Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Will the real conservatives

Will the real conservatives please stand up?
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The longer the Bush administration remains on-stage, the more it resembles the Theater of the Absurd: something by the Italian dramatist Luigi Pirandello, perhaps, the Frenchman Eugene Ionesco or the American Homer Simpson. Consider this exchange between Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales during recent Senate hearings
about the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping on American citizens.

Gonzales repeatedly criticized the press for exposing George W. Bush’s “domestic spying program,” terminology he found objectionable. He insisted that the revelations endangered American security. Biden pronounced himself confused. He asked the attorney general, “How has this revelation damaged the program?” Did he actually believe “that these very sophisticated al-Qa’ida folks didn’t think we were intercepting their phone calls?”

No, Gonzales didn’t mean that.

“You would assume,” he conceded, “that the enemy is presuming that we are engaged in some kind of surveillance. But if they’re not reminded about it all the time in the newspapers and in stories, they sometimes forget.”

Laughter broke out in the cheap seats.

“Well, I hope you... are right, that they’re that stupid and naïve,” Biden said, “because we’re much better off if that’s the case.”

Alas, the CIA has long had in its possession an al-Qa’ida training manual from the 1990s warning would-be terrorists to be wary of U.S. wiretaps and to take evasive measures. The New York Times’ revelation of NSA’s warrantless spying on American citizens told the enemy nothing they didn’t already know and weakened national security not at all. The only damage was to the Bush White House’s political interests.

Gonzales’ legal justifications of the spy program are similarly preposterous, proving only something else we already knew: that for a fancy title and an office filled with expensive leather furniture, you can find a shyster to argue damn near anything. They practically had to tear White House mouthpieces off Richard Nixon’s leg before he embarked upon that helicopter ride into the sunset.

At one point, Gonzales even seemed to suggest that President George Washington had authorized electronic eavesdropping, quite a trick in 1789. Every historical precedent he cited took place before Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978, setting up a secret court to review wiretapping warrants specifically to prevent the government from spying on political dissidents as the FBI had done under Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Nixon.

In essence, the Bush White House pretends that the congressional resolution giving the president the authority to use force against the perpetrators of 9/11 enables him to set aside any laws he deems inconvenient and to put the U.S. Constitution on indefinite hold. Or that even if Congress intended no such thing, the president’s powers as commander-in-chief trump the Bill of Rights anyway. It’s as tortuous and inside-out an argument as it’s possible to imagine, to all intents and purposes establishing the president as an elected military dictator.

Maybe the oddest aspect of the whole thing is that a compromise solution would seem available if the White House really wanted one. The FISA law now requires that evidence of probable cause be presented to the secret court within three days after establishing a covert wiretap. If that’s too burdensome, Congress likely would amend the law to allow two weeks, six months or anything even remotely plausible.

Nobody’s against spying on al-Qa’ida within the law. Nobody. The Bush administration, however, appears hell-bent on provoking a constitutional confrontation. That’s the only obvious conclusion to draw from what the Times reports is “a rapidly expanding criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding... [its own ] article published in December that disclosed the existence of a highly classified domestic eavesdropping program.”

Does the White House really intend a Politburo-style purge of individuals within the national security agencies who place their loyalty to the Constitution above their fealty to Bush? Would federal courts enforce subpoenas compelling editors and reporters to testify about whistleblowers who leaked information that the president was arguably violating the FISA law? It seems highly unlikely they would. Contrary to easy rhetoric, the Valerie Plame leak investigation provides no useful precedent. It’s about protecting a whistleblower, former
Ambassador Joe Wilson, from retribution for pointing out that the administration had used bogus intelligence about Iraq. Is it really al-Qa’ida the White House wants to fight? Or have domestic opponents become the preferred enemies? Meanwhile, where are the conservatives? The real ones, I mean. Recently, former Republican U. S. Rep. Bob Barr, one-time House impeachment manager against President Bill Clinton, put this question to a Conservative Political Action Committee convention near Washington: “Do we truly remain a society that believes that... every president must abide by the law of this country? I, as a
conservative, say yes. I hope you as conservatives say yes.” The Washington Post reports that Barr was greeted by stony silence.

•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of the National Magazine Award.

Lily Tomlin said it best. "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up."

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