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Phone Records Causing Problems for Obama on the Left


The Guardian scored a major scoop today by revealing that the Obama administration secretly ordered Verizon to turn over all records of phone calls made through its Business Network Services division. In effect, this means that the call logs, which include information on numbers dialed, the length of calls and the locations (but not the content of the calls themselves) of the many millions of callers who use the service, are available to government officials.

This story is still developing, and neither Verizon nor the White House have commented yet on the court order, but the report has already sparked significant backlash from liberals, who have become much more critical of the President in recent months. The most notable complaint came from Al Gore, who tweeted this morning: “In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?” Gore’s sentiments were echoed by other Democratic leaders in the Senate, as CNN reports:

“While I cannot corroborate the details of this particular report, this sort of widescale surveillance should concern all of us and is the kind of government overreach I’ve said Americans would find shocking,” said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Udall and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, who also serves on the Intelligence Committee, wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder last year slamming the government’s “secret interpretations of public laws.”

This isn’t the first time the left has criticised Obama for his spotty track record on civil liberties. With the AP phone records scandal, reliably center-left MSM publications like the NYT and Washington Post (h/t Glenn Greenwald) have become much more prone to hit the President on this issue.

We can expect to see more of this as Obama’s second term drags on. Before the election, overt criticism of the President’s policies were kept to a minimum in MSM outlets. But now that Obama has been re-elected, concerns about his Middle East policy and spotty record on civil liberties are moving out the far-left ghetto and into mainstream liberal discourse; even some of his key backers are getting in on the conversation.

Obama’s first term was no cakewalk, but he came into office with widespread support from his own party and fawning adoration from much of the MSM. He was, we’re sure you will recall, the new Lincoln, the greatest orator ever born, and a transcendant figure who would change the country forever.

That’s not what we are hearing now. The second term is looking harder, and between scandals, wiretapping, and what looks to be a very troubled rollout for his signature health care reform, President Obama is facing some serious headwinds.

[Frowning Obama photo courtesy of Getty Images]

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  • bpuharic

    Saxby Chambliss, a conservative Republican, pointed out that this type of info gathering has been going on for years and that both Bush and Obama had kept the Senate informed about it.

    The right has been preaching Obama is the anti-Christ. What he actually is is a moderate President in a country with a significant extremist right wing component.

    • Steve Billingsley

      Wow, you didn’t even read the post did you? There is nothing in the article about Republicans criticizing Obama about this. In fact – in National Review, Andrew McCarthy (no fan of Obama) is saying this is no big deal. This is about Obama being criticized from the left? So you spin that into a slap at the right?

      If all you have is a hammer, I guess everything looks like a nail.

      • bpuharic

        My point was, which you ignored, that Obama is a moderate. There is really no American left. It’s irrelevant. And it is no big deal because if it WAS, the left would have been all over Bush.

        What it really shows is the irrelevancy of the American left.

        • Ghenghis john

          Obama is only moderate when it is politically expedient.

          He is pretty liberal on just about every issue (except drug legalization, where liberalism actually makes sense).

          • bpuharic

            Where is he liberal? He extended Bush’s tax cuts, has been moderate on the NSA stuff, drones, healthcare, etc. It’s only because America’s right is so extreme right (as Ornstein and Mann pointed out in their WaPo article, that Obama appears liberal

          • Ghenghis john

            That is all big government stuff.

            You actually thought liberalism was about freedom?

          • bpuharic

            So Bush was a liberal? Who knew!

          • Ghenghis john

            Not quite: Bush was a fan of big government.

            And I opposed him them too.

  • James Jones

    There appears to be an error in word choice in this sentence:

    “With the AP phone records scandal, reliably center-left MSM publications like the NYT and Washington Post (h/t Glenn Greenwald) have become much less prone to hit the President on this issue.”

    Aren’t the the NYT and WaPo much MORE prone to hit the

    • Andy Iacobucci

      Fixed—thanks for the heads-up!

  • Ghenghis john

    Holy Crap.

    Al Gore said something I actually agree with.

  • Anthony

    As previously stated, U.S. counter-terrorism efforts have swept up personal data from American citizens for years – not rationalization/justification of Verizon incident just acknowledgement of surveillance facts since 9 -11 and Fisa enactment (national security claim or government overreach).

  • Fred

    I didn’t have a problem with Bush doing this and I don’t have a problem with Obama doing it. The constitution is not a suicide pact. Like keeping Gitmo open and continuing and expanding drone strikes, the only good Obama has done has been when he has followed Bush policies.

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