Lefty bloggers have been making hay for days on the apparent gross contradiction between what President Bush said on April 20, 2004 -- "Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order" -- and what he actually did: authorize a secret NSA wiretapping program that required no court review whatsoever.
Today's New York Times article on the ongoing scandal reports Bush's attempt to explain himself: "I was talking about roving wiretaps, I believe, involved in the Patriot Act. This is different from the N.S.A. program."
Roving wiretaps authorize law enforcement to listen in on all the different phones a particular suspect might employ. And they do require court orders. And a review of the 2004 speech in question does reveal that Bush made his remarks in the context of a discussion of the Patriot Act. But as everyone from Andrew Sullivan to scores of bloggers noted immediately, the clear import of the president's statement, prefaced with a "by the way" that seems to flag the words to follow as particularly deserving of the public's atention, is to reassure his listeners that the United States government does not operate without following the proper checks and balances.
We now know this to be indisputably false. But it's hard to believe that anyone could be surprised that the president has been caught in the middle of another whopper. The same man who said in November that "we do not torture" heads an administration that has done everything in its power to ensure that we can torture if and when we please.
Once upon a time, much ink was spilled and much political warfare was waged over the question of whether a certain president lied about getting a blow job. Today's new, improved model of president lies about torture and the secret surveillance of American citizens. That's quite the upgrade.