It will come as no surprise that Bush’s controversial, and illegal, domestic wiretapping program is becoming an issue in the Kyl-Pederson Senate race. Kyl is a staunch Bush supporter and chairs the anti-terrorism Senate subcommittee. He is unflinching in reeling out the Administration’s descredited justification for the program at the drop of a hat and firmly backing the Administration’s plays, including lockstepping with Senator DeWine on exempting the Administration’s secret program from FISA entirely, and damning the whistleblowing that brought it to light.
Even key Congressional allies of the President are balking at the President’s proposals oversight that amount to little more than looking the other way when confronted by failed intel programs and blatant law-breaking. While nearly half of Americans are said to support such a spying program, there is a dam of secrecy holding back news of the effectiveness and scope of this program that will almost surely completely rewrite public opinion overnight should the truth come out. That is why the Administration is twisting arms furiously on the Hill to avoid real investigatory hearings on the program. Even so, in Arizona we must have more Republicans who are traditionally suspicious of the Federal government, because on 38% support the President’s position here – 10 points lower than do nationally. Kyl’s high-profile, hard-line support for the President’s power grab could cost him dearly.
Pederson is currently hanging fire on the issue, though he has had proxies such as Party Chairman Mitchell exploring a stronger position, he has even said that to the extent that the program is targeting terrorists, he supports it. I think this is a foolish strategy. Pederson should be standing firmly on civil liberties, instead he says, "If they are, in fact, going after terrorists, I agree with them 100 percent." When the boom falls and the program is shown to be massively violating American’s rights and of marginal to no intelligence value, he will want to be clearly distinguished from Kyl’s craven cronyism, and well-positioned to take advantage of the backlash of anger in the electorate. What if they are going after terrorists 1% of the time (which I think is probably generous)? Pederson would still be honor bound to support the program given statements like that above, no matter the collateral damage to civil liberties. No. Tough on terror is the wrong frame for Pederson; protector of Arizonan’s rights primarily, and terrorism secondary, is the correct approach.
If Pederson continues to tacitly accept the illegal program by not full-throatedly denouncing it, he’ll be left holding the same sort of baggage that hampered Kerry and Edwards in their attack on Bush’s Iraq policy – they were for it before they were against it.