President Obama’s most disappointing decisions have revolved around national security issues and his insistence on retaining W’s oppressive policies on terrorism. Obama has retained the Patriot Act; he has pursued the same secretive and illegitimate FISA policies; he has even sanctioned the assassination of an American citizen without due process — the al-Qaeda-supporting extremist imam Anwar al-Awlaki, believed to be in hiding in Yemen.
Tea party activists should be reliable in protesting those policies. With a political message that relies heavily on “Don’t Tread on Me!’ rhetoric — opposing a tyrannical government, insisting on individual liberties, protesting overweening government authority — tea partiers should be surefire opponents of the Patriot Act.
And, yesterday, a few members of Congress with Tea Party support stood up against its renewal. They allied with Democratic opponents of the Patriot Act to block it, at least temporarily. (How many times do you see civil rights icon John Lewis, D-Ga, and John-Birch-loving Paul Broun, R-Ga., in agreement?)
From The Washington Post:
House Republicans suffered an embarrassing setback Tuesday when they fell seven votes short of extending provisions of the Patriot Act, a vote that served as the first small uprising of the party’s tea-party bloc.
The bill to reauthorize key parts of the counter-terrorism surveillance law, which expire at the end of the month, required a super-majority to pass under special rules reserved for non-controversial measures.
But it fell short of the required two-thirds after 26 Republicans bucked their leadership, eight of them freshman lawmakers elected in November’s midterm elections. With most Democrats opposing the extension, the final tally was 277 members in favor of extension, and 148 opposed.
The Republicans who control the House made plans to bring the measure back for a quick vote later this month under normal rules, requiring only a simple majority for passage. They blamed House Democrats for the bill’s downfall, noting that they provided the lion’s share of votes against a bill that President Obama supports.
The vote was the latest signal, though, that on certain matters House leaders could face a sizable resistance to compromise from within their own ranks, both from the 87 GOP freshmen and from conservative veterans who have been emboldened by the newcomers.
Here’s the question: How long will those tea partying members of Congress hold out against the GOP establishment? Will tea party activists back home step in to insist that Republicans fight the Patriot Act? Will they bring the same enthusiasm to the task that they brought to fighting health care reform?
My prediction? Not a chance. No matter how much tea partiers talk about civil liberties and “freedom” — their favorite word — they retain a strong authoritarian streak they allows the government to do whatever it likes as long as it is cloaked in the language of “national security.”