Tuesday, March 14, 2006

"Thank You, Sir! May I Have Another?!"

The Republicans in Congress have once again pulled down their pants and begged Pledgemaster Bush to spank them again. Harder, sir! Harder!!

The occasion for their latest unmanning came in the debate over the Feingold censure resolution. The Senate Republicans basically tried to do what they did to the Murtha resolution on Iraq -- distort the language to change its meaning, allow no extended debate, and bring it up for a quick vote to shoot it down -- but this time Senate Democrats wouldn't let them get away with it. (The NY Times is framing this as a defeat for the Democrats, but I think it's a wise tactical retreat.)

During all this, Sen. Arlen Specter set a new low in the history of congressional overlook:
Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who has expressed reservations about the surveillance, said Mr. Feingold had failed to make a case for censure over what amounts to a dispute over the legal basis of the program.

"The president may be wrong," Mr. Specter said, "but he has acted in good faith."
So we can break the law if we're acting in good faith? Ignorance is no defense, but warm and fuzzy thoughts are? Outstanding.

Jeez, talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations. This isn't Field Day at the local special education school, where everyone gets a ribbon just for showing up and trying hard. This is the President of the United States willingly breaking the law and promising to break it again.

And "good faith" would seem to imply that while he was doing this warrantless wiretapping, the president wasn't at the same time lying to the American people and insisting he wasn't doing anything of the sort. The new GOP line is that the president has always had the power to act like a king and ignore the law, but if that's true -- and if it is, it's news to me -- then why was the president lying about this on the campaign trail? "A wiretap requires a court order," he said in April 2004, several years after he'd been doing the opposite. Still, he insisted, "Nothing has changed."

Something has changed, alright. The Republican Congress that was screaming "rule of law!" in their rush to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about sex now doesn't care at all about the rule of law.

This president has admitted he broke the law, but like a battered wife, the Republican Congress is still insisting it was their own fault for passing such a stupid law in the first place and bothering the president when he's got so much stuff going on down at work. The president means well, and he really loves the country, even when he beats it up. You just don't know him like they do. He's a good man, officer. He didn't mean it.


Pooh said...

OT, but I have to pass this along. Snark free, but I'm going to hell for what I'm thinking.

Thrillhous said...

Acting in good faith makes it okay? Hmm, that sounds so familiar, where did I hear something like that earlier today . . . oh yeah! Joementum!

Lieberman said he believes hospitals that refuse to give contraceptives to rape victims for “principled reasons” shouldn’t be forced to do so.

teh l4m3 said...

Not so much a battered wife as a toadying accomplice.

The constituents who consistently vote Republican, however... Now there's the battered wife syndrome.

Otto Man said...

Patton Oswalt has a routine about working-class Bush voters in which he compares them to a white trash girl, one who gives old C-list rocker Michael Damian a blow job behind the tilt-a-whirl at the county fair on the belief that he really loves herand is going to take her away from all this.

Um, it's actually funnier in the bit.

Tokyo Joe said...

Actually good intentions do mean a lot. The American people are more willing to give a guy a break if he does something terrible for all the right reasons then someone who does something just a little wrong for purely selfish reasons.

While I agree this is probably the worst thing he has done from a constitutional point of view, but he personally gained the least from it. It wasn't like he was listening to democrates or political enemies. As far as I can tell he didn't even make a dollar for himself or any of his friends. So America will forgive him for this because it will continued to be spun as watching out for people's safety (kind of like a constitutional Dirty Harry). If the dems start something real on the no-bid contracts and some of the oil shenanagins, then they might have a case.

On a slightly off center rant, I'm always amazed when people bring up Clinton's mistake in comparrison to anyone else's. The difference between him and almost everyone else of late is that he lied only for himself. Yes, he lied about sex, but the sex part never bothered me (or most people for that matter I think). But he was under oath and being sued for sexual harrasement. The dems love to talk about how Bush feels he is above the law, but the fact that Clinton was so blatant about the same thing is usually missed completely.

Otto Man said...

While I agree this is probably the worst thing he has done from a constitutional point of view, but he personally gained the least from it. It wasn't like he was listening to democrates or political enemies. As far as I can tell he didn't even make a dollar for himself or any of his friends.

Well, I'd disagree with that. He has personally gained from this, in that his political reputation has been built solely on his image as protecting us from terrorists and this buttresses that. His political livelihood is at stake here, and the financial interests of all his backers as well.

Ultimately, though, we have no idea who he used this to listen to. You say he didn't use it to spy on Democrats, but we have ZERO proof of that.

We only have his word that he's been using it to listen in on terrorist suspects, but if that's the case then why not stick with FISA? That allows for the same breadth of wiretaps, the same scope, the same speed. It just requires a post hoc rubber stamp from the FISA court -- that's the only difference here, and therefore it raises the likelihood that the only reason he cut out the FISA court was that he knew they would not approve of what he had in mind.

So maybe he was listening in on the Kerry campaign, or on antiwar groups, or on Muslims without known ties to terrorism. Maybe it's just a blanket program that reads every single email from every single American. The thing is, NOBODY KNOWS. And if Congress continues to go in this direction, we'll never know.

It all boils down to the president saying "Trust me." Sorry, but as a wise man once said, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice -- uh, the thing is -- uh, you can't get fooled again!"

Tokyo Joe said...

OM, I think you are dead-on right with the whole heart of where the outrage should be, but that's not how it is being approached. The fact that Bush did these illegal wiretaps means that in the furture he could do them again (to anyone). But I don't think I've heard anyone really accuse the President of doing anything but "spying on terrorists". And that is how the american public see it - "he broke the rules to save us". The fact that he gets some good political feelings from Mr & Mrs Six-pack is just secondary to them.

Maybe I should have said that "obvious" motives are important to people. As far as they are concerned he did it to stop terrorists first and foremost. Until someone is willing to step forward and actually say the President was doing anything that could be interperted any other way, I don't think any of this will go very far.

Otto Man said...

Good point, Joe. But, ultimately, I think motives don't matter here at all. The law's the law, period.

Even if the American people want to give up on democracy and be ruled by a benevolent tyrant looking out for their best interests as he sees fit, Bush still doesn't get to do it.

Thrillhous said...

Sounds like both of you guys are right, OM and TJ. The spying thing is probably unconstitutional and almost certainly illegal, but because the public's reaction has mostly been "so what," he can get away with it. (This also puts the lie to Bush's "I don't govern by polls" line.)

On the Clinton lying thing, I see it kind of the other way around, TJ. The fact that he lied about a personal issue is less of a concern for me than if he were lying to cover for something that actually affected the people he worked for.

The president is the last person who should lie under oath, but he was lying about his personal life, not about a bombing campaign in Cambodia or funding death squads in Central America.

S.W. Anderson said...

So maybe he was listening in on the Kerry campaign, or on antiwar groups . . ."

And today's newspaper had a story on how the FBI was spying on an antiwar group (in Geortgia, I think) back in '03 or since '03. That, on top of spying on Quakers and Vegans, of all people.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if in time it comes out there was spying, or attempted spying, on the Kerry campaign. That strikes me as perfectly in keeping with Rove's M.O. and the whole anything-to-win approach that's standard procedure for these people. Wouldn't surprise me if Rove did it without Bush's knowledge, to ensure "plausible deniability."

S.W. Anderson said...

The willing abuse victim is an inspired analogy, O.M.

Hell no, good intentions shouldn't buy Bush a pass for breaking the law. When you examine the facts of this whole situation, what Bush did is not only patently illegal, it's outrageously unnecessary.

As presidents go, Bush is a hack. It's amateur hour 24/7, six years into his reign of error. If he was a doctor, he would've lost his license a long time ago — as little disposed as doctors are to give peers the heave ho.

If Bush gets it into his head — or claims — national security requires the Senate be dissolved, will Specter, locked out with the rest, stand on the Capitol steps and wax philosophical about Bush's good intentions? Somehow, I don't think so.

No, I think he'd be up for ripping Bush a new orifice any which way he could go about it, starting with impeachment.