I’d like to say something intelligent about this, but I’ve tried now three times and I’m reduced to incoherent rage.
MR. LEHRER: First, the New York Times story this morning that says that you authorized secret wiretaps by the National Security Agency of thousands of Americans. Is that true?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Jim, we do not discuss ongoing intelligence operations to protect the country, and the reason why is that there’s an enemy that lurks, that would like to know exactly what we’re trying to do to stop them. I will make this point. That whatever I do to protect the American people, and I have an obligation to do so, that we will uphold the law, and decisions made are made understanding we have an obligation to protect the civil liberties of the American people.
MR. LEHRER: So if, in fact, these things did occur, they were done legally and properly?
PRESIDENT BUSH: So you’re trying to get me to talk about a program–
MR. LEHRER: Yeah.
PRESIDENT BUSH: –that’s important not to talk about, and the reason why is that we’re at a war with an enemy that still wants to attack. I, uh–after 9/11, I told the American people I would do everything in my power to protect the country, within the law, and that’s exactly how I conduct my presidency.
MR. LEHRER: Well, Mr. President, with all due respect, wouldn’t you think–don’t you believe that answer is going to lead people to believe that you’re confirming that in fact you did this?
PRESIDENT BUSH: We don’t talk about sources and methods. Don’t talk about ongoing intelligence operations. I know there’s speculation. But it’s important for the American people to understand that we will do–or I will use my powers to protect us, and I will do so under the law, and that’s important for our citizens to understand.
The Philadelphia Daily News has more about how the New York Times (that supposed bastion of the liberal elite) sold us all out by declining to report this story back when we voters could have done something about it.
Or maybe we just are all fine with the federal government wiretapping us and spying on us. Who the fuck knows any more? Maybe this is all fine and I’m the crazy one. Let’s hope to god that’s so.
12/18/05–edited to add: We’ve clearly entered crazy land when Bob Fucking Barr and I are in agreement. Preach on, Brother Bob:
BOB BARR, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: What’s wrong with it is several-fold. One, it’s bad policy for our government to be spying on American citizens through the National Security Agency. Secondly, it’s bad to be spying on Americans without court oversight. And thirdly, it’s bad to be spying on Americans apparently in violation of federal laws against doing it without court order.
BARR: Well, the fact of the matter is that the Constitution is the Constitution, and I took an oath to abide by it. My good friend, my former colleague, Dana Rohrabacher, did and the president did. And I don’t really care very much whether or not it can be justified based on some hypothetical. The fact of the matter is that, if you have any government official who deliberately orders that federal law be violated despite the best of motives, that certainly ought to be of concern to us.
BARR: Well, gee, I guess then the president should be able to ignore whatever provision in the Constitution as long as there’s something after the fact that justifies it.
ROHRABACHER: Bob, during wartime, you give some powers to the presidency you wouldn’t give in peace time.
BARR: Do we have a declaration of war, Dana?
ROHRABACHER: You don’t have to do that.
BARR: We don’t? That makes it even much easier for a president.
BARR: Here again, this is absolutely a bizarre conversation where you have a member of Congress saying that it’s okay for the president of the United States to ignore U.S. law, to ignore the Constitution, simply because we are in an undeclared war.
The fact of the matter is the law prohibits — specificallyprohibits — what apparently was done in this case, and for a member of Congress to say, oh, that doesn’t matter, I’m proud that the president violated the law is absolutely astounding, Wolf.