Headshaking is about the only response one can muster at the news that the House and the Senate passed George Bush's changes to the "terrorist surveillance program" because senators were "under pressure" from a distrusted and widely despised White House. This "pressure" to bend to Bush's will apparently stems from the Democrats' continued fear of being called names by Republicans. Greenwald hones in on who was likely responsible for the convenience of Democratic capitulation:
Much of this was undoubtedly the by-product of the Democratic Beltway consultant geniuses who insist that Democrats not resist the President's instructions on terrorism lest they look "weak." They need to look "strong," and they achieve that by giving the President what he wants and thereby generating articles like this one in The Washington Post, the first paragraph of which reports (accurately):But lost in the gales of rage is an aspect of this political pantie raid that seems overlooked: why is this even happening? The White House has long asserted that the president has the authority to conduct this program with or without congressional approval and in violation of FISA; that because Bush is a "war president," he doesn't actually violate any law because he is the law. FISA, or any other law for that matter, has no jurisdiction over the president in "war time," and that such approbation grants Bush carte blanche to do whatever is necessary to win the War on Terra.™ In the name of national security, that is, a banana republic banner that can and has been slapped on almost anything.The Senate bowed to White House pressure last night and passed a Republican plan for overhauling the federal government's terrorist surveillance laws, approving changes that would temporarily give U.S. spy agencies expanded power to eavesdrop on foreign suspects without a court order.In the mind of the moderate Democratic Beltway centrist consultant, that is how Democrats look Strong -- by "bowing to pressure" exerted by one of the weakest and most disliked presidents in modern history. There is nothing like being described as "bowing" and "capitulating" to give an appearance of strength.
Indeed, in the White House asserted war stance, laws, as we fondly have known them, are really quaint, antiquated and legalistic turds spat out by fools determined to meddle with powers that only want to bring goodness and justice to world. Bush is here to fix that entirely blinkered approach on how to run a country because a dictatorship "would be a heckuva a lot easier." Despite his constant bellyaching about "hard work," if there is one thing well understood about George Bush, it is that he thinks easier is always better.
So why the rush, and rush now, to placate Bush on FISA? a law he always claimed never applied to him and his special circumstances and one that he has been violating for years already. As White House spokesman Trent Duffy informed us in 2005 about the NSA warrantless wiretapping,
This is a limited program.... And the President believes that he has the authority -- and he does -- under the Constitution to do this limited program. The Congress has been briefed. It is fully in line with the Constitution and also with protecting American civil liberties.Clearly, legality was not the constraining force behind what in reality was nothing but political maneuvering by the White House to further marginalize the Democratic Congress. Fearing being labeled "weak" on terror, the Democrats chose to buckle and appear weak in another fashion.
The President has already addressed how this program was done within the law...
While Bush has never been bothered about complying with law, what this has done is enrage the very voters who handed the Democrats a majority to reign in an overbearing White House. Once again, the Democrats have been played for fools too stupid to realize that by caving to Bush on a law he could care less about, they have alienated not only their base, but the majority of the country. The American public now rightly see the Democrats as no better and little different from the "rubber stamp" Republicans voters thought they were replacing.
Years of cat calls that the Democrats are terrorist appeasers and weak kneed pacifists have had their intended effects. The donkeys now twitch and scatter at thought of an ad hominem barb and are more invested in preventing a bout of name-calling than in doing the job they were sent to do. Deeply entrenched Republican voters hate the Democrats, as always, and now deeply entrenched Democratic voters do to.
Chalk another one up for the White House and its mindless rampage across the ever-diminishing constitutional landscape of this country.
Update: JB at Balkinization gets a righteous rant on and finishes with a flourish:
Do not be mistaken: We are not hurtling toward the Gulag or anything that we have seen before. It will be nothing so dramatic as that. Rather, we are slowly inching, through each act of fear mongering and fecklessness, pandering and political compromise, toward a world in which Americans have increasingly little say over how they are actually governed, and increasingly little control over how the government collects information on them to regulate and control them. Slowly, secretly and imperceptibly, the mechanisms of government surveillance are being freed from methods of political control and accountability; and the liberties of ordinary citizens are being surgically removed under a potent anesthesia concocted from propaganda, fear, ignorance and apathy.
I hope the Democrats are justly proud of themselves for their cowardly contributions to this slow-motion destruction of our constitutional system.