Not a single member rose in opposition, according to Time. If you’re surprised — and I am, a little — go back and look at the polling data on NSA spying that Pew released a few days ago. Among Republicans generally, 56 percent disapprove of the program versus just 37 percent who approve. Among tea-party Republicans specifically, disapproval reaches 68 percent — the highest level recorded by Pew among any demographic. Today’s resolution does, in fact, reflect the opinion of most of the party right now.
Even so, I thought HQ for the GOP establishment would hedge a bit in condemning a program that was, after all, launched by the last Republican president, whose brother may or may not be the next nominee and whose own RNC chairman slammed Democrats in 2006 for opposing the NSA’s counterterror initiatives. It was just last year, in fact, that the current establishment favorite dismissed libertarians’ objections to the program as “dangerous.” One of the fault lines in the 2016 primaries would, I thought, form between establishment hawks and libertarians over the future of the program — and yet, 18 months out, here’s the ultimate Republican establishment group sounding like Rand Paul two years out.
Is this debate over?
WHEREAS, every time an American citizen makes a phone call, the NSA gets a record of the location, the number called, the time of the call and the length of the conversation, all of which are an invasion into the personal lives of American citizens that violates the right of free speech and association afforded by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution;
WHEREAS, the mass collection and retention of personal data is in itself contrary to the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which guarantees the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, that warrants shall issue only upon probable cause, and generally prevents the American government from issuing modern-day writs of assistance;…
RESOLVED, the Republican National Committee encourages Republican lawmakers to enact legislation to amend Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make it clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity, phone records and correspondence — electronic, physical, and otherwise — of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;
There’s more at the link, including a call for congressional Republicans to “immediately take action” to halt the programs, but I wanted to excerpt the above to show you how stark the language is. This isn’t a delicately phrased half-measure expressing “concern” and seeking “balance” between privacy interests and counterterrorism. They’re calling the program flatly unconstitutional, not just on Fourth Amendment grounds but on First Amendment grounds. And they’re not limiting the protections they want to U.S. citizens. Anyone residing here would be covered under the RNC’s new version of Section 215. My instinct always when the Committee does something showy to please its base is that they’re simply working an angle aimed at protecting establishment prerogatives, but I don’t know. Why use language like this if there’s an ulterior motive? If the party ends up with a pro-NSA nominee, the left will have a field day rubbing this in his face in 2016. The RNC’s all in.
Makes me wonder what happens if Christie, Rubio, and other would-be hawks in the field take this as their cue to start inching away from the NSA. Would that create space for a niche candidate to jump in and prosecute the case for surveillance? Peter King wants to be that guy but no one takes him seriously. Maybe Bolton won’t be able to resist this time. Exit question: Is … this what the RNC wants to distract tea partiers from by passing the anti-NSA resolution? A compressed primary schedule benefits candidates with lots of dough, which usually means establishment candidates. (But not always. Rand Paul won’t want for money from libertarians who donated to his dad.)