You'll likely hear some media accounts saying that the "Tea Party" wing of the GOP was responsible for beating back the Patriot Act, but that's not quite true. Of the 26 Republican "nay" votes, only eight came from the massive freshman class, and many of those generally associated with the right-wing faction -- including Michele Bachmann and Allen West -- voted with the GOP leadership in support of the bill. Indeed, looking specifically at the 52 members of the House Tea Party Caucus, 44 of them voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act.
In those rare cases when there has been real opposition on the Right, it has been grounded in a fear that they will be subjected to the abuses they oppose. Christian groups were petrified that Patriot Act powers would be used by federal officials to disrupt their religious liberty. Anger over TSA patdowns occurred on the Right only because good white Christian Americans (rather than dark American Muslims) were being inconvenienced. And the newfound right-wing concern for the Constitution stems from the belief that Obama (unlike Bush) will use the Executive Branch's ability to transgress Constitutional limits in a way that harms conservatives. It's very self-interested -- and unprincipled -- advocacy: they suddenly discover their distrust of government power and belief in liberty only when they perceive that their own interests are endangered. That's better than never discovering it -- indeed, the Democrats' failure to meaningfully oppose Bush's seizure of radical power, even if only on self-interested grounds, will redound to their eternal shame -- but such erratic interest in civil liberties makes for a very unreliable and ultimately counter-productive alliance.
Barack Obama would restore America’s standing, reputation and authority in the world. As president, Obama will:
• Revise the PATRIOT Act. Barack Obama believes that we must provide law enforcement the tools it needs to investigate, disrupt, and capture terrorists, but he also believes we need real oversight to avoid jeopardizing the rights and ideals of all Americans. There is no reason we cannot fight terrorism while maintaining our civil liberties. Unfortunately, the current administration has abused the powers given to it by the PATRIOT Act. A March 2007 Justice Department audit found the FBI improperly and, in some cases, illegally used the PATRIOT Act to secretly obtain personal information about American citizens. As president, Barack Obama would revisit the PATRIOT Act to ensure that there is real and robust oversight of tools like National Security Letters, sneak-and-peek searches, and the use of the material witness provision.
• Eliminate Warrantless Wiretaps. Barack Obama opposed the Bush Administration’s initial policy on warrantless wiretaps because it crossed the line between protecting our national security and eroding the civil liberties of American citizens. As president, Obama would update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to provide greater oversight and accountability to the congressional intelligence committees to prevent future threats to the rule of law.
Also, please, STOP SAYING THAT THIS IS SOMETHING GOOD ABOUT THE TEA PARTY. 15% of them voted against the PATRIOT ACT extension. 85% were for it.
The Republicans who control the House made plans to bring the measure back for a quick vote later this month under normal rules, requiring only a simple majority for passage.
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