See, what happened is, the White House, rather than sitting meekly and allowing the GOP to continue to spread ridiculous rumors about the healthcare plan, decided to combat them. And in order to get as many of these rumors as quickly as possible, they released a request to the American people:
There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.Simple, right? Kind of like the "Fight the Smears" website they set up during the campaign.
Well, you would think that John Cornyn would be relieved that, under Obama's proposed health plan, hydrocephally related to inbreeding would no longer be considered a "pre-existing condition." But sadly, he decided to start immediately lying about the intentions of the President.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) sent a letter to President Obama on Wednesday to express his concern about "a new White House program to monitor American citizens' speech opposing your health care policies"...Now, let me see if I've got this straight. In 2005, when Cornyn was told about Bush's domestic wiretapping program and he said it didn't matter, that was nothing to worry about. But when Obama fights back against liars and smear merchants, and Cornyn makes up crap about "he's gathering ISP's!", that's cause for alarm?
Cornyn wrote that he could think of no other incident of a president asking American citizens to report on their fellow citizens' political speech. He said that "citizen engagement must not be chilled by fear of government monitoring the exercise of free speech rights."
Furthermore, Cornyn wrote, the collection of e-mails could amount to the White House amassing various forms of personally identifiable information.
"By requesting that citizens send 'fishy' emails to the White House, it is inevitable that the names, email addresses, IP addresses, and private speech of U.S. citizens will be reported to the White House," he wrote. "You should not be surprised that these actions taken by your White House staff raise the specter of a data collection program."
So real spying is OK, as long as it's done by a Republican? But imaginary spying is something to worry about, if it's imagined that it will be done by a Democrat?
How many "forward this to twelve friends" spams do you fall for?
"Ah," but our GOP friends try to claim, "there's a big difference between intercepting international communications to catch terrorists, and trying to compile an enemies list!" (Trust me, they claim this. I've talked to a lot of them this week.)
There are actually two parts to my reply here. First, Bush's wiretapping program was huge and unprecedented, and it was, in fact, the type of massive government conspiracy that the GOP is trying to promote here. Unlike the imaginary one that Cornyn are trying to claim. And no, Bush's program wasn't just intercepting overseas communications:
President Bush and his aides have confirmed that the NSA, beginning in late 2001, monitored electronic communications between the United States and overseas without warrants in cases in which one of the parties was believed to be affiliated with al-Qaeda. But administration officials have recently acknowledged that the NSA program was broader, and intelligence sources inside and outside the government have described a vast effort to collect and analyze telephone and e-mail communications that were later scrutinized by the government for desired information.See? That's the kind of thing that people should have been upset about, if they'd been paying attention two years ago.
Now, just for giggles, let's try to consider this whole scenario logically. You are the President of the United States. You have the full weight of the United States government to call upon: the NSA, CIA, FBI, all of it. And the best way you can think of to compile an "enemies list" is to ask people to send anti-healthcare-reform emails to the White House? Not only are you going to openly place yourself right in the middle of a clandestine intelligence-gathering operation, but you're asking people to send you 600,000 copies of the same seven emails from FreedomWorks (Dick Armey's group) and "Americans for Prosperity" (which as been industry-funded from the beginning, and is currently chaired by billionaire David Koch). Both groups, incidentally, also orchestrated the "tea parties" earlier this year; if you don't know that you're being manipulated by the healthcare industry, maybe you should do your rearch.
(Oh, and let's not forget "Conservatives for Patients Rights," the ironically-named group organized by Richard Scott to fight against universal health care. Funny thing about that. The group claiming that government-run healthcare will ruin America is being run by the former frontman for HCA, which was fined $1.7 billion dollars for defrauding Medicare - which makes them an enduring symbol of everything that's wrong with American healthcare.)
I mean, right off the top of my head, I can come up with dozens of different ways to compile the dreaded "enemies list" (which, incidentally, is something Obama isn't doing - that's just a fevered fantasy from the stunted imagination of John Cornyn). For example, you have the voting records - why don't you just pull out all the Republicans?
Too many? Cross-check them with the tax records, and pull out all the rich Republicans.
Still too much of a random search for you? Fine. Conservatives for Patients Rights, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks are all registered with the US government. That means you have access to their payroll information. And you have the NSA: hack into their computers, and get copies of their mailing lists. Hell, while you're at it, take over a few conservative websites like Free Republic and National Review, and get their membership and mailing lists, too.
Or you could just "mine" a bunch of conservative websites and backtrace the commenters.
Any of these ideas would be considerably more efficient than going through the same lying emails to try and tease out personal information one person at a time.
It's time for reality, folks. Or to take your medication and shuffle back to your padded cell. Your choice.