Watchdogs of democracy are now carnivores of civil liberties
After a landslide loss in the 1972 presidential election, the Democratic Party was resuscitated the following year by the Watergate scandal. The destruction of the Nixon presidency powered the Democrats to make huge political gains in the 1974 elections.
Watergate also birthed modern investigative journalism. A young generation of maverick reporters had challenged the establishment to uncover the whole truth about abuses of power by the Nixon administration.
Liberalism rode high during the Watergate era. It had demanded that civil liberties be protected from the illegal or unconstitutional overreach of the Nixon- era FBI, CIA and other agencies.
The Democratic Party, the investigative media and liberalism itself are now weirdly on the side of the reactionary administrative state. They have either downplayed or excused Watergate-like abuses of power by the Obama administration.
Liberal journalists apparently have few concerns that the FBI apparently used at least one secret informant to gather information about the 2016 Trump campaign. Nor are they much bothered that members of the Obama national security team unmasked the names of U.S. citizens who had been improperly surveilled. Many of those names then were illegally leaked to the press.
Democrats seem indifferent to the fact that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign paid a foreign agent, Christopher Steele, to compile dirt on Republican candidate Donald Trump. Obama administration officials leaked details from that dossier.
Civil libertarians appear unconcerned that the Department of Justice sought to deceive the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, getting it to grant warrants to allow the surveillance of U.S. citizens based on the suspect Steele dossier.
Few are upset that former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelli- gence James Clapper have lied under oath to Congress on matters pertaining to surveillance.
Why have the former guardians of civil liberties flipped?
One, both the media and the liberal establishment believed that the outsider Trump represented an existential danger to themselves and the nation at large — similar to the way operatives in the Nixon administration had felt about farleft presidential challenger George McGovern in 1972.
But this time around, liberals were the establishment. They held the reins of federal power under the Obama administration. And they exercised it in a way similar to how Nixon’s team had in 1972.
Second, pollsters and the media were convinced that Hillary Clinton would be elected. Members of the FBI, CIA and other federal bureaucracies apparently assumed that any extralegal efforts to stop the common menace Trump would be appreciated, not punished.
Three, those in the Obama administration, the Clinton campaign and the media convinced themselves that any means necessary to achieve the noble ends of precluding a Trump presidency were justified. Even now they are unaware of the impending bomb that is about to go off.
Public opinion has radically changed. A majority of Americans believe the Mueller investigation is politically motivated, according to a CBS News poll.
The inspector general’s report on the FBI’s handling of the Clinton email scandal will likely detail violations of ethics and laws among Obama administration officials and may include criminal referrals.
Already, a few liberals and former Clinton supporters are warning the left that it is on the wrong side of history and about to reverse the entire post-Watergate liberal tradition.
There is a reckoning on the horizon. The traditional, self-appointed watchdogs of government overreach have turned into the carnivores of civil liberties.