After criticism of President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program during a Senate intelligence committee hearing yesterday, Pat Roberts trotted out some nasty post-9/11 rhetoric:
[I]n a statement issued later, Senator Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican who is chairman of the committee, accused Mr. Rockefeller and other Democrats of derailing the discussion about security threats with their concerns about the eavesdropping program.
"I am concerned that some of my Democrat colleagues used this unique public forum to make clear that they believe the gravest threat we face is not Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, but rather the president of the United States," Mr. Roberts said. "There is no doubt in my mind there are marching orders to the minority members of this committee to question and attack, at every opportunity, the president, the vice president, the secretary of state, attorney general and now members of our intelligence agencies."
Of course, the members did not say that "they believe the gravest threat we face is not Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, but rather the president of the United States." This is a smear that suggests that anyone who criticizes the President is somehow disloyal or insufficiently concerned about the terrorist threat.
Roberts seemed to draw his inspiration from Trent Lott, who said virtually the same thing in May 2002 when Democrats were asking what warnings President Bush received before 9/11: "For us to be talking like our enemy is George W. Bush and not Osama bin Laden, that's not right," he said.
Luckily, however, this kind of rhetoric is much less effective today, when Bush is polling in the low 40s, than it was in 2002, when his approval ratings were still in the high 60s/low 70s due to the 9/11 boost. What will the bully brigade do?