America, it was nice knowing you.

From Tena:

The Lawbreaker in the Oval Office

by Bob Herbert The New York Times January 12, 2006

The country has set the bar so low for the performance of George W. Bush as president that it is effectively on the ground.

No one expects very much from Mr. Bush. He’s currently breaking the law by spying on Americans in America without getting warrants, but for a lot of people that’s just George being George. Forget the complexities of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or even the Fourth Amendment’s safeguards against unwarranted (pun intended) government intrusion into matters that we have a right to keep private.

On his frequent trips home to his ranch in Texas, the president likes to ride his bicycle. He’s not studying the Constitution.

“People are changing phone numbers and phone calls, and they’re moving quick,” said Mr. Bush, as he defended his authorization of warrantless eavesdropping by the National Security Agency on phone calls and e-mail into and out of the U.S.

As the president put it, “If somebody from Al Qaeda is calling you, we’d like to know why.”

Well, that’s true, Mr. President. But Congress and the Constitution have spoken as clearly as a bright sun on a cloudless afternoon about these matters: if you’re going to eavesdrop on Americans in the U.S., you’d better run out and get a warrant.

You have to act fast? O.K., do what you have to do – but you then have to apply for a warrant within 72 hours. If, after three days, you can’t explain to a court – a secret court, at that – why you need to be spying on somebody, then you need to stop that spying.

It has become fashionable to say that this controversy is about the always difficult problem of balancing civil liberties and national security. But I think the issue is starker than that. The real issue is President Bush’s apparent belief – stoked at every opportunity by that zealot of zealots, Dick Cheney – that he can do just about anything he wants (mistreat prisoners, lock people up forever without filing charges), and justify it in the name of fighting terror.

“There’s an enemy out there,” said Mr. Bush.

link here to Buzzflash.

There’s an enemy out there, alright, and it’s Bush. But it’s not just Bush. I cannot convey the extent of my frustration with this. I cannot understand what the hell the media is doing running polls asking Americans how they feel about this wiretapping. People’s opinions on this are completely meaningless. If 99% of the people said: “Sure go ahead,” it still wouldn’t matter. In the first place, you can’t give up your constitutional rights, people. The founders weren’t stupid men – they knew that there was always the possibility of tyranny and they structured things to try to keep people from giving a tyrant this kind of power.

In the second place, people’s opinions on a matter of criminal law are totally beside the point. The law is there – it is contained in the four corners of both the Foreign Surveillance Act and the Constitution. There’s nothing unclear here at all. It’s straightforward and why the media continues to try to give the executive a pass on these violations of law is the real mystery. Does the media really believe that popular opinion could save someone who was accused of murder? It doesn’t work this way under the law. It only works this way if you are willing to suspend both statute and the constitution. And that’s exactly what is going to have to happen if Bush is going to get away with this – the law will lie broken, in pieces, and useless to us from now on if this executive is not held accountable.

The other thing that is deeply mysterious to me is the apparent apathy of the people over this. I don’t understand how, in such a short amount of time Americans have turned into such cowards that they seemingly are only too willing to give up everything that makes this country what it is for some illusory idea of safety. And they are willing to give it all up to an administration that has shown repeatedly that it cannot protect the country and indeed has no intention of it. Despite what the administration says about how exigent the circumstances are that led them to illegally tap phones and read mail, they have never had any explanation for why they ignored completely a goddamned Presidential Briefing Memo in August of 2001, titled: Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U. S. If that wasn’t enough to cause them to take action, what it is about tapping phones that makes people think they will?

Unfortunately, this really isn’t so much about illegally tapping phones as it is about those Americans who for some reason that escapes me completely want to give George W Bush all the power of a dictator or king. They not only are not bothered by his breaking the law, they seemingly embrace it. They need to be protected from their own willingness to turn this country into a Bush dictatorship. And most unfortunately of all, the supposed opposition party seems to be unwilling to step up and do what is necessary to protect these people from their own foolishness.

That leaves the rest of us in a very bitter place. We can only sit and watch as everything we care about is taken apart and ruined.