Privacy, of course. The Washington Times reports that Congressional Democrats are about to offer a grand unified theory of why the voters should elect them: the Bush administration “has little regard for the privacy rights of Americans.” Democrats are aiming for a trifecta in the new year, beginning with the Alito confirmation hearing, continuing with their last-ditch fight against the Patriot Act, and reaching the “real payoff” with hearings, obligingly chaired by Arlen Specter, on the administration’s foreign intelligence gathering.
Like many observers, I’m skeptical that this will work. I doubt that many more votes are to be had on either side by talking about abortion, and linking the subject to the Patriot Act will seem downright weird to most voters. The Patriot Act remains popular and, if the NSA foreign surveillance program is anything like what has been described by President Bush, an overwhelming majority of Democrats, let alone Americans, will support it when they learn the facts. As for Alito, while leaks over the weekend tried to dampen expectations for his performance, he would have to do poorly indeed not to be more impressive than the Democratic Senators who will interrogate him.
Still, you can’t blame the Democrats for trying. No doubt they’ll remind us all of the Clinton administration, when privacy rights were respected and the NSA intercepted baby monitors.
UPDATE: Dick Morris makes the interesting argument that the Democrats’ attacks on the Patriot Act and the administration’s foreign surveillance activities are backfiring in part because the 35% of the electorate that is isolationist views these issues very differently from the war in Iraq:
By figuring that all antiwar sentiment is liberal, Democrats misread the public