(and other thoughts about the Obama presser)
The new NSA proposals President Obama announced at yesterday's press conference were small beer -- no, I don't think having a "devil's advocate" in FISA hearings is going to reduce the approval rate for warrants below 100% because (eeek! eeek!) nobody wants to be blamed for the security lapse that leads to the next 9/11. (Everyone missed the Tsarnaevs and Nidal Hasan, but somehow that doesn't bother anyone.) Nevertheless, Snowden and the Guardian crew nudged the conversation along -- I suppose "nudge" is a vast understatement -- and that's a good thing (no, I don't agree with Obama that tweaks would have happened without Snowden). I don't know how long this can last -- Snowden's bag of secrets has to empty out sometime, and at that point I fear we're going to stop talking about this -- but we might see a few improvements.
I've been wondering whether foreign-policy hard-assery will turn out to be, for Obama, what Vietnam was for LBJ -- the legacy-definer that wasn't supposed to be the legacy-definer. But I don't think it's going to work out that way. There aren't hundreds of thousands of people out in the streets protesting the surveillance regime or civilian deaths in drone strikes; anger about these things is still a niche-market taste. Which is why I don't think much is going to change. And as I say, I think we'll stop talking about this as soon as Glenn Greenwald and Spencer Ackermann run out of Snowden scoops.
On the other hand, what troops is Team Boehner trying to rally with this reaction to Obama's NSA comments?
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner, said the reason for Americans' concerns could mostly be attributed to the lack of explanation from the administration.Here's Boehner's shot to attack the president after his press conference, and his line is that the president isn't pro-NSA enough?
"Transparency is important, but we expect the White House to insist that no reform will compromise the operational integrity of the program. That must be the president's red line, and he must enforce it," Buck said. "Our priority should continue to be saving American lives, not saving face."
Maybe I'm reading public opinion wrong, but it seems to me that there are two strains of thought on NSA surveillance among ordinary citizens (of both parties): some think the surveillance is wretchedly excessive, others think, yeah, we have to fight the Evildoers, so surveillance that catches up innocent Americans is, regrettably, necessary. But I don't think very many people like the damn surveillance. Maybe there's positive feeling around the dinner table when Bill Kristol invites his daughter and son-in-law Matt Continetti for a family get-together, or when Liz and Dick Cheney get talking while shooting small animals. But normal people don't feel good about this.
And Republicans think Obama is somehow spying intrusively on too many people and killing lots of people in drone strikes while letting the hated Evildoers run wild, because he hates America and wants the Evildoers -- his fellow Muslims -- to win. If I were a wingnut, I could explain to you why this makes sense, but I'm not, so I'm can't.
So Boehner is crazy to think this was a good line of response. He probably should have just gone the Fox Nation route and decided that
this was the most important story to come out of the press conference:
Yup -- BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! BENGHAZI! That's what the press conference was all about, according to the Murdochians. Oh, and they still can't bear it that Obama got Osama.