The headline is the question Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) asked on Face the Nation this morning, but I think that’s the wrong question to ask. It’s not whether or not we trust the Obama administration to monitor our phone calls and read our emails. It’s whether or not we can trust any administration, or the government in general, to monitor our phone calls and read our emails.
Let’s not forget that the roots of the NSA scandal are in the Bush administration, and Republicans (including, I’ll admit, myself) were very much for ceding this sort of authority to the government. Because, I think, they imagined it would always be wielded by someone they trusted. Like a George W. Bush. And we were convinced that it was necessary to fighting terror in the post-9/11 world.
But the problem with giving power to the government is that the government almost never gives that power back. The power we give government when people we like are in charge also goes to the people we don’t like when they’re in charge.
I wonder how many on the right would be defending the NSA – as Senator Lindsey Graham has been – if a Republican were still President? How many liberals are now defending President Obama’s foray into Big Brother territory when, under Bush, they thought this sort of thing was fascism?
The NSA scandal, along with the IRS scandal and the DoJ spying on reporters scandal among others, is evidence of government skepticism being a healthy thing. Not all that long ago, tea party protesters who gathered across America to express their displeasure with excessive government were described by many in the media as dangerous anti-government extremists.
Maybe we’re all extremists now.