Regarding the Julian Sanchez op-ed I linked earlier, Matt says:
FDR and Harry Truman did some dirt, LBJ did more, and then Richard Nixon took things to such extravagant extremes that he got caught, people got outraged, and restrictions were put in place. But the stuff that had been going on for decades before Nixon was really bad on its own on its own terms. Given the long bipartisan record of wiretap abuse, and given the greater range of possible abuses under modern technological circumstances, it's all-but-inevitable that if we further weaken the restrictions on the White House's ability to act, that abuses will happen.
It's really baffling to me that Republican members of congress -- and all-too-many Senate Democrats -- don't see it this way. Unlimited, unaccountable power will be abused, and not always in ways that Republicans like.
In recent months, it has become clear to me that the Bush administration doesn't seem to be doing this out of some venal attempt to grab power for Republicans. Rather, they genuinely believe that the executive branch was stripped of too much power during the backlash from the Nixon scandals, power that they need to fight terrorism and other security threats.
This is not, mind you, particularly reassuring. Almost every government official is seized by the vision of all the good things they could do if they only had more power. Terrorism, and the fading memory of Nixon, have given the Bush administration more leeway than most to actually accrue some of that power. It was our job to tell them to stop daydreaming and get back to work. And we pretty much failed miserably.