Friday, January 27, 2006

When Some Metaphors Are Overused

I've always resented the use of the phrase "slippery slope" by politicians. It usually means they are shying away from doing something "controversial", i.e. bold and innovative. The result is that the metaphor, a quite picturesque one, becomes muddied and stale. People just shrug when it is used now, figuring the speaker is just engaging in a little Washington hyperbole.

An editorial in today's Washington Post brings up a matter to which I would love to use the metaphor "slippery slope" and have it resonate the way it should.

THE BUSH administration's distortion, for political purposes, of the Democratic position on warrantless surveillance is loathsome. Despite the best efforts of Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff, and Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman, to make it seem otherwise, Democrats are not opposed to vigorous, effective surveillance that could uncover terrorist activity. Nor are the concerns that they are expressing unique to their party. Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Arlen Specter (Pa.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Sam Brownback (Kan.) have expressed legal doubts about the surveillance program. Do they, too, have a "pre-9/11 worldview," as Mr. Rove said of the Democrats?

Believing there should be constraints on unchecked executive power is not the same as being weak-kneed about the war against terrorism. Critics are suggesting that President Bush should have gone through normal procedures for conducting such surveillance or asked Congress to provide clear legal authority for the National Security Agency activity. They are not contending that such surveillance shouldn't be conducted at all. No leading Democrat has argued for barring this kind of potentially useful technique.
[Emphasis added]

I wasn't having any trouble with the editorial until it got to the part about asking Congress to provide the legal authority for the regime to engage in warrantless spying.

Excuse me?

I don't think the framers of the Constitution intended to give either the executive branch or the legislative branch the power to spy on Americans without judicial oversight. Those wise men believed that personal liberty was so precious it had to be protected at all costs, even during a time of war.

Even assuming that we are at war (and I don't: no such declaration has issued from Congress), I don't see where we are obligated to give up our right to privacy and our right to be secure in our persons and our homes from unreasonable searches and seizures. That is why a warrant (judicial oversight) is required. The current FISA statute provides for an extremely easy way to get that warrant and does not require fixing. We don't need to make it easier for this or any other regime to spy on us.

That, folks, is one heckuva slippery slope. Really.


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