In his second day at the helm of “The Daily Show,” John Oliver continued to riff on the unfolding story of the National Security Agency’s vast phone and Internet surveillance program. On Tuesday night, he focused on parsing the conservative response to the news. In something of a rarity, Republicans so far seem divided into two separate camps -- as Oliver dubbed them, “Team Everybody Calm Down” and “Team Everybody Freak Out.”
Representing the former is Arizona Sen. John McCain, who when asked by CNN’s Candy Crowley whether he was bothered by the revelations, replied simply, “No, not really.”
Oliver's comment: “Nobody understands sophisticated technology better than cantankerous old men. Are you sure we don’t want to ask someone younger than dirt?”
The host also took exception to McCain’s claim that “if this was Sept. 12, 2001, we might not be having the argument that we’re having today.”
“The standard for what constitutes the best decision cannot be ‘what decision would we make on our most vulnerable and panicked day?’” Oliver argued. For example, his choice for dinner on Sept. 12, 2001 -- “skip it and vomit out of fear instead” -- hardly seems like a healthy way to live on a daily basis.
So what about the other side? Representing “Team Everybody Freak Out” was Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who has expressed willingness to challenge the NSA’s surveillance program “at the Supreme Court level." “I’m not sure you’re the person to lead this particular challenge,” Oliver said, citing Paul’s highly dismissive reaction to the Supreme Court’s Obamacare ruling.
The most difficult aspect of the NSA story, Oliver decided, is that it forces us to choose between liberty and convenience, between the right to privacy and the luxury of being able to buy movie tickets on the toilet. It’s a tough choice, and alas, not even Siri knew the answer.
Oliver decided that where you stand on the issue comes down to “whether you trust the government,” though, for some politicians, this stance isn’t so clear. Take South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who wholeheartedly supports the government’s right to monitor the phone and Internet records of millions of American citizens, but who considers expanded background checks for gun sales to be an unconscionable violation of the 2nd Amendment.
“Guns are one thing, but phone calls are too dangerous to go unchecked,” Oliver said, summarizing Graham’s line of thinking.
Concluding that "the 2nd Amendment has won the Bill of Rights," Oliver finally arrived at a solution for those of us who don't want the government tracking our phone calls: gun phones.
Holding a (presumably fake) pistol to his ear, he asked, “What could possibly go wrong?”
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