Meaningless Rhetorical Trickery

This bit from today’s NSA spy hearing would be clever if it weren’t so stupid :

SESSIONS: With regard to history — you made reference to history — isn’t it true, of course, President Washington instructed his army to find ways to intercept letters from British operatives, that President Lincoln issued warrantless tapping of telegraph communications during the Civil War to try to identify troop movements of the enemy? Is it true that President Wilson authorized the military to intercept all telephone and telegraph traffic going into and out of the United States?

GONZALES: That is correct.

SESSIONS: And that President Roosevelt instructed the government to use listening devices to learn the plans of spies in the United States, and that he gave the military the authority to access, without review, without warrant, all telecommunications, quote, “passing between the United States and any foreign country”?

GONZALES: That is correct, sir.

SESSIONS: What I would say to my colleagues and to the American people is, under FISA and other standards that we are using today, we have far more restraints on our military and the executive branch than history has demonstrated.

So how were Washington, Lincoln, Wilson, and Roosevelt bound by a law passed in 1978? Oh wait, they weren’t , but Bush is. Perhaps someone should ask Gonzales about the legal weight that our constitution affords to a clever historical analogy and whether said analogy is ever sufficient enough to overrule an act of Congress. Then again, that line of questioning might tip people off to the fact that these hearings are mostly a charade orchestrated for the cameras and that this GOP-run Judiciary Committee won’t do anything to stop the President’s criminal behavior beyond having a couple token Republicans seethe with faux-outrage.