President George W. Bush is not backing down from his drive to make the rights-robbing USA Patriot Act become the permanent law of the land and the White House is threatening Republican members of Congress with serious political reprisals if they don’t get in line.

“The enemy has not gone away. They’re still there. And I expect Congress to understand that we’re still at war, and they got to give us the tools necessary to win this war,” the president said Tuesday.

Ah, the war rhetoric. Whenever Bush wants to get his way with no questions act, he trots out the war talk. We’re at war, he says, and – as a wartime president – he must be free to wiretap and spy on Americans at will and trample on the rights that used to be guaranteed by the Constitution.

“When it came time to renew the act, for partisan reasons, in my mind, people have not stepped up,” Bush says.  That’s Bush-speak for “you want war? You got war.”

Yes, Bush is a wartime President because he’s the one at war – at war with the American people, at war against the American way of life and at war with the Constitution of the United States.

My friends in the White House say Bush has also declared war on any Republican Senator who does not vote to make the Patriot Act a permanent threat to American liberties when it comes back up for a vote later this month.

They tell me Bush repeatedly refers to Idaho Senator Larry Craig as “a goddamned traitor” for joining with Democrats to block permanent renewal of the act and add that the President has similar insults for Senators Chuck Hagel and Olympia Snowe.

In Bush’s world, anyone who doesn’t march in absolute lockstep with his extremist view is a traitor. Such rhetoric, however, doesn’t faze Craig who says “the Patriot Act doesn’t do enough to protect the civil liberties of innocent Americans.”

Craig, more than most Republicans in Congress, realizes that George W. Bush doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the civil liberties of any American. I’ve known Craig for more than 20 years and he doesn’t suffer fools lightly.

But Craig, Snowe and Hagel are just three Republicans in a Senate dominated by right-wing fanatics who value power above liberty. Risking the wrath of the White House is dangerous – especially when the President is a member of the same party.

The excesses of the Patriot Act concern those on both sides of the political fence. That’s why conservative firebrand and former member of Congress Bob Barr joined with the liberal American Civil Liberties Union to fight renewal of the act. That’s why career professionals at the uber-secret National Security Agency are quitting rather than spy on fellow Americans.

But the USA Patriot Act did not become the law of the land because only Republicans supported it. Too many Democrats also voted to create a law where the rights of American citizens can be held hostage to paranoia.

“Contrary to the president’s misleading comments, nobody wants to see the Patriot Act expire,” Democratic Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold said Tuesday, adding that “we want commonsense changes to the act that would give the government the power to combat terrorism while protecting the rights and freedoms of law-abiding citizens.”

There’s the rub. In George W. Bush’s world the only “law-abiding citizens” are the rapidly-dwindling numbers of political extremists who still agree with his dictatorial views.

The rest of us remain enemies of the state.