Watch­dogs of democ­racy are now car­ni­vores of civil lib­er­ties

The Mercury News Weekend - - OTHER VIEWS - By Vic­tor Davis Han­son Vic­tor Davis Han­son is a syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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.

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