John Schmidt wrote a compelling article for the Chicago Tribune's Editorial page, one which should be required reading for anyone interested or concerned about the question of President Bush’s authority to order domestic surveillance for phone calls and e-mails. Schmidt’s argument is thorough and compelling. I thought about quoting some of it here, but it’s better that you simply read it. All of it.
“President Had legal Authority To Order Wiretaps”
Now that you have read the article, the matter should be very clear. But there are two additional points I would like to make in this matter. At the bottom of the article, it is noted that Mr. Schmidt served President Clinton as the Associate Attorney General between 1994 and 1997. He is not some neocon trying to justify an extreme action or violation of the Constitution, but a professional with significant and direct experience in the matters of the law as they pertain to National Security. This is not a Democrat or Republican position vis a vis the decision to collect vital intelligence which could decide the life or death of countless innocent Americans, but a serious responsibility of the President, and it carries the necessary authority for him to act on his judgment as the elected Chief Executive of the United States of America.
Also, it should be understood that the War on Terrorism is not some game that Democrats play badly and Republicans play well, but the defense of the nation at the highest stakes. It is grossly unfair to imply that Bill Clinton is responsible for the 9/11 attacks, simply because one might disagree with his decisions or priorities. A lot of the people who served in the Clinton Administration were top-notch people, and as stupid and unreasonable as certain individuals were to common sense, many others have valuable experience and insight that should be considered and employed.
Largely, the real difference between Republicans and Democrats since the 9/11 attacks, is that many Republicans have been willing to work with responsible Democrats, specifically because the Republicans knew that the politics played by Clinton and Gore were not necessarily reflected at the other levels. Unfortunately, the Democrats changed their actions about the middle of 2002, to try to play for political gains, putting pressure on a lot of Democrats who would personally have preferred a higher moral ground. So it is that we are still encountering not only the occasional Republican who seems surprised by the tactics of a Howard Dean or a John Kerry, but also every so often we get a Miller or a Lieberman who decides to put country ahead of politics. As difficult as it is, it is imperative that every voice offering advice in the War on Terror must be given a chance to prove their worth, and as frustrating as this can be in certain respects, it is vital to keep our focus and proper perspective.