Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Acting Down

I find it interesting that the House failed to renew the Patriot Act. It's a little tricky, because they actually had a majority in favor, but since the R leadership chose some method or other, it required two-thirds. But let's just consider the fact of its "rejection."

Washington • The House on Tuesday failed to extend the life of three surveillance tools that are key to the nation’s post-Sept. 11 anti-terror law, a slipup for the new Republican leadership that miscalculated the level of opposition. ...

... The Republicans, who took over the House last month, lost 26 of their own members, adding to the 122 Democrats who voted against it. Supporters say the three measures are vital to preventing another terrorist attack, but critics say they infringe on civil liberties. They appealed to the antipathy that newer and more conservative Republicans hold for big government invasions of individual privacy....

.... Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said Republican supporters of the tea party movement should show their opposition to big government by joining Democrats in opposing the measure.

“How about the Patriot Act, which has the broadest reach and the deepest reach of government to our daily lives?” he asked.

I've always thought that true conservatives would have recoiled at the Act when it was first proposed. What greater example of big-brotherism could there be; what anathema is it to those who distrust government power, who believe in small government? When, I wondered, would they change their tune? When there was a Democrat as president? What about a black one? Not that that would ever happen.

Leaving the snark aside -- and admitting I don't have the names and affiliations of the Rs who said "no" -- I must say it does impress me that there were some Rs who voted nay, and that the obvious conjunction of liberal civil libertarians and conservative big-government worriers finally became apparent. One can only speculate on the extent to which the R-noes came there from a black place.

None of which is to opine about the merits of the act per se. I think the government needs effective tools to intercept messages from and otherwise track bad guys. I was among those, however, who thought it could be done legally -- as opposed to the way President Cheney chose: no oversight at all, no restrictions whatso. It's an argument that was made only at the edges back then, as any attempts to keep our leaders within the law were shouted down as treasonous by the RWS™.

Interesting how things have changed, to the extent that they actually have (which is not much, in that it'll no doubt come up again in a manner that allows majority vote. But it does make for a nice, if short-lived, headline.)

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