The United States Senate is a place where people try to remain civil with each other on a personal level, no matter how strongly they disagree with each other politically. It was with this attitude that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the floor of the Senate on July 9th and attempted to reconcile his opposition to the FISA Amendments Act with his support for the senators who voted for the law.
Reid’s statement was the apex of his incoherent position. Harry Reid committed to individually vote against the proposed law, but also worked to support efforts to push the anti-constitutional law through to passage. He claimed to lead the Democrats in the Senate for the sake of upholding the Constitution and protecting the freedoms of the American people, but heaped praise on Democratic senators who moved to do just the opposite.
Reid spoke in praise of Senator John Rockefeller, who had led the Democrats in the Senate who sought to approve George W. Bush’s demands in the FISA Amendments Act. Reid tried to explain what motivated Rockefeller to support the FISA Amendments Act, saying,
“I may disagree with the result of what we have on the floor today, and the outcome of what is going to happen today, but I want everyone to know that Senator Rockefeller is a man who works hard. There is no Senator who works any harder than Jay Rockefeller. He spends, with his counterpart and counterparts, Members of the Intelligence Committee, days, days each week in a place that is secure, away from the press, staff, and the rest of the Senate, in trying to figure out what is going on in the world as it relates to bad people trying to do bad things.”
“Trying to figure out what is going on in the world as it relates to bad people trying to bad things” – that is the level of coherence at which the FISA Amendments Act was developed and pushed through Congress. The politics of the attack against the Constitution are designed so that any simpleton can grasp them: The FISA Amendments Act is a law against bad people, and so if you’re against bad people, you should support the FISA Amendments Act.
The tragedy of this kind of kindergarten politics is that it remains willfully ignorant of the fundamental insight that fueled the creation of the United States of America: That often, the most dangerous “bad people” are not rogue criminals, but people who hold high positions in government, and are willing to abuse the rights of citizens in order to gain power for themselves.
The Constitution is in place to serve as a check against the ambitions of people in powerful positions in government. When Congress passes laws that undermine the Constitution, as the FISA Amendments Act does, they do not make us more secure from “bad people”. They make us more vulnerable.
Unfortunately, in the realm of kindergarten politics, the ability to follow that argument falls prey to the childish instinct of blind trust in authority figures. “Bad people” are only strangers, and big strong, powerful people are there to make us safe.
Go back to your desk and play with your fingerpaints, America. The FISA Amendments Act is passed. Don’t worry your little heads about the bad people any more.