Fox News' Jim Angle falsely claimed that Democrats initially objected to the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program because they opposed eavesdropping on people believed to be tied to terrorist activity but then made a "shift in strategy" to argue, as Charles Krauthammer put it, "a narrow issue of legality." Krauthammer further suggested that Democrats engaged in a "wholesale retreat" after recognizing that "opposing the idea of listening in on an Al Qaeda call into the U.S. is not a political winner."
On the February 3 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, guest host Jim Angle falsely claimed that Democrats initially objected to the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program because they opposed eavesdropping on people believed to be tied to terrorist activity, but made a "shift in strategy" to question the program's legality after recognizing that such surveillance "is a good thing to do." Charles Krauthammer went further, falsely suggesting that Democrats' criticism of the program over "a narrow issue of the legality" constituted a "wholesale retreat" that occurred after Democrats recognized that "opposing the idea of listening in on an Al Qaeda call into the U.S. is not a political winner." In fact, no leading Democrat has called for the administration to stop monitoring Al Qaeda communications. Rather, Democrats, as well as some Republicans and prominent conservatives, have been consistent in their criticism of the Bush administration for bypassing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which provides a mechanism by which the administration can obtain court orders to engage in surveillance of U.S. residents.
The characterizations put forth by Angle and Krauthammer of the Democrats' initial response to the spy program echo a distortion of the Democratic position by White House senior adviser Karl Rove. As Media Matters for America documented, Rove falsely claimed that "some important Democrats clearly disagree" with the proposition that "if Al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why."
From the February 3 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume:
ANGLE: All right, one quick last question -- quick question for you, Charles. The -- the fact is, Democrats -- some of whom initially protested this -- are now saying this is a great idea. This is a good thing to do. But, they question the legal authority to do it without warrants. That seems to be a little bit of a shift in strategy.
KRAUTHAMMER: It's more than a shift. It was a wholesale retreat. It was a rout on that issue. Democrats understood, within a week, that opposing the idea of listening in on an Al Qaeda call into the U.S. is not a political winner. So, as a result, it's a narrow issue of the legality, and, I think, on the politics, the Democrats are going to lose.