THE POLITICAL IMPORTANCE...

THE POLITICAL IMPORTANCE OF PLACING THE NSA SCANDAL IN A WIDER CONTEXT. We need to look at the latest NSA scandal not in isolation, but as part of a much larger pattern of presidential lawlessness -- a view Matt has rightly insisted upon -- and now we have some proof that this way of seeing it is politically more potent, too. Take a look at the USA Today poll that Atrios flagged. One of its key findings:

About two-thirds are concerned that the program may signal other, not-yet-disclosed efforts to gather information on the general public...

By nearly 2-to-1, 62%-34%, they support immediate congressional hearings to investigate it.

These two numbers are clearly connected, and that's really important. In isolation the thought of phone companies sharing call records may not be particularly terrifying. But folks are prepared to see this one program as part of a widening cesspool of presidential abuse, and when they do, they not only start to get worried, but they want to know more, too. Plus, unlike that instant Washington Post poll which I railed about earlier, the USA Today poll also asked a key question about the program's legality. The eye-opening answer is that a total of 54 percent think it definitely or probably violates the law. The moral: Stress the program's possible illegality and put it in a larger context, and public opinion seriously shifts -- which means more pressure on the press and Congress to act.

--Greg Sargent

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