldn’t that be quicker?
“Skreeeeeee,” said Pamela Geller at Atlas Shrugs. “Skreeeeeeee.”
When Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) learned the NSA was claiming authority, not merely to examine phone metadata, but also to listen in on the calls themselves, PJ Media’s Ed Driscoll rushed to link the news to… an untraced hack on CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson’s computer. He didn’t have an explanation, or anything like proof of a connection, but why would he need that? No one else did.
“Yes, the White House is indeed the obvious culprit,” wrote Ace of Spades, later adding wiggle room: “That doesn’t mean the government had anything to do with it, but it certainly seems that someone favorably inclined towards the government did.” (Maybe Josh Marshall?) At Power Line, John Hinderaker went full Watergate: “The obvious potential culprit is the White House,” he declared. “If it turns out that the White House, or someone acting on behalf of the White House, carried out the illegal infiltration of Attkisson’s computer(s), the scandals already swirling around the administration will be seen in an entirely different light. For the first time, there would be serious talk of impeachment.” “To be sure, it doesn’t pay to jump to conclusions,” said Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, “but it also doesn’t pay to dismiss possibilities, either.” Dream big, fellas!
Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds did the “reader email” bit to ask, in light of Attkisson’s hack, “did a politicized bureaucracy spy on the Romney/ GOP campaign and interfere with a Federal election?” “It would be interesting, wouldn’t it,” added Reynolds in his own voice, “to pull out some of the Romney campaign’s computers and see if they show the kind of evidence that CBS’s experts found on Attkisson’s computer?” Later, in a post headlined “21ST CENTURY WATERGATE?,” Reynolds mused, “Say, if they can do that, couldn’t they plant incriminating stuff on your computer, too? More undermining of trust…” By somebody, anyway.
The Anchoress responded with a paranoid fantasia on the theme, mentioning “Obama’s rumored habit of using sealed records against his opponents” and quickly achieving fever pitch: “…what makes you think anyone is about protecting Obama? Maybe they’re just protecting themselves? Maybe a lot of people are protecting themselves?” There was a link in that last sentence to a story on Arizona’s compliance with the Obamacare Medicaid program. Does that mean Chicago Thug Obama got to Jan Brewer too? With rumored habits? Wheels within wheels!
Some Guy at RedState fried even bigger fish with a post called “The IRS, The NSA and Comprehensive Amnesty Reform All Tie Together In a Very Nasty Way.” We had great difficulty tracing his argument, such as it was, but we could tell he believed Obama was using the comprehensive immigration reform bill now before Congress, working through his cat’s-paw Marco Rubio, as “an assault on the economic opportunity and viability of an already-suffering American Working Class. It is obvious through this choice of priorities that President Barack Obama cares a whole lot more about keeping you in your place rather than whether that place affords you any particular safety or hope.”
Guy also told us that “57% of the American Electorate believe that the NSA will be used to attack political opponents of Barack Obama rather than military and ideological opponents of the USA” — which seems rather a tendentious reading (albeit common among the brethren) of the response to the Rasmussen poll question, “How likely is it that the surveillance data collected in this program will be used by other government agencies to harass political opponents?” until you remember that, for most of these folks, it’s not the surveillance itself that’s the problem — it’s who’s President while it’s being done.
It’s gotten to the point where some of the further-out brethren think Obama has called for aid to the Syrian rebels merely as a way of distracting the American people from the scandals they’ve been pimping. “Does it surprise anybody that they found an excuse that they expect the mouth breathers to buy off on for starting another senseless war?” cried Flyover Press. “Can you spell d-i-v-e-r-s-i-o-n sheeple?????” asked I Hate The Media.
This is a fringe phenomenon at present, but with rightblogger high priestess Sarah Palin claiming that America can’t win a holy war with Syria if it’s led by Obama, we expect this, too, will eventually be absorbed into the hive mind as a component of Benghazi AP IRS etc. + whatever. True, back in the Bush days any opportunity to attack an Middle Eastern country was irresistible to the brethren, but some things are even more important than jihad — and at the head of that list is political advantage. In the end, their concern isn’t really 1984; it’s 2014.