Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Congressional Democrats need to get a spine.

I watched Meet The Press last Sunday and found myself on several occasions listening to the Democrats on the panel and wanting to throw the cat at the t.v. For all the world it appears to me that congressional Democrats are vacillating on the NSA spy program. They appear to be for it, while being against it, and we all know what a pain in the rear it can be when THAT perception becomes ingrained with the public.

It appears to me that the stated goal of vice president Dick Cheney and presidential advisor Karl Rove to make the NSA spy program an election year issue have thrown the Democrats off their game. To me the issue is very clear. If the neo cons wish to make a campaign issue over the fact that the president broke the law and when found to be doing so defiantly proclaimed his intention to keep doing it, all over a program which truly is ineffective then lets welcome that fight not run from it. Or did these congressional Democrats think that this would be the one issue that once exposed would lead to the surrender of power by the neo con Rovians? Of course they will fight back, and lie and bluster... but the issue is with us, unless we surrender it, which for all the world is just what it appears these spineless Democrats are in the process of doing... sort of.

Here is Rep. Jane Harman on Meet The Press:
I still support the program, but it needs to be on a sounder legal footing, and I think the Gang of Eight process violates the National Security Act of 1947, which requires that, unless it's a covert action program-Congress, that means the two Intelligence Committees-have to be fully and completely briefed.
Ms. Harmann concurrently says (to paraphrase) 'I support the program, but it was illegal'. Part of the program was that the full senate and house intelligence committees not be briefed because the white house was concerned there may be leaks. Her fall back is that she was unable to fully understand the illegality of the program because of the very secretive nature of the program. As she says, prior to announcing she is for the admittably illegal program:
I couldn't talk to anyone about this program, and did not until the president disclosed its existence. It's not the leak to The New York Times that triggered things-and by the way, I deplore that leak-but the day after that, President Bush disclosed the fact that the program existed, at which point I consulted constitutional experts, the former general counsel of the CIA, some of the excellent staff on the House Intelligence Committee, and then I learned, although I'm a trained lawyer, about some of the serious legal issues that I have been raising ever since.
This logic simply does not fly. If the program is illegal, as she admittably says it was, that should be the end all be all of her way of thinking. And how do you deplore the Times leaking what you now admit was longstanding and continuing illegal behavior by the president of the United States? Deplore the leak? If the Times had not sat on that story for over a year, I'd be pulling for them to get a Pulitzer. This one waffling paragraph by Ms. Harman convinces me that maybe she would best help the situation by not giving us her opinion on this particular matter until after the mid terms.

What can be said of Senator Tom Daschle. Personally I think he's great. His loss in the senate truly was a sorrowful occasion and I look forward to hearing his perspective on many issues. BUT... on the issue of this program, he seemed to parrot Ms. Harman:
Well, Tim, I think Jane is right. We have had a good deal of analysis done on what you can and cannot talk about, and I think the president's making a false choice here, and we're hearing again the argument this morning that somehow we-we either are for hating the terrorists or protecting our values. We both-we all support going after the terrorists. We support the wiretapping program. We support doing everything we can to ensure we've got the best information we can get. But we also support respecting the rule of law.
Once again we hear a Democrat say (to paraphrase) 'The program is illegal which is bad, but the program is good'. Why does Mr. Daschle even have to say this? He's not running for office in 2006 as far as I can tell. Maybe if he were, he would develop a spine on the issue but still! My conclusion is that since both Mr. Daschle and Ms. Harman were briefed on the program due to their respective roles in congress, once the program became public the Democrats who were briefed took some heat over this. They may be feeling a need to justify the lack of action... (which action by the way they could not take because of the nature of the program. I'll back them on that one anyway.)

Democrats now seem to think that the public will think they are weak for not supporting the program itself, not based upon legalisms but based upon the supposed effectiveness of the spying program. Yet anyone who cares to look at what has been shown about the programs worth in terms of actually being a useful tool in the war on terror can see the fallacy of this presupposition. As mentioned in the article linked above:
A former senior prosecutor who was familiar with the eavesdropping programs said intelligence officials turning over the tips "would always say that we had information whose source we can't share, but it indicates that this person has been communicating with a suspected Al Qaeda operative." He said, "I would always wonder, what does 'suspected' mean?"

"The information was so thin," he said, "and the connections were so remote, that they never led to anything, and I never heard any follow-up."

In response to the F.B.I. complaints, the N.S.A. eventually began ranking its tips on a three-point scale, with 3 being the highest priority and 1 the lowest, the officials said. Some tips were considered so hot that they were carried by hand to top F.B.I. officials. But in bureau field offices, the N.S.A. material continued to be viewed as unproductive, prompting agents to joke that a new bunch of tips meant more "calls to Pizza Hut," one official, who supervised field agents, said.
So the president can scream at the top of his lungs about this being a terrorist surveillance program and how vital it is in the war on terror. Lets consider for a moment what has happened with the presidents credibility with the American people. According to a recent CNN poll, there is an even split down the center with 49% thinking the president is honest, 49% believing he is not honest. That 'is honest' number is down from 56% a year ago. Now from that number we know there are approximately 35% of what can only be called koolaid drinkers, who would reflexively give a positive response to anything regarding the cult of Bush. Consider for example that in this same survey 38% of respondents consider that the 2nd term of president Bush has been a success, which belief can only be held by a koolaid drinker. No matter how Democrats frame the argument there is no reaching a koolaid drinker. That leaves 14% of the non koolaid drinkers thinking the president is honest. I am convinced these people do not watch much news, but if they started to pay attention they could hardly hold this impression. Democrats can work with these numbers simply by telling the truth.

The truth of the matter is that the NSA spy program is illegal, AND ineffective. Democrats should in no way support the continuance of this program. If a bit of saber rattling is all it takes to throw the Democrats off their game, we will have a long hard slog to defeat in the mid terms. The time to grow a spine and start dishing it back is right now... or as Elvis would croon, It's now or never!

The Democratic Party - The left wing on the same Corporate Jet as the GOP.

Got my Indy voter card a couple of months ago. I still feel clean and refreshed.

Dig the blog man. See ya.
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