They say the longer a political party is out of power, the more libertarian its rhetoric gets. The Republican National Committee followed that pattern last week when it passed a resolution that "calls upon Republican lawmakers to immediately take action to halt current unconstitutional surveillance programs and provide a full public accounting of the NSA's data collection programs." The resolution isn't perfect—it conflates two different NSA programs—but it's a bracing document that harshly (and rightly) rejects policies embraced not just by Barack Obama but by George W. Bush.
The Bush Republicans are still around, though, and over the weekend they fired back. In a letter sent on Saturday (and published on Sunday in The Daily Beast), Rep. Mike Pompeo and seven Bush-era officials, including former attorney general Michael Mukasey and former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, offered this judgement:
This is not a Democratic or a Republican program. Protecting Americans from terrorism should not be a partisan issue. The program was first launched under President George W. Bush. It was approved by Congressional leaders of both parties. And for good reason. It helps to keep Americans safe.
Evidence is scarce that the program has helped keep Americans safe, but the Bush octet is right about the politics: When the members of the Republican National Committee condemned unconstitutional NSA surveillance, they were condemning their own party's record. Good.
The Democrats went through something like this in the last decade, when an insurgency within their ranks found that battling Bush's foreign policy meant fighting their party's complicity with his wars. It's good to see similar stirrings on the right today—though I can't help recalling that the Dems' aversion to meddling in the Middle East faded pretty quickly once they retook the White House. Power has ways to absorb opposition.