Like the French official in "Casablanca," politicians and much of the media are shocked, shocked, to discover that the government has been listening in on calls involving international terrorist networks. Congressional leaders of both parties have in fact known this for years without saying a word.
Only after the New York Times published the news and made a big noise about it have politicians begun to declare their shock.
That is not the only thing that makes this big uproar phony. The same people who are going ballistic over what they spin as "domestic spying" never went ballistic over one of the most gross examples of genuine domestic spying during the Clinton years.
Hundreds of raw FBI files on Republicans were sent to the Clinton White House, in violation of laws and for no higher purpose than having enough dirt on enough people to intimidate political opponents. But domestic spying against Republicans did not shock nearly as many people as intercepting phone calls from terrorists.
The current hue and cry that is being whipped up into a media crisis is part of a whole pattern of short-sighted political obstruction and a futile venting of spleen.
What could have been more short-sighted and petty than the Congressional Democrats holding up the official electoral college vote last year confirming the re-election of President Bush? It was the first time such a challenge was made since 1877.
Democrats knew from the outset that they had no chance of preventing Bush's re-election from being confirmed in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Moreover, since he was already President, they could not even delay his taking office. It was obstruction for the sake of obstruction -- and to "do something" to appeal to the Bush-hatred of their political base. It was the same thing when the Democrats obstructed and delayed the confirmation vote on Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State and later the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.
They knew from the outset that these were just futile temper tantrums that would not affect the outcome in the slightest.
One of the ugliest examples of the same mindset was painfully visible at the recent funeral of Coretta Scott King, where a solemn occasion was turned into a series of political cheap shots against a President who had come to honor the memory of Mrs. King.