The End of Pro-Spy Politics

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) speaks as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) listens during a news conference June 13, 2013 at the Capitol Hill Club on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

In a new piece over at the home page, I remember a bygone era when Republicans defended the NSA and chided Democrats for being so wimpy and pro-terrorism that they opposed wiretapping and “snooping.” They ran ads on the topic! They lost, but they still insisted that the “weak” Democrats were vulnerable, and they cheered when Dick Cheney dared Obama to continue the war on terror’s tactics.

Everything’s different now. Republicans aren’t moving to dismantle the security state. But they’re not rushing to defend it. They’re clambering onto Rand Paul’s train, endorsing his (still sort of embryonic) lawsuit against the NSA, and apologizing for defending the government.

[Rep. Louie] Gohmert, who typically makes headlines for embarrassing himself during hearings or floor speeches, was in a mea culpa mood at Paul’s lawsuit shindig. He’d been a freshman congressman in 2005, during the first PATRIOT renewal. “I was really troubled about sections 206 and 215, really had concerns about it. The day before our full committee took it up, all of us that wanted sunsets got calls from the administration, the DOJ, people in committee, saying ‘Here, we’ll give you this, just drop the sunsets. You can trust the Justice Department. You can trust Homeland Security.’ We had all the assurances, you don’t have to worry.”

Gohmert shook his head. “They said they were not doing the very things they were doing. They said if you were not calling foreign terrorists, you had nothing to worry about. I’ve even used that line on the House floor.”

Walter Shapiro wrote a solid piece for the American Prospect this week arguing that an ambitious 2016 Democrat should stake out some positions against the administration. You could give similar advice to Republicans on this issue: Who wants to come to Iowa as the pro-NSA candidate?