Reflexive Fear of Wimpification

by digby

When I read this this morning, I thought I might be hallucinating:

Under pressure from President Bush, Democratic leaders in Congress are scrambling to pass legislation this week to expand the government’s electronic wiretapping powers.

Democratic leaders have expressed a new willingness to work with the White House to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to make it easier for the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on some purely foreign telephone calls and e-mail. Such a step now requires court approval.


In the past few days, Mr. Bush and Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, have publicly called on Congress to make the change before its August recess, which could begin this weekend. Democrats appear to be worried that if they block such legislation, the White House will depict them as being weak on terrorism.

“We hope our Republican counterparts will work together with us to fix the problem, rather than try again to gain partisan political advantage at the expense of our national security,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said in a statement Monday night.

Let's set aside the idea that "trusting" the Bush administration with warrantless wiretaps is like trusting your four year old with a zippo lighter, what kind of bucket-of-lukewarm-spit kind of politics is this? What are they afraid of, that the Bush administration will blame them if a terrorist attack occurs and they didn't approve another blank check? Guess what? It wouldn't matter if the Democrats named Bush king with the power to draw and quarter hippies and Muslims on the white house lawn, they will still blame the Democrats if there is another terrorist attack.

I do not know what this latest program is, but whatever it is, it needs to be approved by somebody other than the White House. I'm sorry, but that should be non-negotiable. Dick Cheney has delegated to himself virtually limitless power and he is borderline insane. The executive branch cannot be trusted with additional power of any kind. They have quite enough, thank you.

Here we are trying to pry from the Bush administration just what in the hell was in the "other intelligence activities" they were doing before the entire upper management of the Department of Justice threatened to resign, and the Dems are now publicly capitulating to white house demands that they give them more warrantless surveillance powers --- and Harry Reid is whining about how he hopes the Republicans will work with him? Talk about muddying the waters. The substance is nuts and the politics are nuts.

I feel like I woke up this morning and it was 2002 all over again. We have the two top Democratic contenders arguing about invading Pakistan and the Democratic congress is rushing to sign off on another secret surveillance program. (Hey, let's burn some Dixie Chicks albums just for fun! It would be irresponsible not to...)

I don't know what it's going to take to convince Democrats that trying to "out-tough" each other or especially trying to "out-tough" the GOP is always playing to the Republican's strength --- the authoritarian lizard brain. If this keeps up, by the time we get to the election, the Democratic candidate will be vying with the Republican over who will be the first to sign a new law legalizing torture for double parking. We don't win that way, never have, never will.

Update: I should be clear that I'm not saying that Pakistan does not have to be addressed. But it's a complicated situation and just hate to see the Democrats reducing this stuff to cheap sound bites just like the Republicans do. It just makes things worse in the long run.