Friday, May 12, 2006

Rove's Plot Leads to Fastest Rowback Ever?

There's been lots of great coverage on the blogs about the USA Today story on NSA spying. Check out Powerline or Michelle Malkin, among others, for a good analysis.

But this morning I see signs that the Democratic wave of outrage has crested, and they are headed for full rowback.

This morning I watched or listened to three different shows, where analysts ranging from extreme liberal to moderate conservative suggested that the timing of this leak is a Rove plot, designed to bait Democrats into arguing national security.

Rachel Maddow, an Air America host (whom I sometimes listen to so YOU don't have to!), said that she was stunned that the President responded so quickly to the USA Today story. The only way he could have gotten a statement out so quickly was if the WH was in on the leak! And why leak it now? Because the White House 'thinks' that national security is a winning issue for them. They 'think' that the public believes that Republicans are better than Democrats on national security. And they 'think' that if they get the American people to think seriously about the terrorist threat, they'll be more supportive of Republicans. You will be shocked to learn that she suggested that this was all thought up by Karl Rove, now that he is again focused on politics, instead of policy. She pointed out that once again, it allows Bush to talk about 9/11, and how the US has not suffered a successful terrorist attack since.

On another program, they noted that an overnight ABC/Washington Post poll shows that 63% of Americans support the program, and that by 51% support the way President Bush is protecting privacy. They suggested that more than 50 House Democrats were silly to call for an independent counsel to investigate. They said that the WH response was so quick, that it shows Tony Snow must be doing a great job, and that Snow might have been the sharp operator who said that the American people would support the program, and so the WH should defend it forcefully.

My hunch that we had entered rowback mode was confirmed when the official mouthpiece of the Democratic party aired a piece about how the NSA program is no big deal - quite trivial really - but probably was a waste of money. The segment featured an interview of author of "Chatter," who characterized this surveillance as being 'a mile wide and an inch deep,' because calls are not tapped. He said that this program is akin to the NSA looking at your monthly phone bill - who you called, and for how long. He said that analysis of millions of phone numbers led to thousands of tips, of which fewer than 10 ultimately generated phone taps.

When the host said that this sounds like a waste of money on a program that has low yield, he said that he had interviewed former NSA Director Admiral Bobby Ray Inman about the program, and that Inman pointed out that this is the nature of fighting terrorism. If you generate 100,000 tips, and catch 1 terrorist, then you may have a low yield, but it is a huge catch nonetheless.

I bet the Democrats soon realize that this is a losing issue for them, and stop talking about it.

And a minor point: if 66% of Americans say they don't mind the NSA collecting this data on them, themselves, and you still call it 'controversial,' what percentage do you have to reach before you call it 'widely-approved?'

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