February 29, 2008 | By Tim Jones

Anonymous GOP Operatives Surprised that Fearmongering Isn't Working

Deceptive exploitation of Americans' fears of terrorism has been a central weapon in the GOP's campaign to prevent phone companies from being held accountable for lawbreaking. Two weeks ago, EFF looked at the evidence and concluded that this strategy would fail to sway voters.

Today, events have borne that prediction out. From the subscription-only Congress Daily newsletter:

House Republican attempts to gain political traction against Democrats on the delayed overhaul of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act aren't having the impact GOP operatives had hoped for. Despite past political success pushing it as a national security issue, Republican and Democratic lawmakers and senior aides said privately they are surprised by the limited response. "It's almost got no traction," said one surprised senior aide to a Democratic lawmaker. The chief of staff to a southern Republican added: "We're not hearing much of anything on FISA. Clearly it is something folks have concerns about, but I thought it would have been a bit louder."

The strategy hasn't just failed — it may even be backfiring. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire opposes immunity and was a target of the attack ads. According to Congress Daily, 'Shea-Porter said such attacks have resulted in hundreds of phone calls, but she dismissed them as a problem. "Once we explained to people that FISA is in effect, they got upset that they had been misled," she said.'

While these ads won't sway voters, it's less certain whether they'll sway Congresspeople. Many of the targeted Representatives have kept quiet so far. But many have responded brilliantly.

Here's Rep. Nancy Boyda of Kansas:

"The White House is trying to scare Americans to give total control to one branch of government," Boyda said in an interview from Washington. "The Republicans don't have the guts to stand up to the president. They're afraid of some 30-second ad that could be run against them."

Here's Rep. Tim Mahoney of Florida:

When I got elected," Rep. Mahoney said last week, "I took an oath to defend the Constitution. If some of these companies gave information to the government without the government getting a warrant, that was unconstitutional.

"You know what (the companies) said? They said I should vote for the immunity because it's patriotic. That's how weak the argument is."

Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota and Rep. Mike Arcuri of NY have also made strong and smart statements.

Whoever your Representative is, it always helps to phone or email them and tell them where you stand!

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