NSA and the Cult of the Presidency

Updated: June 10, 2013



Another day, another scandal, as the headline states.

A lot will be written about the NSA spying story in the next couple weeks, but I felt it necessary to set the stage for what could get messy with a few thoughts.

According to CBS, a man stepped forward claiming that the NSA—the world’s largest intelligence collecting agency—is and has been collecting mountains of data on Americans without any sort of warrant or justifiable cause. The man, Edward Snowden, is a former CIA employee who worked out of an NSA office in Hawaii and has disclosed a great deal of information to The Guardian, a UK news source.

And then he took off for Hong Kong because he says, and I quote, that they “have a spirited commitment to free speech.”

He does realize that Hong Kong is officially part of China now, right…?

More likely is the fact that he wanted to be somewhere that the NSA couldn’t immediately put their fingers on him, and Hong Kong is a pretty kickin’ place to be, if Rush Hour 2 is to be believed (which I have every reason to think that it should be).


I can hear you….

At any rate, Snowden knows full well that what he has come forward with is worthy of being punished for, but has decided that it was still the right thing to do. He believes that the government has far overstepped its bounds in the invasion of people’s privacy and that there is little to no oversight for agents who are, in fact, spying on people.

So this raises numerous questions, the first of which being whether or not the NSA is doing what Mr. Snowden has accused it of doing and if that is, in fact, illegal.

However, one of the biggest problems about having this debate is that shortly after bringing up the topic, someone will inevitably say something akin to “yeah, but why weren’t you upset about this when Bush was president??? He did the same thing!!!” Their point being that the criticisms against anything going on in the Obama administration are simply partisan attacks that would not be there if a Republican were in office.

Unfortunately, after a remark such as that, the debate devolves into partisan nonsense that absolutely no one benefits from and, more importantly, ignores the real issue completely. The question still stands as to whether or not government agencies should be spying on people for whatever reason they feel like.

This is, ultimately, not a question about Obama, Bush, or any other president. It is a question about right and wrong according to the rule of law, rather than what one man says or does.

We have, however, come to a point in our society that presumes one to be on a certain “team” when it comes to political topics or discussions of social issues that have political ties. A stance cannot be taken without a person on the opposite side of the subject immediately bringing up some evil or series of transgressions enacted by a president who they didn’t like, as if that somehow proves a point.

For example, by me saying “hey, I think that the NSA is overstepping its bounds…” there are bound to be immediate reactions of “well, where were you when this was happening during the Bush administration,” as if to say that my criticism of a particular government action automatically aligns me with a certain political party or person of that party. The attempt is to discredit my stance by assuming—ignorantly, I might add—that my stance was obviously different under the last administration.

This goes on in both directions, of course. Progressives, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans; members of all parties attack the followers of the other for hypocrisy, either real or perceived.

Sadly, most of these attacks seem to focus on who is sitting the White House at the time of any given event. When President Bush was in office, those on the left side of political thought believed that wire-tapping and foreign wars were the epitome of evil. Now that President Obama holds the seat, they are relatively quiet. Conversely, spending federal money was seemingly not that big of a concern by Republicans between 2001 and 2008, yet now has become their cause de resistance.

A great deal of this has occurred due to what I call “the cult of the presidency.” Many people, at their core, desperately want a king. They want a guy who will take charge, make the hard decisions, and just bypass all the bureaucracy to fix everything. As a result, they are somewhat blinded to the evils committed by whoever fits their version of “the guy” and have a magnifying glass to amplify all the problems of those in opposition to their guy.

All of this ignores reality, of course, in two primary ways. Number one, people are imperfect and therefore no one—not even Chuck Norris—would get everything right if they were in the White House.

Number two—and more importantly—it rejects the whole premise of how the United States and its system of government was designed: by rule of law, not people.

But we as a people have gravitated toward this Cult of Presidency, believing that whoever sits in that office will either fix or ruin everything—that the man in the White House is either a savior or destroyer. We hold the man up or tear him down based on a misguided notion of what government is or should be. Hope_is_not_a_plan

The reality that we all know at some level is that government is much messier. Yes, the Presidency—and I mean the office, not just the guy there now—has far overstepped their authority numerous times. This is not because of some massive conspiracy against the American people, but rather because we have, at a number of levels, wanted it to happen. We have placed so much importance on the office of the Presidency that it has grown to be what a great many Americans always feared it would be—the imaginations of the populace have become a reality.

This must be remembered in light of these “scandals” we see popping up quite regularly. Forget who is in the White House and forget their party affiliation; remember well what the laws that our country is based on say and whether or not those are being broken.

This is how our country was formed and, if it should continue to exist, how it should be run now.




  1. Michael Highers

    June 10, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    The people are supposed to be in charge. The government is elected to represent them and the agencies answer to congress. How has this pyramid been flipped? Why do the police not get murder charges for killing unarmed civilians? Why do officials spend funds provided by congress to spy on americans without due process? Why are people willing to sacrifice their freedom for “safety” when they are actually giving it to the ones threatening them? I’m so angry at the domestic enemies threatening our constitution.

  2. leftoftheboom

    June 10, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    You are being far too reasonable and I suspect you immediately of collusion with THEM!
    After careful consideration to the needs of our nation and the peoples for which it was formed, I will, with great sacrifice and humble nature, offer myself as King. I promise to smite the unworthy, care for those I deem needy, sustain those I deem worthy, and punish those I deem wicked. The Evolution of my nobility from the Creator is manifestly more vital than your own so there shall be no need for lengthy negotiations or compromises. On this day set forth in this hour I assume my mantle as His Majesty LOTB.

    You may all bow.

  3. Matt

    June 10, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    In regards to Chuck Norris, not being perfect I call blasphemy!

  4. Murphy

    June 11, 2013 at 3:07 am

    Truly, I am an American Exceptionalist, and an ardent patriot, yet I honestly believe that we may not be able to survive as a people without a further form of Balkanization. I do not want the country I signed up to defend to be gone, but I think that a somewhat radical change may be the only way to keep the spirit of democracy and freedom alive on this Earth.
    Mind you, I am not full of solutions, and I cannot think of any that are particularly palatable to me, but we may need to make some regional splits in some way to be able to keep this form of governance alive through the next three centuries.
    Or I could be totally wrong. Like I said, I am a bit short on answers, but from here on the gun-totin’ portion of the Left Coast, it’s looking more and more like I have a separate country to the south of me, and another couple to the east. Maybe they need to be such in truth?
    I hope not, as I am still hopeful that we will, as the Marines say “All Pull Together.”

    • Jon

      June 13, 2013 at 2:15 pm

      Your idea is already in effect. It’s called “Statehood” and is exercised every day throughout our nation in 50 different state capitols. State’s Rights is a major issue, one that the federal government has grabbed in one way or another. So many issues that are “federally regulated” should NEVER have been touched by any federal entity, be it Congress, the Supreme Court, or any beaurocratic office. We The People have been allowing these power grabs to happen for generations. The day we collectively agreed that certain individuals who have never lived somewhere all of a sudden know what is better for that place than the people living there, was the day we started seeing the decline of a state’s right to have any power. We’re not there yet, and some states still exercise their rights (Look at Washington with marijuana…), but there always seems to be a federal law striking down these bold moves, whether right or wrong.

      • Mr. Twisted

        June 13, 2013 at 2:45 pm

        While I completely agree with you in theory, the idea of statehood continually falls apart due to the power and lure of the almighty dollar. States have become so dependent upon federal money that even the slightest suggestion of having that gravy train derailed is enough to make a state cow-tow to the whims and desires of whatever federal entity deciding to exert pressure.

        You mentioned Washington and its legalization of marijuana (the other state enacting that same law is my own Colorado). While a fine notion of exhibiting state’s rights, the sad reality is 1) they will most likely bow down when feds say “okay, no more drug task force money for you,” and 2)the rising of a more important question like why they can’t do this with laws that are actually Constitutional. I have nothing against the legalization of marijuana, but why can’t we grab those kinds of stones when it comes to issues like, say, guns? Or how about privacy?

        Again, a lot of this has to do with money, money, and more money. I wish this were not the case, but alas, here we are.

      • Star

        July 15, 2013 at 7:20 pm

        Don’t forget about the change in how U.S. Senators are elected that has changed things for the worse. They used to be elected by the state legislatures, not directly by the public, because they were there to represent the states. That has been a huge cause of the erosion of states’ rights, and we have had no real statesmen in the Senate since. Now the Senate elections are just popularity contests, funded by people outside the state. How many times has some jerk who never even lived in the state ended up on the ballot? How does that serve the interests of the state or its people?

  5. Tony

    June 12, 2013 at 10:37 am

    When the Patriot Act and other measures were first proposed, a lot of conservatives and libertarians thought it was all a bit sketchy, but it came down to the gut feeling that we felt that W would use these measures only to kill muslim terrorists- and boy did he ever. The new POTUS supposedly disagreed with W’s actions and policies, and yet left the security apparatus in place- he’s even enhanced it seems. For me it’s not a matter of parties, but trust. In light of the scandals that have arisen, it seems the apparatus is being turned on Americans instead of our enemies, and the current leadership cynically uses “national security” to justify it all. No, I didn’t vote for him, but more importantly, I don’t trust him, his fellow travelers or the permanent power structure that exists in DC regardless of who is elected.

  6. Robbiek3/187

    June 12, 2013 at 10:56 am

    I do think there is a benefit to this. I think we are in a period of Constitutional Awakening. The left was pissed at Bush, the right is pissed at Obama but they are saying the same thing and there in lies the good. We as Americans are pissed at the same thing and I doubt Presidents from here on will be able to benefit from such partisan side-choosing because i do believe the American People are waking up and saying what the fuck is going on here. When they wake up and hear that “the other side” is pissed about the same thing, it is there that common ground is reached. I doubt we will all come together in a circle jerk of Kumbayah but we will fight to defend Constitutional principles.

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