Speaker Nancy Pelosi quashed the House Intelligence Committee's bipartisan effort and supported a Democratic bill that Limbaugh is salivating would require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target's calls to be approved by the FISA court, an institution founded to protect the rights of U.S. citizens only. In the lethal shorthand of political advertising, it would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans.
This was the gut of the column and it was wrong. We all make mistakes and the intricacies of the FISA law are mind-numbing. I think Joe's correction is fine, although I do think the online version of the column needs to have a correction attached pronto. But my main issue is with the reflexive fear centrist Democrats have in the face of shameless demagogues like Limbaugh. This is Clintonism writ large. The argument for judicial safeguards on wire-tapping is popular and important. It's a vital and simple precaution against abuse of government power. Until Democrats and traditional Republicans stop being craven in the face of the far right's bluster - until they get angry at the idiocy and un-American authoritarianism of the Hannity-Limbaugh-Giuliani right, they will lose, and deserve to lose.
Beneath this war between new and old media, there is a deeper and more important battle: to regain our collective nerve against the bullies of the authoritarian far right. The difference between my position and Joe's is minuscule on this war, and, unlike Glenn, I admire and like Joe Klein as a journalist and friend. But we need more Greenwaldism and less Clintonism in the fight for American freedom. Bullies see a defensive crouch as an invitation for more bullying. It is time to fight back.
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