"Soft on terrorism" or soft in the head?

Will the Democrats cave on surveillance in another vain attempt to avoid a Republican smear?

Published October 9, 2007 1:52PM (EDT)

Here we go again.

The New York Times reports that Democrats in Congress seem ready to make permanent some of the surveillance powers they said they were granting the administration on a temporary basis this summer.

"As the debate over the eavesdropping powers of the National Security Agency begins anew this week, the emerging measures reflect the reality confronting the Democrats," the Times says. "Although willing to oppose the White House on the Iraq war, they remain nervous that they will be called soft on terrorism if they insist on strict curbs on gathering intelligence."

Memo to Democrats: You'd still be called "soft on terrorism" if you took it upon yourself to suit up in camouflage, fly to Pakistan and kill Osama bin Laden with your bare hands. If you think the Bush administration should have greater surveillance powers, approve them. If you don't, don't. But don't do whatever you do thinking that the Republicans are going to wake up tomorrow and agree that you're just as tough on terrorists as they claim to be. It hasn't happened yet, and it's not going to happen now.

Update: As Glenn Greenwald notes, the surveillance bill House Democrats introduced today is actually a pretty reasonable one. But there's a difference between introducing a bill and getting it passed, and an even greater difference between getting a bill through the House and getting it through the Senate. Call us when Jay Rockefeller and Dianne Feinstein have found the strength to deny the White House whatever it is that it wants.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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