Leonard Pitts in the Miami Herald:
Another president, perhaps.
Maybe then it would be easier to look the other way, give a tacit nod to the abrogation of constitutional freedoms as a wartime necessity. After all, Abraham Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus during the Civil War and history does not begrudge him for it, given that he faced an enemy massed almost literally within sight of the White House.
But this is not President Lincoln we’re talking about. It’s not even President Roosevelt, succumbing to post-Pearl Harbor hysteria and interning thousands of Americans of Japanese ancestry.
No, we’re talking about President Bush — King George, if you will — and last month’s New York Times bombshell that a few months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without warrants on phone calls and e-mails of hundreds if not thousands of U.S. citizens.
Maybe you figure it has nothing to do with law-abiding you and if “those people” weren’t up to something nefarious, the feds wouldn’t be investigating them. Of course, one might argue that it’s foolish to impute infallibility to a government that sometimes sends Social Security checks to dead cats.
Still, it’s not hard to understand the urge to look the other way. Because with all due respect to the threat terrorists pose, Franklin Roosevelt was right. Fear itself is still the first enemy. When people are scared, they don’t think, they don’t reason and they want nothing so desperately as to just stop being scared. So often, they’ll go along with anything that holds out that promise. Even if it means allowing the rights our forebears won from Britain’s King George III to be denuded by America’s King George I.
Still, we should be ashamed.
Freedom deserves a better epitaph than fear.