Constitutional Vanguard: The Republican Party Will Eventually Be Wrong About Everything — Including Israel
Hi. It’s been a while. My latest newsletter is an 8,000-word rant on how the Republican Party is wrong about almost everything under the sun–mainly except for issues based on identity politics. We all know how the GOP sucks on Donald Trump, the 2020 election, vaccinations, contempt for law enforcement and for the importance of character in our leaders, and so forth. I go over all of this and more in detail. But where I think I add the most value is in discussing one of the issues the GOP sucks on that has received relatively little attention: renewal of section 702 of FISA. I explain that there are sound reasons and dumb reasons to oppose section 702 renewal:
The sound reason that section 702 is controversial is because it was designed to target foreign nationals and not U.S. citizens—but controversies have arisen about the extent to which that surveillance scoops up incidental communications with U.S. citizens, and how to handle those communications.
A recent report from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) discusses how the FBI in particular (the NSA does a better job) tends to abuse its access to the incidental information thus collected. The members of the PCLOB all think section 702 information is critical. But in terms of dealing with the abuses, the board’s members split on their recommendations for addressing this issue. All of the board members agree that some reform needs to happen, but they disagree as to what, exactly, should happen.
One recommendation, supported by the majority of the PCLOB, is to have the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) authorize any query of the incidentally collected information for information about a U.S. person. But even among that majority, there is disagreement. Two members would require the FISC to conclude that the query would be “reasonably likely to retrieve” foreign intelligence information or evidence of a crime (for the FBI). The third member of the majority would require this decision to be made according to a higher “probable cause” standard.
The two members in the minority do not want to involve the FISC in these decisions, but instead want to institute reforms in the FBI—to fix its “structure and culture,” improve auditing and compliance, and codify privacy and civil liberties protections for making such queries.
All of these are serious and weighty issues being discussed by adults, and should form no obstacle to renewing section 702, which is critical to our national security. The only question is: renewal on what terms? But this is a sensible and indeed necessary conversation.
And then we have the dumb reasons to oppose section 702 renewal—which, of course, is the stuff that Republicans yammer about. Basically you can boil it down to this: THE FBI DONE OUR PRESIDENT TRUMP WRONG WITH THAT THERE FISA AND WE GOTTA REPEAL IT!
At the end, for paid subscribers, I explain my theory that the GOP could end up being wrong on Israel too. It seems unthinkable now, doesn’t it? After all, the left is the side that is fanatically pro-Palestinian, and pushes easily debunked narratives about matters like the Israeli (OK, Palestinian) bombing of a hospital (OK, its parking lot) causing 500 deaths (OK, a small fraction of that). How could the GOP end up going down a similar road. Couldn’t happen, right?
I’m not so sure.
Donald Trump. Tucker Carlson. Vivek Ramaswamy. Senator Mike Lee. Jack Posobiec. Charlie Kirk. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Lauren Chen. Sounds like the lineup at next year’s CPAC, doesn’t it?
And they’re all parroting a similar line.
. . . .
So no, I’m not saying “Democrats are better than the GOP on Israel.” They’re not. But again, remember how the Ukraine issue started out. Republicans were basically solid on funding Ukraine, with a fringe right paleoconservative minority objecting. Democrats were reasonably solid too, but had their own fringe to contend with. Now, you don’t hear much more about the fringe on the left that opposes Ukraine funding. But the fringe on the right has taken over a larger and larger part of the GOP conference in Congress, aided by Trump’s hostility to Ukraine over insane 2020 election conspiracy theories. Now, it’s not clear a package containing aid for Ukraine will get past the House. And President Biden’s unwavering support for Ukraine seems to spur a lot of grassroots GOP voters into thinking that anything Biden supports must be bad. So opposition to Ukraine funding is now far-right orthodoxy, and they get spitting mad about it.
Is it really that tough to imagine something similar happening with Israel?
I pepper this section of the newsletter with specific examples of the New Right criticizing Israel and making noises about how we should not go to far in supporting Israel, from Trump praising Hezbollah, to Vivek Ramasmarmy saying “no money” for Israel, to Mike Lee retweeting a video of an insane Douglas Macgregor rant about Israel’s “war crimes,” to Lauren Chen praising Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes’s Deep Thoughts on the conflict, to Jack Posobiec comparing Israel’s actions to the bombing of Dresden . . . and, well, if that were not enough, there’s more. And I document it all.
If it seems unthinkable that the GOP could end up turning its back on Israel, just think back to how strong GOP support for Ukraine was over a year ago.
The New Right and Trumpism are still ascendant, and they are still incandescently stupid. That has consequences for everyone–including, possibly, even for Israel.