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Monday, March 03, 2008

Well That Worked Out Well

by digby

Wiretap Compromise in Works

Parker, who said she hopes the House can take up the compromise legislation as early as this week, said a resolution has been delayed partly by the need for all members of the House Judiciary Committee to gain access to the letters and other relevant documents sent to the phone companies by the administration requesting their assistance.

The House Democratic leadership demanded such access before they would contemplate immunity, and the administration granted full access last week. Parker spoke at a breakfast meeting sponsored by the American Bar Association yesterday.

Kenneth Wainstein, assistant attorney general for national security, said at the same meeting that key issues surrounding the legislation had been hashed out in a "long and tedious" but "healthy" process, aimed at updating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Yes, this has been a really "healthy" process. Kind of like a colonoscopy.

But this is my favorite part. They are pretending that the administration gave up something they wanted.

"This is not amnesty," Wainstein said at the meeting. "This is targeted immunity" for companies who meet requirements specified in the Senate bill that include having received an attorney general's certification that their assistance was determined to be lawful.

Well now, that's entirely different, isn't it?

So what happened?

A group of several dozen moderate to conservative House Democrats, known as "Blue Dogs," has pushed Hoyer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to approve the Senate bill. Some aides on Capitol Hill were discussing the potential for the House passing the Senate version but breaking it into two votes: one on the portion of the bill that deals with revising FISA provisions and a second on the immunity measure.

This procedural move would allow many Democrats to vote against immunity but still make its approval all but certain since almost every Republican and some centrist Democrats would vote in favor.

Here's a test for you class. When is a majority not really a majority?

The Democrats believe they can fool the stupid rubes they represent by saying they aren't culpable in this debacle because they voted against it! Yea! And we're so stupid we'll absolve them because we won't figure out that the whole thing was rigged.

Greenwald says it all, here.

There's very little point anymore in writing about how the Congressional Democratic leadership is complicit in all of the worst Bush abuses, or about how craven they are. All of that is far too documented and established at this point to be worth spending any time discussing. They were never going to take a stand against warrantless eavesdropping or the destruction of the rule of law via telecom amnesty for one simple reason: many of them don't actually oppose those things, and many who claim to oppose them don't actually care about any of it. That's all a given.

But what is somewhat baffling in all of this is just how politically stupid and self-destructive their behavior is.

It's not all that baffling when you consider that the Democrats don't have a liberal majority or even a real working majority unless they are willing to play hardball with procedure. Blue Dogs + Republicans makes a much more effective "bi-partisan" majority for Bush in these heady days of reconciliation anyway.

I stopped writing about this a month or so ago because it was just so obvious that this was going to happen and it was frustrating watching it come down. I see no evidence from the presidential campaigns that Bush abuses will be confronted in the next congress either. Indeed, I suspect this was the last gasp of outrage at the constitutional shredding of the Bush administration. Bush and Cheney and their henchmen will be busily covering their tracks and we will all make a fresh start on January 20th, 2009. Until they do it again, of course.

I'm sorry to be so depressing about all this, but I just see no evidence that Democrats care about this very much. The usurpation of democracy and the constitution doesn't rate very high on their list of priorities, especially when they see the prospect of a Democratic president who they trust not to follow in Bush's foo0tsteps.

But this was a principle worth fighting for no matter what. No president, Democrat or Republican, should be trusted with this kind of power. And even if you believe that no wonderful Democratic Prez could ever be so bad, what if John McCain wins? Does anyone seriously think he won't use it?

Update: And yes, as soon as a Democrat becomes president the congress will rediscover its prerogatives.