Crass act

April 22, 2004

PRESIDENT BUSH has spent hours in public, on radio and on television this week arguing in defense of the USA Patriot Act as if the uber-security legislation was in some kind of imminent danger. Except that, uh, it's not.

Raising a ruckus over this non-issue is seriously misleading. Sections of the law aren't due to expire until next year, and other sections aren't due to expire ever. Congress isn't even considering it right now. Crying "The sky is falling!" over the Patriot Act won't distract from the more sky-damaging testimony of the 9/11 commission or the parade of errors in Iraq. Claiming that those who disagree with portions of the law are not patriots is just plain wrong.

Quickly enacted in the passionate times just after America's biggest terror attacks, the Patriot Act does deserve a second look by a clear-eyed, thoughtful Congress.

But the administration isn't debating the merits on the campaign trail -- the law is just a convenient piece of paper with which to whack the image of presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, who voted yes on the emergency bill and now seeks to clean it up.

So do many others, of all political persuasions, including the very man President Bush was supposedly stumping for in Pennsylvania on Monday, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, one of 18 co-sponsors of legislation that would amend the law.

Wouldn't it be nice if the president spent his day doing more than creating imaginary problems?

After all, it's not as if this country doesn't have enough real ones.

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