Ben Franklin said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Over the last 14 years, we’ve seen how much liberty Americans are willing to give up for the purposes of safety. Between the TSA and the NSA, very little goes unseen or untouched.
Recently, many of our Republican presidential candidates and expected-to-be presidential candidates have taken the media bait (to our advantage) to answer questions on the increasingly controversial issues like the PATRIOT Act renewal and the NSA program.
With the PATRIOT Act renewal at the forefront and on the heels of the Rand filibuster, here’s what we’ve seen so far:
- Scott Walker said if he were in the Senate, he would not have supported Rand Paul’s protest against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act and the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs.
- Jeb Bush said, with regard to Rand’s filibuster, “I think he’s wrong in saying that this is unconstitutional or saying that people’s freedoms have been violated by the Patriot Act.”
- Marco Rubio has publicly pushed for the extension of the program while telling folks the government isn’t listening unless you’re a terrorist (how do they know if you are or not?) and there “is not a single documented case of abuse of this program.”
- Mike Huckabee recently slammed Obama, saying, “Obama’s warrantless, NSA spying program is more than just illegal, it’s an unconstitutional, criminal assault on our freedoms as Americans. As president, I will repeal this program and protect the privacy and civil liberties of all Americans.”
- Ted Cruz, while supportive of the PATRIOT Act, opposes the NSA. He thinks we should “walk and chew gum at the same time.”
- Chris Christie semi-supports the program but says, “you can’t enjoy your civil liberties if you’re in a coffin.” Umm…what?
- Ben Carson thinks there’s a way to accomplish the ends of the NSA without the NSA.
So can Constitutional conservatives be distinguished by just one question?
I say maybe. If, after years of criticism and zero deterred terrorists attacks because of the NSA program, a Republican is still willing to circumvent the Constitution under the guise of “security,” that tells me a lot about their respect for the Constitution in other capacities. For me, I understand the importance of political compromise, but the U.S. Constitution is one place that I’m not looking for someone to offer ‘exceptions.’ Ever.
I’m certainly not saying that privacy and the NSA are the only threats to our country. While I personally believe civil liberties continue to be second only to the national debt and the stability of our economy, I recognize that not everyone prioritizes privacy the same way I do. My point, however, is not only is it one of the top issues we are facing, but rather a gauge of future behavior.
For what it’s worth, Hillary Clinton, who seems to support the program, believes it should be more transparent. I think that speaks volumes about where we should be on the program. The good news for Republicans is there is more than one contender who opposes the NSA.