Blind Faith and FISA

Over at Ars Technica, I cover Sen. Chris Dodd’s plans to filibuster the FISA bill that is now under consideration in the Senate. Given that the Senate already overrode Dodd’s filibuster and passed legislation that undermines civil liberties back in February, his effort this time is a long shot. But he’s giving it all he’s got. Dodd gave a really excellent speech on the Senate floor in opposition to the legislation. He makes a lot of great points, but this passage was my favorite:

This bill does not say, “Trust the American people; Trust the courts and judges and juries to come to just decisions.” Retroactive immunity sends a message that is crystal clear: “Trust me.”

And that message comes straight from the mouth of this President. “Trust me.”

What is the basis for that trust? Classified documents, we are told, that prove the case for retroactive immunity beyond a shadow of a doubt. But we’re not allowed to see them! I’ve served in this body for 27 years, and I’m not allowed to see them! Neither are a majority of my colleagues. We are all left in the dark. I cannot speak for my colleagues—but I would never take “trust me” for an answer, not even in the best of times. Not even from a President on Mount Rushmore.

I can’t put it better than this: “ ‘Trust me’ government is government that asks that we concentrate our hopes and dreams on one man; that we trust him to do what’s best for us. My view of government places trust not in one person or one party, but in those values that transcend persons and parties.”

Those words were not spoken by someone who took our nation’s security lightly, Mr. President. They were spoken by Ronald Reagan – in 1980. They are every bit as true today, even if times of threat and fear blur our concept of transcendent values. Even if those who would exploit those times urge us to save our skins at any cost.

We once had a Republican president who understood that blind faith in the president was unpatriotic. Not only do few Republicans understand that today, but it seems a lot of Democrats have forgotten it too.