Use it or lose it. That’s the first lesson of political power — and one Democrats still haven’t learned. Look what happened last weekend, before they ran out of town.

After Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush deliberately broke the law. Ordered the National Security Agency to tap the phones of law-abiding Americans without getting a warrant from the court, as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requires.

Democrats have raised hell about that for a couple of years now, and rightfully so. The FISA court is there for a reason. And it’s the law, which even presidents are expected to obey. 

So what did Democrats do last weekend? They caved in. They not only joined Republicans in endorsing the president’s past illegal actions, they gave him carte blanche to snoop on even more phone calls and e-mails, without a court order. And put Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in charge of deciding whether the president was acting within his powers.

What a huge, cowardly, shameful cop-out. Seven months after taking control of Congress, Democrats can be excused for not yet ending the war in Iraq. God knows they’ve tried, but they just don’t have enough votes in the Senate.

But there is no excuse — NONE — for Democrats to throw the Fourth Amendment out the window. No excuse for them to enable George Bush to continue to break the law.

Use it or lose it. If Democrats don’t start using their power, they’re going to lose it all.