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Where Is Mccain On Wiretapping?

Back in February, I questioned whether John McCain's professed skepticism of unfettered executive power was genuine. Via Wired's Ryan Singel, here's more evidence that perhaps it isn't: McCain domestic policy adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin assures National Review that, despite what a different campaign surrogate had said earlier, his boss is fully on board with the GOP's FISA stance. In particular:

We do not know what lies ahead in our nation’s fight against radical Islamic extremists, but John McCain will do everything he can to protect Americans from such threats, including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution. (emphasis added)

Holtz-Eakin is an economist, not a lawyer, but it seems very likely that the reference to Article II here indicates that McCain believes the president has the constitutional authority to conduct domestic wiretapping beyond what's permitted under FISA. As Singel notes, this is at odds with what McCain told the Boston Globe's Charlie Savage in December, when he pledged an abrupt break with Bush's line on executive power. Again, I think the most likely explanation for this tug-of-war between various campaign surrogates is that McCain (like most politicians) just doesn't have exceptionally well formed views on these questions, and the two camps are competing for influence. Given how strongly most of the GOP legal establishment has backed Bush's position, the outcome of that struggle isn't likely to be very encouraging.

--Josh Patashnik