ANALYSIS By RICK KLEIN
In pursuing a national-security strategy George W. Bush would recognize well, the Obama White House has managed to unite liberals and libertarians in opposition — while pitting Barack Obama against himself.
The revelation that the National Security Agency has been compiling a massive database of Americans’ phone records has again scrambled the politics of anti-terrorism efforts in a way that’s unique to the Obama era.
Tea partiers are competing with progressive groups in professing outrage. The policies of a liberal former constitutional law professor have those on the left and the right equally concerned about infringements on civil liberties and the government’s role in respecting them.
Yet GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, whose stinging critiques of Obama’s handling of terrorism echo across cable news, is fully on board with the program. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, one of the president’s closest friends and allies, is not.
Meanwhile, members of Congress who’ve been most closely briefed on the policies seem comfortable with the program. Top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees are even suggesting it’s all old news.
To an extent, it’s an issue that pits Barack Obama against himself – Senator Obama, that is, vs. President Obama. It was Senator Obama who rose to national prominence railing against Bush administration policies he called unconstitutional power grabs; it’s been President Obama who has built on portions of those policies.
It may be that this is the kind of issue that stokes fears of government intrusion in equal measure on the right and the left. It may be that a nation that watches “24″ and “Homeland” shrugs at the news, on the assumption that this has been happening all along.
It may also be that Obama has landed where the nation is headed in the never-ending debate over the balance between civil liberties and national security. This may not be how he thought we’d get there, but it’s possible that the president has found middle ground after all.