If you’ve lost Bob Beckel, you’ve lost .. one of Fox News’s six or seven liberals, some of whom are defending the NSA’s record-harvesting even now. Ah well. Worth watching anyway, partly because occasions for a second look at Beckel are rare and partly because of Dana Perino’s argument at the end about how Beckel would feel if the feds stopped data-mining and his son was killed in a terrorist attack. That’s the other evergreen defense of the surveillance state, complementing Lindsey Graham’s point yesterday that if you haven’t done anything wrong you should have nothing to worry about. If records-snooping saves lives, isn’t it worth it? Isn’t it absolutely true that if O canceled the PRISM program and then the country was attacked, he’d be bludgeoned politically by hawks for not having done everything he could to protect Americans? (Answer: Yes, it’s absolutely true.) Perino’s hypothetical reminds me of O’s and Biden’s “if it saves just one life” gun-control talking point from this past winter. More expansive background checks might save a few lives. An assault-weapons ban might save even more. A total ban on semiautomatics might save a lot. Why not do everything we can, even if it’s intrusive? You can slide a long way on that slope.
But I don’t mean to lecture. Perino will almost certainly win this argument among the public. I’d be very, very surprised if there was any sort of sharp, sustained backlash to the news this week about government snooping. The next round of polls will look bad for Obama, just because people know how they’re supposed to answer when a pollster asks if they’re “troubled” about the government having a record of virtually every electronic communication they’ve engaged in over the past five years. The public will disapprove, strongly, but no one’s getting voted out over this. In fact, the loathsome hacks at the New York Times couldn’t stand the thought of their editorial attack on O remaining as-is for even one day without watering it down to go easier on Bambi. Eventually he’ll give one of his stupid “let’s have a national debate” speeches to placate them and all the easily impressed soi-disant intellectuals will decide grudgingly to give him a pass — again — because they trust him to be a responsible actor, and that’ll be that. It’s a non-issue next year in November. You might slow the growth of the surveillance state but you won’t reverse it.