Bush Knew the Patriot Act Would be a Political Trap for All Future Politicians

patriotact1When the Bush administration pushed for (and passed) the Patriot Act, they knew exactly what they were doing.  They seized on a time in our country where we were afraid, angry and distraught over what had happened on September 11, 2001.

It was the perfect time to pass something that on September 10, 2001 would have been opposed by the vast majority of Americans.

But even going beyond that, the Bush administration knew the Patriot Act was a political trap.  It’s truly a no-win situation for any president or majority in Congress that might want to repeal the whole thing.

I’ve studied politics enough to know the fickle nature of voters.  While many voters distrust government — or oppose it altogether — when disaster hits, government is usually the first thing they turn to.  A great example of this would be Republicans who rally against “big government spending” and organizations like FEMA and FEMA disaster relief.  These people are often the most vocal proponents against federal spending, and some of the politicians have actually voted against disaster relief for others, yet when disaster strikes their home, district or state—they’re often the first ones looking to the federal government for help.

For many, the government is a paradox.  They’ll blame it for many of the problems in this country, then look to it when they want it to solve many of the problems in this country.

But what the Patriot Act represents is a true double-edged sword for politicians.

Imagine for a moment if most Democrats in Congress voted against, or President Obama vetoed, the Patriot Act this past January—then the Boston Marathon bombings occurred a couple of months later.

If you don’t believe the discontinuation of the Patriot Act would have been the biggest weapon used against Democrats and President Obama by Republicans, you’re insane.

Now I can already hear what’s coming, “But see—the Patriot Act didn’t prevent the attack so it’s useless!”  And that’s true, it didn’t prevent the bombing at the Boston Marathon.  But can those who point to its failure to prevent that attack prove that it hasn’t prevented others?

Hindsight is always 20/20 and that’s what makes the Patriot Act such a political trap.

If any Congress, or president, ended the Patriot Act, they would then open themselves up for potential political suicide.

A great example for this is the 2014 elections.  It’s already going to be a battle for Democrats to reclaim the House, and get a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, but imagine if the Patriot Act had been allowed to expire and Republicans could use the Boston Marathon bombings against “those who made America less safe by ending the Patriot Act.”

Again, in hindsight its easy say that it didn’t prevent that attack, but we really don’t know what other attacks the Patriot Act might have prevented.

An example I’ve used over the years is this—if I told you the Patriot Act (in its 12 years) has saved over 10,000 lives, would your opinion on it change?  But that’s the problem, we will never know if it has or hasn’t.

Now people like Rand Paul can stand and say loudly that they would never continue the Patriot Act, but I can promise you this—if he became President and in his first year ended this act, then an attack occurred a year later which took thousands of American lives, he would never be re-elected.

And that’s the trap the Bush administration knew they had put in place, after their national security failures led to the expediting and passage of the Patriot Act.

We can never know what has been prevented, we only know what we’re told or what we’ve seen.  Details such as PRISM or the NSA tracking the phone records of millions of Americans that anger many and expand on the distrust of the government.  The Boston Marathon bombing and the Patriot Act’s failure to prevent that.

These instances are great tools for opponents of the Patriot Act to use so they can show how we don’t need this legislation.

You see, we’ll probably never see a “whistleblower” leak out information about numerous attacks we’ve prevented with the information the Patriot Act has given us, we’ll only get those who want to expose some of the controversial behavior behind the bill.

So what’s a politician to do—especially a president?  Sure, someone on a small scale like Rand Paul can stand against the bill because he only requires that his specific state vote for him, not the entire country.  But on a national scale, judged by everyone, that’s a different game altogether.

It also exposes some contradiction within the liberal community.  Many claim to trust and support the president, then turn on him when it comes to issues like the Patriot Act.

The way I look at it is this.  In 2008 he ran on the promise of more transparency in matters of national security.  Then he took office.  His views since have moved away from that and more towards secrecy.  Perhaps once he became president, and learned more about what’s really gone on, he realized his naive view from the outside wasn’t practical and there were threats he never knew existed.

So, do we trust President Obama or do we only trust him when he does what we want him to do?

Again, we will never know what really goes on—which like I said, is the trap.

Sure, we can make assumptions from leaks like those from Edward Snowden, but when you cherry pick certain things you can make anything look bad—and I’m always skeptical of people who only tell me the bad, without telling me any of the good.

Where in his leaks was anything positive?  You mean to tell me everything he saw was bad?  I highly doubt that.

So what’s the answer?  The way I look at it is this…

Terrorist attacks are going to happen with or without the Patriot Act.  You’re gullible if you believe it can stop every single one but you’re just as gullible if you believe it hasn’t prevented any.

So you can believe we should end the Patriot Act, and pretend that suddenly the government can’t snag phone calls out of thin air, track your location, know your internet history or get into your email account.  See, personally I view the Patriot Act as window dressing.  It’s just the government’s way to do what they’ve already been doing, with less fear of being caught.

I’m honest with myself enough to know that in a world of cloud based storage, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, cell phones, the internet, YouTube—our lives are now more easily traceable than ever.  I don’t fear the Patriot Act because I’ve just assumed the government would do the stuff it “allows” for anyway.  Maybe that makes me naive, but it’s just the way I feel based on individuals I’ve spoken to that have worked in national security or for the Department of Defense.

However, if you want to believe the Patriot Act gives the government power it never had before, then you must view it for what it is.

The Patriot Act was built to be a trap by the Bush administration for future politicians.

A bill that would end up being highly unpopular the more we moved away from September 11, 2001—but if we were to suffer a terrorist attack after its repeal, would destroy the careers of the politicians responsible for ending it.

And George W. Bush knew that would keep many of them fearful of standing against it.

Allen Clifton

Allen Clifton is a native Texan who now lives in the Austin area. He has a degree in Political Science from Sam Houston State University. Allen is a co-founder of Forward Progressives and creator of the popular Right Off A Cliff column and Facebook page. Be sure to follow Allen on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to his channel on YouTube as well.


Facebook comments

  • Alleng99

    So you’re saying that the man most libs consider the dumbest president in american history was smart enough to devise the patriot act in order to sabotage future politicians? Also, you actually sat down and typed out this poorly written opinion piece with zero facts or credibility, yet ask us to accept your opinion as truth? wow. I’m amazed you could fit so many bad attempts at half-truths in between your mountain of outlandish speculation and conjecture. Nice try though…i’m sure some of your “followers” will eat it up.

    • D Lowrey

      Very nice hatchet job you claim of the author…especially since you seem to have a problem capitalizing the word “I”. Any third grader could could better.

    • Allen Clifton

      Did *I* say I considered him the dumbest Presidents in American history? So because most do, that means I must?

      And as you said, it’s an opinion piece. Why would I provide a plethora of facts based on my opinion? Sir, do you even know the definition of the word “opinion?”

      And as others have pointed out, for someone attacking my “poorly written” piece, you seem unable to even capitalize words.

      And I don’t recall anywhere in the article me encouraging anyone to accept my opinion as fact. Again, it’s an opinion piece.

      You really should learn the difference between opinion pieces and articles written based on factual data.

      Because you seem to struggle with the concepts.

  • Jay Diamond

    Let’s see now, on the one side is the death of some political careers, and on the other is the death of the Constitution and any meaningful concept of a free country !!!

    Wow, tough choice.


    • Allen Clifton

      You also forgot the potential deaths of thousands of Americans.

  • explain to me how the upcoming 2014 elections are problems for Dems. People are tired of the stalemate in Washington..and the rethugs are so blatantly obstructionist and hypocritic…you surely are smoking texas wild weed to think it’s going to be tough for dems.

    • Jerad

      I think the biggest obstacle for the Democrats to overcome in taking over the House is that while public opinion on a national level may be against Congress, Congressional elections are on such a small-scale, local level. With the gerrymandering that has taken place in many states the past couple of decades, it’s very difficult to defeat an incumbent congressman in many districts. But in order to get any idea of how difficult it would be in any particular district, you’d have to look at specific polling data for that race.

  • Raspoutin

    I know it might sound meaningless since those words have been used over and over again by all administration… but make no mistake we are indeed at war with terrorism… It is an enemy with no frontiers, no faces, no honor or rules of any kind… (not saying that there’s any honor in war… do not misunderstand me)… At the very least rules of war have been the fight between two ARMIES… You know people wearing UNIFORMS so they would we identify as friend or foe… and the civilians (the one NOT wearing uniforms) were supposed to not be implied in combats… I know it sounds less and less true today but it was once the case… Soldiers fight soldiers… civilians are out of the game… Even old school terrorist if I may say, understood this… They called themselves soldiers and their objectives were soldiers of the other side… Remember IRA ? German Red Fraktion Army ? Nowadays the first target of terrorism ARE civilians… It makes the job MUCH harder… So not trying to legitimate any future behavior on who spies who with what but it is UNDERSTANDABLE that one government is going to use ANY kind of tools to try to protect its own population… NOW, and this been said, if the tools that were built to protect us from an enemy with no face are deviated from their initial purpose and used let us say to check if my IRS declaration was correct or if I have sexual intercourse with my neighbor’s wife… THERE we will have a problem

  • Mikeinthedirt

    I would hazard that Mr Bush Jr thought only so far as his escaping the Presidency without ‘getting any on himself’. The hyenas tasked with minding him, however, we’re quite capable and, I suspect, highly motivated to gerrymander the law of the land to serve their self-interest. These men did not and do not represent yoooo (cow) and me-ee-ee (lamb), they manage us, like livestock.

  • addiction to career and its role in personal identity is a mental disease based on fear and insecurity.

    the human race is outgrowing this in this century and institutions will change accordingly. slowly, and with resistance, but evolution cannot be stopped.