Molly Ball writes:

For liberals who accused the administration of George W. Bush of insufficient transparency, expansion of executive power, and disregarding constitutional protections, Obama’s policies — and the contrast with his campaign rhetoric — have long grated. Many tolerated them until the NSA revelations made the issue too glaring to ignore. . .

Barack Obama, Chuck Hagel, John Brennan
President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and CIA Director John Brennan. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

But if they are pushed to the limit what is the left actually doing about it? Ah, a petition! Ball reports that a prominent liberal group, Progressive Change Campaign Committee, sent an e-mail warning of government spying “to its list of supporters, and it asked them to sign a petition demanding an investigation of the cell-phone surveillance.” Free advice: The White House doesn’t care about a petition.

Seriously, where has all that Alinsky training and college campus protest experience gone to? No strikes? No march on Washington? If the left is mad, they sure are keeping it tightly under wraps.

In fact there are more productive things liberals could do. They could introduce a bill in the Senate to repeal the Patriot Act. Sure, the House won’t pass it, but the discussion should be fascinating. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) thinks it’s all like Jim Crow and the Japanese internment. (“There was a time in our country when a black man could have been strung from the nearest tree, when a Japanese-American could have been taken. This is what happens when you don’t have due process. We’re very concerned about due process. We’re going to bring a challenge in court that says that generalized warrants, that warrants on everybody don’t and are not essentially consistent with the Fourth Amendment.”)

Other than joining Paul, liberals could primary Senate Democrats who have been asleep at the wheel while dastardly surveillance and real IRS abuse were going on. They could even sit at home for the Senate race in Massachusetts — a powerful way to deliver a message that won’t change control of the Senate.

As an aside, understand that the ire lacks a legal and factual basis for courts to intervene. Some reports suggest the PRISM program isn’t so ominous and does require individualized suspicion. Moreover, it is aimed at overseas persons who don’t enjoy Fourth Amendment protection. We’ve previously discussed that the phone company metadata collection does not trigger Fourth Amendment concerns. For the umpteenth time, Andy McCarthy chides yet another lawmaker for getting his facts all jumbled up:

The Obama administration’s abuses of power – not only in the IRS witch-hunts against the president’s political opponents and the spying on the press, but the Benghazi derelictions, the Fast & Furious debacle, new revelations of State Department obstruction of investigations of its personnel, etc. – are authentic scandals involving serious, authoritarian overreach, stonewalling, and probably criminal offenses. They are also unilateral executive branch malfeasance.

By contrast, the NSA’s national security activities (the metadata collection and the “PRISM” program involving eavesdropping targeted at non-Americans) involve longstanding, bipartisan efforts, legitimately pursued under federal laws that prescribe multiple layers of judicial and congressional oversight. By lumping the NSA in with the true Obama scandals, and by falsely portraying it as solely an Obama administration activity, Republicans risk losing the public’s interest in the real abuses of power. Once the facts of the NSA controversy are better understood, people may well conclude that if Republicans politicized the NSA issue just to stick it to the president, maybe they are politicizing everything else, too. The long-overdue opportunity to hold this most corrupt administration accountable will, yet again, be lost.

As McCarthy notes, it simply isn’t the case that the government is going to read millions of e-mails or listen in on calls. (“The Patriot Act provides a comprehensive regimen of internal Justice Department monitoring, judicial oversight, and congressional oversight. It is not true, as Rep. [Jim] Sensenbrenner contends, that collecting records is the equivalent of spying. Under the procedures in place, the government may retain the records it collects, but it may not scrutinize the data therein unless it goes to the FISA court and demonstrates reasonable suspicion, based on specific facts, of terrorist activities.”) But never let facts get in the way of a bout of liberal outrage or Republican rhetoric. Here however, all that angst doesn’t amount to much.

There are one of two possibilities here to explain the lack of real action, as opposed to blog frenzy arising from the far left (in bed with the libertarian right).

One is that the left is more “irked” than pushed to the edge, but will never, ever really abandon the president. Retention of power and defiance of the right-wingers out there trump all matters of principle.

The other possibility is that the actual liberal base has atrophied. Instead, it has become nothing more than a receptacle for whatever slop President Obama dishes up. Ball:

The partisan grassroots appear similarly divided. MoveOn.org has been silent on the issue — the group’s website features petitions about military sexual assault and genetically modified crops, but nothing about civil liberties. Similarly, Americans United for Change has stayed focused on gun control and criticizing congressional Republicans. In PCCC’s corner on the issue are the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union — and the Tea Party group FreedomWorks.

To sum up, the indignant left is either silent or reduced to sending a very stern petition. It’s sort of pathetic, actually, and a warning to Democrats that absent Obama to lead the band (he’s sidelined in this fight since he is the cause of their worries) there isn’t much there on the left. Perhaps years of spinning for Obama have left their protest skills rusty.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.