Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer had a rare moment of praise for President Barack Obama’s speech on NSA surveillance — even if it was a bit backhanded. “It was 90 percent smoke and mirrors and very little substantive change, which is what we need,” he said Friday, calling it “a terrific speech.”
Krauthammer spoke to Fox News’ Bret Baier on Friday about the president’s speech on the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program, where he promised largely superficial changes to the contentious mass collection of Americans’ metadata. Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul said “it doesn’t sound to me like he’s really going to change,” while the American Civil Liberties Union said “the president should end — not mend — the government’s collection and retention of all law-abiding American’s data.”
“The ACLU and Rand Paul are right,” Krauthammer began, “which is why it was a terrific speech. It was 90 percent smoke and mirrors and very little substantive change, which is what we need. In fact, it was the best use of Obama’s rhetorical powers of dazzling with very little content since the ’08 campaign.”
Leading the minority of conservatives voicing full-throated support for the NSA’s domestic spying programs, Krauthammer acclaimed the policies and prose of a man he routinely savages on-air. “Look, Obama knows he has to retain the program,” he claimed. “It is extremely important. But he made enough rhetoric and enough nods to the other side — at least philosophically — and enough cosmetic changes to make it look as if he did something. But if you look at all the points he mentioned, they are really unimportant in the overall scheme.”
The columnist noted that the important thing is that records on Americans are collected, not whether they are held by the government or a private company. And he sarcastically called a new privacy advocate at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court “a big deal,” noting that in cases of emergency the court can be easily bypassed.
“Overall I’d give him an A minus [on the speech],” Krauthammer concluded. “And if I were a leftie, I’d be really upset.”
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