Democrats need a plan to combat the new attack coming their way from Karl Rove, the man leading the president's offensive this week, on the once upon a time secret wiretapping program. I've been saying the same thing for weeks and weeks, often to counter some argument about the Constitution my friend, the judge, makes.
Americans get it. We were reminded last week that Usama still wants to kill us in the country we live in, and we understand that he claims to have people already in our country plotting our demise. So when you say, as Bush is saying, if Al Qaeda is calling someone in America, we want to know what they're saying on that call, Americans say, "Yes, we sure do want to know."
If Democrats are going to argue against that position by saying, "You're not obeying the 1978 FISA law, which requires a warrant every time you listen to an Al Qaeda call," they've lost the argument before it even begins.
Now, that doesn't mean the Dems won't try to make that argument and, by pure repetition, hope it wins, but it won't. The polls show it won't.
People may not like the Iraq war, but they get it that the Al Qaeda phone call thing and the current president was named -- and if the current president was named Gore, or Clinton, or Kerry, the American people would make any one of them do the same thing.
The rule goes like this: Nobody should die because politicians want a judge to dot every i and cross every t.
Now, Judge Napolitano is off sick today. And somewhere, he is screaming or clucking his tongue or just shaking his head. It may not fit the parameters of the parchment, but it doesn't mean we don't care about the Constitution or the protections it provides us.
But we also -- we all know that we're not calling Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda isn't calling us. So if Al Qaeda is calling my neighbor, tap him! Find out what's going on between my neighbor and some terrorist overseas.
If the Dems can't beat that argument with something short and to the point -- "It's the Constitution, stupid," "Where is the Fourth Amendment?" something a whole lot better than either of those -- then the Dems just plain lose this argument.
So: appealing to the Constitution and the Fourth Amendment is a silly argument no one cares about. But that doesn't mean we don't care about the Constitution.
By the way, once again, the controversy is about phone calls made from the United States to foreign countries -- not from foreign countries to the United States, and most certainly not Al Qaeda communications outside the U.S.
Once again, there is zero evidence that proper legal procedure would have made it any more difficult to collect legitimate intelligence-gathering in these cases. In fact, at least according to this New York Times article (click here if you cannot access the previous link), FBI officials say that the NSA surveillance program generally "led to dead ends or innocent Americans" and "diverted agents from counterterrorism work they viewed as more productive."
And no, it isn't just about your hypothetical Al Qaeda-loving neighbor. It's also about people like Christopher Hitchens, a staunch supporter of the War of Terror and the war in Iraq, and Larry Diamond, a democracy specialist at the Hoover Institution and a former adviser to the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.
And if John Gibson can beat all that with, "But it's to save us from the terrorists!", then we're in trouble.
Update: For anyone asking, "Where's the harm in this program if no one is being hauled into court because of possibly illegal surveillance?", read Larry Diamond's statement.