Friday, March 03, 2006

DPW and the Patriot Act

A larger context to the DPW ports deal emerged when the Senate passed the new Patriot Act, quietly and without the fuss that was seen just two short months ago. Back then, when the Act was due to expire on December 31, the Senate approved only a 5 week extension due to serious misgivings many senators had then about the Act. When deliberation began in mid-February, only Feingold (D-WI) attempted a filibuster, but was shutdown by a cloture vote of 97-3.

Interestingly enough, Feingold's filibuster of the Patriot Act and the subsequent and overwhelming vote for cloture was occurring at exactly the same time congressional Republicans and Democrats were yowling about the DPW ports contract, expressing heartfelt concerns about national security. And so we have come to the nexus of the ports deal and the Patriot Act.

With the Patriot Act on the blocks in the Senate and knowing it was producing some reservations, the White House may very well have announced the DPW ports deal knowing full well what the reaction would be. I've argued before that they certainly must have anticipated the fallout and were using this to play attention onto something other than ... everything else that was going horribly wrong. The unassuming passage of the Patriot Act may have also been anticipated. After all, how could an upset Congress, upset about an apparent lax White House attitude toward national security, then turn around and argue against the Patriot Act? And as information arose that almost no top level cabinet officers even knew of the deal until after it was announced, this spoke of the ports contract announcement as having been handled almost exclusively as a White House PR move.

While rational heads would not perceive a conflict between arguing about the ports deal and the extension of the Patriot Act, that is not what is important. What is important is that an argument against the Patriot Act could have easily been twisted against a Senate that was concurrently haranguing the White House about national security. I expect the Senators could see that as well. I wonder how many of them who were expressing doubts about the Patriot Act previously, knew they had been played? Let's not forget, back in December, 46 senators refused to vote for cloture then.

Now? Now, the extension of the Patriot Act sails through with nary a wimper.


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