We are witnessing a great public spectacle. It is being played out in front of cameras everywhere. This is the national politics version of "He Said, He Said" — NSA whistleblower versus President Barack Obama for the right to be believed. In Washington, it counts as high drama.
For the president, the stakes here are high. This international fracas directly affects his cherished legacy for generations to come. Remember, the historians and the public can both be very unforgiving in the cold eye of history books and documentaries. President Richard Nixon was given credit for opening up China, ending the Vietnam War, and other milestones during his administration.
But, as we all know, Nixon is best remembered for exiting the White House in disgrace, amid the scandal of the Watergate catastrophe.
Charlie Rose's interview with the president aired on PBS on Monday night. President Obama did his best to persuade his outraged fellow Americans that they had not received the whole story yet. Knowing that he had to deliver his best television performance, he worked hard to show that this incident had been overblown.
But was it, really? It boils down to whether you want to believe Snowden, who looks a bit nerdy and speaks forcefully. Snowden plays to the hilt his part as the patriotic whistleblower.
If you take Snowden's side, you blame the president, the NSA, and basically the entire Beltway establishment arm of the federal government for invading our privacy, making us collectively feel paranoid about our elected officials and ashamed to be Americans at all.
After all, it's one thing to spy on our enemies abroad, but to snoop into the phone conversations of plenty of ordinary citizens is too much to accept.
The president has roughly three-and-a-half years to make it right. He has a lot of work to do.
Jon Friedman writes the Media Matrix blog for Indiewire.com. He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)Invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution." Read more reports from Jon Friedman — Click Here Now.
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