Straight Talk speak with forked tongue, pt. eleventeen

A flip-flop on telecom immunity.

1. John McCain said last year that, with respect to wiretapping, the President had an obligation to obey “laws passed by Congress, no matter what the situation is.”

2. McCain’s policy adviser says now that, despite statutes forbidding them, the warrantless wiretaps conducted under “national security letters” were “constitutional and appropriate,” and that “most people except for the ACLU and trial lawyers” agree.

3. McCain’s press spokesman denied that his position had changed.

I hope that’s clear.

As with torture, so with warrantless wiretapping: McCain was against it before he was for it.

Actually there’s good news here. McCain’s new pro-wiretap position was issued in response to a complaint by a right-wing blogger that his his prior new position (not to be confused with his original position) wasn’t bold enough. “Is he saying that in a time of national crisis, the president should not be permitted to ask the telecoms for assistance that is arguably beyond what is prescribed in a statute?” huffed Andy McCarthy of National Review Online. (Translation: You’re not suggesting that the President has to obey the law, are you?”) And McCain folded like a cheap card table.

Now that the wingnuts know that they can mau-mau McCain every time he deviates toward sanity, they’re going to keep pulling his chain. If he keeps responding this way, it’s going to be hard for even his acolytes in the media to keep calling him either principled or moderate.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: