[Written for Daily Kos
In the Feb. 10th edition of the Washington Post, Jim VandeHei writes
that Cheney wants to see the NSA spying situation to become a political issue for the 2006 Congressional elections.
For once, I agree with him. Yes, the NSA spying fiasco should by all means be a subject that carries well into and beyond election day 2006. But where others here may see opportunity, I see danger.
Some in Washington are yielding to the temptation to downplay the threat and to back away from the business at hand," Cheney said. "That mind-set may be comforting, but it is dangerous.
That's what Cheney said at the annual CPAC conference. It has a familiar ring to it.
Now refresh your memories on what recommended diarist thereisnospoon said about the lack of public penetration any one of the numerous daily scandals actually acquires in the public eye:
Yet nothing changes.
My apolitical friends remain clueless and apolitical.
The media continues to carry water for Bush, even though it's clear by now to everyone with eyes that the emperor has no clothes.
The Democrats, while they are doing better, continue to be unable to get their message across to John Q. Public--partly because the media hamstrings them.
And the GOP, meanwhile, laughs all the way to the bank, as they realize that they can truly get away with anything.
We may think that the pretty blatantly illegal activity of this administration is a weakness, but they don't see it that way. That's because they know something we refuse to fully admit: that the public's attention span is short, and their unnuanced apolitical apathy will remain as ubiquitous as it ever was.
Because of this, where you may see opportunity--or, at the very worst, frustration that the message about their scandal and illegal activity just doesn't get through--I see worse. I see foreboding. I see the very things that should be our strengths used against us. We know they do this, especially on national security issues. Somebody lost three limbs serving this country when his opponenent never served? Imply that he's an ally of Osama. Someone receives three purple hearts while his opponent was drunk? Mock him with purple hearts. Someone has extensive experience in foreign policy? Call him a consummate untrustworthy Washington insider, even though you've been President for four years.
You get the idea. Every time they do something like this, it boggles our minds that the public doesn't care and the Fourth Estate, whose jobs we thought it was to actually convey some semblance of truth, refuses to point out the obvious in the apparent interests of non-partisan equivocation, or, in some cases, to serve their corporate masters who are in turn served by the GOP war on the middle class.
My friends, this is what I see with the NSA scandal. I can almost guarantee you that in a few months, when election discussions really start heating up, our candidates will have to start defending themselves against charges that they don't want to see Al-Qaeda spied on. We will be forced by the talking heads and the print sources who march lock-step with the talking points of their Republican masters to answer charges that by opposing wiretapping on Al-Qaeda that we have forgotten the lessons of Sept. 11th.
And once this has happened, every single time a Democratic candidate or official stands up and says, "no, we absolutely should be eavesdropping on Al-Qaeda", you'll see it reported by the traditional media that another Democrat has broken ranks and supports the President's policy on terror.
And all the while, we'll be stuck here writing diaries about how pissed we are that the media is failing to report that we've always supported spying on Al-Qaeda, but that the legal means that had previously been used to do it were doing just fine. We'll have recommended diaries about the latest asshole media talking head who just carried water for a Republican candidate in spite of the presence of obvious facts suggesting the contrary. And once again, the talking heads will say that we don't have a vision on national security and feed the perception that the Republicans are the party of national security.
It is a dark vision, and I would like to think it's impossible. But my heart tells me that it isn't. I feel a dark sense of dread that very soon, all of our own rifles will soon be pointed at us.
And soon, 2006 will come and go, with the exact same messages and sound bites as the 2004 campaign. And we'll be left wondering why the hell the media can't see the obviousness of the truth. We'll be wondering why the hell the public doesn't care. We'll be baffled that despite the twice-daily scandals, we didn't get the equivalent of the Contract with America revolution of '94.
I like to end such "I fear for the world" diaries with a call to action--a call to push for a solution that I think will find us a way out of this hell. But truth to tell, this time, I have none to give.
We've been screaming all we can about the particulars of the law--about the difference between legal and illegal wiretapping. About the ineffectiveness and immorality of widespread data-mining. About the fact that spying on communications is perfectly legal with a warrant and we support all such legally warranted spying. The only thing I can say at this point is this: keep up the good work. I know that if we can't do it, nobody else will.