I couldn’t be more disgusted by the Democrats than I was when they caved into President Bush on warrantless spying that circumvents the FISA court. As usual the New York Times was correct in the editorial when they stated that it was appalling to watch over the last few days as Congress — now led by Democrats — caved in to yet another unnecessary and dangerous expansion of President Bush’s powers, this time to spy on Americans in violation of basic constitutional rights. Many of the 16 Democrats in the Senate and 41 in the House who voted for the bill said that they had acted in the name of national security, but the only security at play was their job security.
I am embarrassed to be a Democrat right now and I want to slap my Congressional representative- Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Where the heck is the moral compass? Where the heck is that bravado that was at play in the 2006 election? How can I assume that the Democrats can lead the country out of a paper bag if they cannot stand up to a President who has ratings somewhere at sewer level? I gave them a pass when they voted to fund Bush’s war a few months ago- because there was the risk that not approving that funding could have caused harm to men and women serving in our armed forces even if they are in a cesspool of a war that Bush created by his own incompetence. After all- they don’t deserve to suffer, he does. But I never imagined or dreamed that they would cave in on protecting basic civil liberties.
My gosh- they used to talk about Tony Blair being Bush’s poodle. Well it seems that the Capitol Rotunda is nothing more than a marble poodle cut!
The votes in the House and Senate were supposed to fix a genuine glitch in the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires the government to obtain a warrant before eavesdropping on electronic communications that involve someone in the United States. The court charged with enforcing that law said the government must also seek a warrant if the people are outside the country, but their communications are routed through data exchanges here — a technological problem that did not exist in 1978.
Instead of just fixing that glitch, the White House and its allies on Capitol Hill railroaded Congress into voting a vast expansion of the president’s powers. They gave the director of national intelligence and the attorney general authority to intercept — without warrant, court supervision or accountability — any telephone call or e-mail message that moves in, out of or through the United States as long as there is a “reasonable belief” that one party is not in the United States. The new law all but eviscerates the 1978 law. The only small saving grace is that the new statute expires in six months.
A New York Times analysis of the Democrats Debacle quoted Caroline Fredrickson, a top lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Ultimately, it was the Democratic leadership on the Hill that rolled over to this demand. Instead of standing strong and standing on principle, they panicked and gave the administration not only what it has been asking for, but more.”
Democratic officials in the House and the Senate say they understand the dismay that greeted the measure’s passage and point out that most Democrats opposed the bill, including the four senators seeking the party’s presidential nomination. But they say that given classified security briefings and the approach of the recess, Democrats had little choice. Isn’t that just so convenient!
When will the Democrats get over their fear of being called wimps on national security?
From the Senate: “Everyone who heard the briefings from the administration agreed that the intelligence community did not have what it needed,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader. “Both Democrats and Republicans alike agreed that going home without addressing this issue was not an option.”
From the House: “We agreed with the administration that there was a problem with FISA that needed to be fixed,” said Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. “We thought we had a bill that protected civil liberties and addressed their problems, but it did not have the votes on its own.”
Are these folks more interested in being in power or in governing? What use is it to have allies in power if they don’t use that power for something positive?
Some are already talking about primary challenges for Democrats whom they consider enablers of Mr. Bush, like moderate Blue Dogs who formed the core of Democratic support for the eavesdropping proposal in the House. On the Web site Open Left, the blogger Matt Stoller accused the Blue Dogs of one of their “standard betrayals.”
“The upside,” Mr. Stoller wrote, “is that organizing is beginning already around fixing the FISA legislation, and a campaign to destroy the brand of the Blue Dogs is not far away.”
Normally I would disagree with the idea of challenges to Democrats from more liberal corners and would view this to be problematic. I am a Democrat but a political pragmatist- so I see the value in not going too far left (see what happened with the Senate race in Connecticut in 2006?) but my pragmatism only goes so far. When political pragmatism compromises moral integrity and the values embedded in our Constitution it is selling out- oure and simple. And for what- fear of being branded a coward by an inept and unpopular President? No, the New York Times got it right- the game is about job security and keeping power- even if you don’t use that power.
It’s time to shake up the Democratic Party. If you don’t use your power for good- you don’t deserve the power.