The Discerning Texan
-- Edmund Burke
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Advice for Senator McCain
It won't heal all the wounds...but McCain could do much worse than to begin here.
Sen. McCain is clearly the frontrunner. He could only help himself and help the country by directly taking on Senators Clinton and Obama regarding FISA reform.
This issue is tailor-made for a guy who's got a lot of work to do to convince critics of his interrogation and other restrictions that he grasps the importance of aggressive intelligence collection.
After a brief extension of the Feb 1 deadline, the current statutory authorization for monitoring terrorists and other national security threats outside the United States will lapse in a little over a week. The administration supports (for the most part) a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) bill that streamlines FISA application requirements, ensures that we can eavesdrop outside the U.S. without court supervision or interference (as the original 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act intended), and gives the telecommunications companies immunity from the ruinous suits they are currently facing for cooperating with the NSA's warrantless surveillance program (if the telecoms can show they acted in good faith on an assurance from the government that the program was legal).
This is such a no-brainer that the SSCI bill won overwhelming bipartisan support — passing 13-2. Yet, the hard Left in Congress is balking because of the telecom immunity provision (whose non-inclusion would not only be unfair but would endanger the country by disincentivizing the telecoms from working with the government to maintain our technology edge over the people trying to kill us).
Nevertheless, the nomination stand-off between Sens. Clinton and Obama creates a big problem for them. Since neither is a clear frontrunner, neither can afford to stare down the MoveOn, ACLU and CAIR types. They have been cagey about their position because they know how suicidal it is to be seen as (and, in fact to be) blocking intelligence collection against our enemies. But if push comes to shove, they will almost certainly oppose FISA reform to appease the base.
Sen. McCain should be calling them out. He should become the face of FISA reform, forcefully argue why we need it so badly, and shame the Democratic candidates into taking a clear position. Assuming they side with their base, McCain will have graphically shown in a very concrete way that it would be irresponsible to put one of them, rather than him, in charge of protecting the nation. If, miraculously, he were to drag them kicking and screaming to the right side of the issue, he would still help himself enormously.