The measure to curb the NSA’s surveillance program was narrowly defeated in the House last week with a 217-205 vote. Reports indicate that House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi worked feverishly behind the scenes to ensure enough Democratic votes to defeat the measure.
The debate itself was interesting and you can view it here:
But the key point here is that this marks an interesting turn of events. Here we have a fiercely liberal Pelosi fighting to keep in place the NSA’s broad surveillance programs. It takes only short term memory to recall how vehemently opposed Pelosi and her Democratic caucus were to the broad intelligence powers enacted under President Bush. And on the flip side we now have Republicans outraged over the NSA program, which is an outgrowth of the power enacted by their party’s former president.
So what, then, is going on here? This is a classic example of politics over policy. The only logical reason for this switch is the party of the man who sits in the Oval Office. This is each party looking out for their own interests. Democrats protecting President Obama and Republicans attacking him simply because they are on the other side. Were President Bush still in office I have no doubt it would be Democrats attacking the NSA program and Republicans defending it.
Herein lies the problem. This is why nothing meaningful gets done in Congress. Instead of thinking about surveillance powers in a serious and rigorous way, both parties simply retreat into their corners. Every now and then someone from each side will step off the ropes, say something somewhat thoughtful and intelligent, and then run right back to their corner.
Politics as usual in Washington, and on a question that raises profound questions on the balance of security and liberty.
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