The Pied Piper of Crawford

by digby

The bizarre and dishonest National Intelligence chief, Michael McConnell, is back up on the hill pushing for a permanent expansion of the warrantless wiretapping law he browbeat the congress into passing last August. Only this time making sure that his former (and future?) employers, the telcoms, are granted immunity from any liability for illegally spying on their customers and handing the information over to the government without a warrant.

He's very reassuring:

The National Security Agency has not conducted wiretapping without warrants on the telephones of any Americans since at least February, the nation’s top intelligence officer told Congress on Tuesday.

Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, told the House Judiciary Committee that since he took office that month, the government has conducted electronic surveillance only after seeking court-approved warrants.

That's nice. Why then did he and the administration feel it was necessary to ram through that bill last August? I don't suppose the fact that he very, specifically and explicitly said "wiretapping without warrants on the telephones of any Americans" might lead one to believe that he is once again doing a little misdirection is he? After all, he is known to be an outright liar.

Is that too harsh a word? I don't think so:

Congress agreed to give President Bush and the nation's intelligence agencies extra authority to spy on Americans just hours before lawmakers left for a month-long recess in August. In the legislative session's final week, news emerged of an impending plot by foreign terrorists to attack the US Capitol, and Republicans pointed to the reports as justification to expand the administration's powers.

"That specific intelligence claim, it turned out, was bogus; the intelligence agencies knew that," Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) said at a forum on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act organized by the Center for American Progress in Washington. However, lawmakers did not learn of the claim's unreliability until "the day" they approved the FISA expansion, she said.

If they aren't spying on Americans then they don't need a law giving them permission to do so. It's that simple. They should not renew that bill.

This allegedly independent Michael McConnell, who stabbed the Democrats in the back last August by reneging on the deal he'd made after the White House yanked his chain and then ran around screaming "the terrorists are coming to kill all of you in your offices RIGHT NOW if you don't support this bill" is a bad actor. He's a liar and a kook and the congress ought to steer clear of him. This administration has cried wolf so many times, it's completely pointless to believe anything they say. Just follow the constitution.

For some reason, the Democrats are reportedly thinking of giving this immunity to the telcoms, which means, as Greenwald points out today, that there will no longer be any forum in which to uncover just what in the hell has been going on these last few years. That's very depressing. (What else is new?)

Jane Harmon, to her credit, seems to have had an epiphany on these issues and is far more skeptical than she used to be. And if you don't want to believe a hawkish Democrat, there's always the conservative Bruce Fein who pointed out the obvious:

"Unchecked spying invariably leads to abuses in collection for political purposes, not national security purposes," Fein said. The danger inherent in giving Bush -- or any president -- authority to spy on Americans without oversight is that "it will be hijacked to advance a political agenda."

You would think that, facing a probable Democratic president, other Republicans would be worried about such things. But they aren't. They just keep following their Dear Leader over the cliff like he's the Pied Piper of Crawford. They don't care about the presidential race. They don't even seem to care about preserving themselves.

Today they inexplicably covered the president's ass once again allowing him to avoid having to veto a piece of legislation that would allow the troops a decent interval between deployments. (I won't even mention that also endorsed torture and indefinite imprisonment again today. They actually like that one though. They just wish they could use it on everybody.) What's odd is that he's not running again and they are. And they know they have a big problem.

Joan Walsh writes:

Rep. Jack Murtha says Republicans are telling him they won't buck the party's rabid pro-war base until after primary season. Does that sound familiar? Back in the spring, GOP leaders were telling reporters they'd give the president until this September -- the traditional start of the political season -- to turn things around in Iraq, and if he hadn't, they'd demand a course change. September came, and that didn't happen, so why should we expect things to be any different after the primaries? As Chris Matthews noted on "Hardball" today -- I was on the Hardball Panel -- with 60 to 90 Americans dying every month, the cynical Republican inaction guarantees another 600 to 900 dead American soldiers, at minimum, before GOP leaders have the guts to stand up to their isolated, pro-war base next summer. And I have no reason to believe they'll grow a spine by then.

No they won't. They are still so far under Bush's thumb that they are willing to lose their seats rather than buck this loathed leader and the ever shrinking neanderthal base that still loves his misbegotten war.

But then, that's an old story, isn't it? Atrios wrote today that someone had once said that depending on moderate Republicans to do the right thing is a fools errand. I couldn't agree more. There have been many examples of GOP congressional perfidiousness over the past few years, but none so disgusting as the Republican caucus so afraid of an historically unpopular president that they will willingly let people die and throw away their own political careers to spare him having to veto popular legislation. It's almost inhuman to see them so afraid to stand up for themselves and their constituents.

A while back when I was watching the first warrantless wiretap hearings, I wrote a post about these people that I was reminded of today when they sold their beloved military down the river one more time so that George W. Bush could save face. Yes, they really are even worse even than the Democrats who aren't exactly setting the world on fire with their daring-do. They are the biggest bunch of cowardly whiners this country has ever produced:

The Eunuch Caucus

I've been digesting this morning's hearings and I am dumbstruck by the totality of the Republicans' abdication of their duty. These men who spent years running on Madisonian principles ("The essence of government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse") now argue without any sense of irony or embarrassment that Republican Senators are nothing more than eunuchs in President Bush's political harem. They have voluntarily rendered the congress of the United States impotent to his power.

I've watched this invertebrate GOP caucus since 2000 as they submitted themselves to this lawless administration again and again, shredding every bit of self respect, every figment of institutional pride, every duty to the constitution. The look in their eyes, which is somehow interpreted as strong and defiant by the equally servile media, is actually a window to empty little men who have given up their manhood to oblige their master. The only reward they seek is unfettered access to the taxpayers money for their own use.

We are looking at fifty-five of the most powerful people in the country. Collectively the Republican Senators represent almost a hundred and fifty million citizens. And they have allowed a callow little boy like George W. Bush along with his grey eminences Karl Rove and Dick Cheney to strip them of their consciences, their principles and their constitutional obligations. What sad little creatures, cowardly and subservient, unctuously bowing and scraping before Karl Rove the man who holds their (purse) strings and dances them around the halls of congress singing tributes to their own irrelevance at the top of their lungs. How pathetic they are.

Barry Goldwater is rolling over in his grave.

Oh, and don't get excited about Huckleberry Graham's "tough" questions. This is his schtick. Going all the way back to the impeachment hearings, he has done this. He hems and haws in his cornpone way how he's "troubled" by one thing or another until he finally "decides" after much "deliberation" that the Republican line is correct after all and he has no choice but to endorse it

And now these mindless lemmings are willing to follow this 29% president over a cliff.

Why? What makes Republicans so servile that they can't even exercise the tiniest bit of personal conscience or even self-preservation?

And what in God's name makes them think this country will put up with these silly, time wasting antics when people are dying?

Update: Sidney Blumenthal discusses the new Draper book on Bush that speaks to why these Republican sheep are so eager to cover for him even at this late date:

Bush's deployed his fetish for punctuality as a punitive weapon. When Colin Powell was several minutes late to a Cabinet meeting, Bush ordered that the door to the Cabinet Room be locked. Aides have been fearful of raising problems with him. In his 2004 debates with Sen. John Kerry, no one felt comfortable or confident enough to discuss with Bush the importance of his personal demeanor. Doing poorly in his first debate, he turned his anger on his communications director, Dan Bartlett, for showing him a tape afterward. When his trusted old public relations handler, Karen Hughes, tried gently to tell him, "You looked mad," he shot back, "I wasn't mad! Tell them that!"

At a political strategy meeting in May 2004, when Matthew Dowd and Rove explained to him that he was not likely to win in a Reagan-like landslide, as Bush had imagined, he lashed out at Rove: "KARL!" Rove, according to Draper, was Bush's "favorite punching bag," and the president often threw futile and meaningless questions at him, and shouted, "You don't know what the hell you're talking about."

Those around him have learned how to manipulate him through the art of flattery. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld played Bush like a Stradivarius, exploiting his grandiosity. "Rumsfeld would later tell his lieutenants that if you wanted the president's support for an initiative, it was always best to frame it as a 'Big New Thing.'" Other aides played on Bush's self-conception as "the Decider." "To sell him on an idea," writes Draper, "aides were now learning, the best approach was to tell the president, This is going to be a really tough decision."

But flattery always requires deference. Every morning, Josh Bolten, the chief of staff, greets Bush with the same words: "Thank you for the privilege of serving today."

Dear God.