Why didn't Obama give his speech defending the NSA months ago, when it would have counted?

This was the brake the freight train needed half a year ago, before it ran away. The NSA’s record gathering is not Obamacare, Benghazi, or the IRS scandal, webs of administration deceit and stonewalling. It is a rigorously examined Bush-era counterterrorism effort. If the president had given this part of Friday’s speech back when it mattered last June, the public would have seen that his account of the program matched the account provided by such a respected conservative as former federal judge Michael Mukasey, who, as President Bush’s attorney general, was intimately familiar with its boundaries and civil-liberties safeguards.

Obama, instead, refrained from vigorously defending the program. He voted present while its detractors moved in for the kill. We will live with the consequences. He announced Friday that the program will be overhauled in some still undetermined manner — the president tap-danced on that one yesterday, essentially telling us to check back with him in late March. And in a mind-boggling concession to irate progressives who want the program dismantled, Obama decreed yesterday that every person on Planet Earth, no matter where located, now has privacy rights against surveillance by American intelligence services. While our spies are hamstrung, no word yet on when Russia, China, Iran, and similarly upstanding global exemplars will be reciprocating.

So it goes, this toxic mix of passive unseriousness and active harm. But not to worry: Only three more years left.