According to the latest Pew/Washington Post poll, a greater majority of Americans are comfortable with the National Security Agency (NSA) reading everything except your thoughts than were comfortable with the idea of a President named Barack Obama. In fact, if the numbers are even close to correct (never a sure bet), 62 percent of Americans harbor no ill will toward government’s inexorable transformation into the sort of outfit one can normally find only in a George Orwell novel or the Department of the Treasury (Internal Revenue Division).
Nearly two out of three Americans believe gathering intelligence on potential terrorism is more important than their Constitutionally affirmed freedom. As a Nation, we are more unified about turning over our freedoms than we are about virtually anything else of significance. To give you some political perspective: A President hasn’t strutted into the Oval Office swinging that kind of electoral lumber since President James Monroe circled the bases unopposed in 1820. (Presidents Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson got close.) I’m not convinced we could come to such an agreement over anything that doesn’t involve free beer and not watching MSNBC.
To be fair, Democrats are less bothered by the NSA’s intrusions than Republicans, but only by a few points. Both sides register well above 50 percent in the “yea” column. That’s sad, but unsurprising — especially given the fact that the two sides have selected Obama, Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain as their intended leaders of the free world.
But what do we actually receive in return for our gift of liberty? The poll results suggest we’re willing to trade liberty for security. Clearly, liberty is in shorter supply than straight answers at a White House press briefing. So where’s that shiny new security we’re supposed to be enjoying? The attacks on Benghazi, Boston and Fort Hood all occurred during the conduct of Operation Boundless Informant. In fact, given the scope of the program, not only should those horrors been averted, but a sizable chunk of crime nationwide should have been averted as well. I’d like to think that some cubicle rat at Fort Meade could take a break from reading my mother’s group emails to her bridge club to alert the local flatfoots that someone’s on his smartphone planning to knock over the First National.
They armed Mexican narcoterrorists, and they promptly lost track of the guns. They federalized our healthcare, but they lied about virtually every aspect of their plan. They left four Americans to die in the desert while they partied in Las Vegas, and then they blamed the whole thing on an old YouTube video. They turned the Internal Revenue Service into the KGB and told us we deserved it, what with all that praying we’ve been doing. The same guys who used to take over the principal’s office to protest something involving whales or Jane Fonda are now running the show in Washington, D.C. When they were kids, they were smug and ignorant. As adults, they’re smug, ignorant and elected.
Yet 62 percent of us are perfectly willing to hand over the Bill of Rights as a marker against future attacks like the ones the NSA domestic spying program has already failed to prevent. Sixty-two percent of us are willing to endure having our emails read by the same government that makes the Department of Motor Vehicles such a party. Sixty-two percent of us trust everything from our Web-browsing habits to our phone records with the same people who brought us a State Department that spends more time on duplicity than it does on diplomacy.
Sixty-two percent of us are willing to ignore patron of liberty Ben Franklin’s admonishment: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” As for the other 38 percent of us… well, we must be hiding something, right?