Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Public Smarter Than Its Politicians

In the velocity of 24/7 news, the Eric Snowden story has been aborted in the media’s womb, a viable fetus of scandal for only days. The underlying issue of privacy vs. security lives on, but politicians Left, Right and Center are backing away from bashing one another over it.

The electorate, in primal wisdom, has told them to cool it, as a new poll shows 57 percent believe “leaks about the surveillance programs would not affect the ability of the United States to prevent future terrorist attacks” after 56 percent had called phone tracking an acceptable tactic.

In the light of such attitudes, the likes of John Boehner have turned on a dime. After first challenging the President to “explain” the NSA revelations, the Speaker is now leading the pack calling Snowden “a traitor.”

As most Democrats like Al Franken line up to back the programs, their GOP counterparts are rushing to outdo them in patriotic fervor, with good old reliable Lindsey Graham proclaiming he wouldn’t mind having the government snoop on his snail mail.

As he often does, Thomas Friedman reflects the mixed feelings that most rational Americans can’t avoid:

“Yes, I worry about potential government abuse of privacy from a program designed to prevent another 9/11--abuse that, so far, does not appear to have happened. But I worry even more about another 9/11...

“I worry about that even more, not because I don’t care about civil liberties, but because what I cherish most about America is our open society, and I believe that if there is one more 9/11--or worse, an attack involving nuclear material--it could lead to the end of the open society as we know it...I fear that 99 percent of Americans would tell their members of Congress: ‘Do whatever you need to do to, privacy be damned, just make sure this does not happen again.’ That is what I fear most.”

Behind all the posturing that will go on for a few more days, that has to be at the core of our concern, even if most politicians, unlike the public, won’t face it.

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