Friday, August 10, 2007

WaPo’s E.J. Dionne Explains It To You

An article in this morning’s Washington Post by E.J. Dionne, Jr., “Why the Democrats Caved”, tells the sad facts regarding the surveillance bill that the Dems joined with the Repubs to vote in last Saturday night. “Shortly before noon last Saturday, about 20 House Democrats huddled in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office to decide what to do about a surveillance bill that had been dumped on them by the Senate before it left town. Many of the Democrats were furious,” Dionne said. “They believed they had negotiated in good faith with Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence. They sought to give the Bush administration the authority it needed to intercept communications involving foreign nationals in terrorism investigations while preserving some oversight.” However, the Bushies held the line re giving McConnell and Attorney General Gonzales more power, which restricted the role of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The Dems lacked the votes to pass a bill more in line with House approvals and the Dems gave the Bushies what they wanted. Dionne went on to say, “At one point, according to participants in the Pelosi meeting, the passionate discussion veered toward the idea of standing up to the administration -- even at the risk of handing President Bush a chance to bash Democrats on ‘national security,’ as is his wont...Several members from swing districts -- including Reps. Heath Shuler of North Carolina and Patrick J. Murphy of Pennsylvania -- expressed openness to having Congress stay in town to fight if important constitutional issues were at stake.” The bill, according to David Wu (D-OR), “makes Alberto Gonzalez the sheriff, the judge and the jury.” Dionne says, “The episode was the culmination of a shameful era in which serious issues related to national security and civil liberties were debated in a climate of fear and intimidation, saturated by political calculation and the quest for short-term electoral advantage...Politically, Republicans won this round in two ways. They got the president the bill he wanted and, as a result, they created absolute fury in the Democratic base. Pelosi has received more than 200,000 e-mails of protest, according to an aide, for letting the bill go forward. “The entire display was disgraceful because an issue of such import should not be debated in a political pressure cooker. It's not even clear that new legislation was required; Holt, for one, believes many of the problems with handling interceptions involving foreign nationals are administrative in nature and that beefing up and reorganizing the staff around the FISA court might solve the outstanding problems.” Dionne quoted Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.): “What bothered me is that too many Democrats allowed that fear to turn into a demand for some atrocious legislation." “If legislation was needed,” Dionne said, “there were many ways to grant necessary authority while preserving real oversight. The Democrats got trapped, and they punted. The Republicans have never met a national security issue they're not willing to politicize. This is no way to run a superpower.” Well, first, the US is no longer a superpower. The Repubs have seen to that. And there have been plenty of mistakes on both sides of the aisle while the Bush administration stripped the United States of its good reputation and rendered it impotent. Articles like Dionne's show us clearly how the Dems give away the store due to Repub bullying and due to fear of losing votes. But the bottom line is that the winner of this less-than-super nation’s election in 2008 will be whichever political party can show it has learned from its mistakes.


Barry Schwartz said...

There seems to be only one of the two parties that is even trying to learn, and we are disturbed mainly because its rate of learning is so terribly low, even compared to the learning rate of a rabble.

Todd Dugdale said...

The Democrat's apparent plan of catering to the centre-right is doomed. Every four years the Republicans do a make-over. They temporarily stop being crazy fundamentalists who hear the voice of God in their heads and become 'reasonable' people who simply want to promote family values and protect your kids from exposure to evil. They drop the racist, nativist agenda and talk about a "Big Tent" and speak a few words of Spanish they learned from their maid. Like a werewolf transforming in the light of Dawn, they shed their allegiance to wealth and big business, only to turn into another creature whose concern is for the "little guy". Talk of police-state tactics gives way to froth about "liberty" and "freedom". They also really, really want peace and they wring their hands over those unreasonable "enemies" who just won't allow us to have it.
I could go on, but you surely get the point.
Trying to "out-centre" these people is a losing proposition. You have to create space between yourself and them and appear as an alternative, not as a "lite" version of them. Just as we see that the Democrat support for the invasion and occupation has been used to beat the Party over the head, so will this new support of a police state be used against the Democrats. Co-operation is seen as weakness by Republicans, and while opposition is posed as "dangerous" it is the only viable alternative.