February 6, 2006

Moments Only

Hatched by Dafydd

The dreariness of the Senate hearing on the NSA al-Qaeda eavesdropping program was broken by a few moments of amusement -- or at least clarity.

First, since the story itself appears in the New York Times, the creakiest of the Antique Media (I love the phrase -- is it Hewitt's?), we can expect some whoppers in the way its presented. The Times does not disappoint.

First, the little summary on the Excite link-page entry that leads you to the NYT story makes it sound as if Democrats and Republicans are unloading both barrels on embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales:

The attorney general's assertion that the program was legal immediately drew harsh reactions from leaders from both parties.

(You won't find this line in the story itself, and within hours, the above snippet will probably be gone from the link page.)

But in fact, there are three Republicans and four Democrats quoted in the story; of the three Republicans, Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) both hotly defended the program, the president, and the attorney general. Only one Republican -- Arlen Specter (R-PA)... surprise! -- and all four Democrats (Sens. Charles Schumer of New York, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, and Russell Feingold of Wisconsin) attacked the program as "illegal domestic wiretapping."

Yes, Specter is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee (though why that committee should investigate an intelligence matter, when we have a separate Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I don't understand); but he is well known as a rabid critic of the administration on many issues, mostly relating to the war on terrorism, about which he appears quite skeptical. So, far from being a bipartisan lynch mob, in fact there was only a single liberal Republican who was on the Leahy-Kennedy-Schumer-Feingold side.

Second, the Times felt compelled to toss in the obligatory positive claim of illegality even while acknowledging that there is a strong argument to the contrary. They still act as if the illegality is a given:

The 1978 FISA Act, passed in response to surveillance abuses during the cold war and Vietnam eras and by the Nixon administration, requires the N.S.A. and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to obtain warrants from a special secret court before conducting electronic surveillance of people suspected of being terrorists or spies.

This is of course flatly tendentious: the Times assumes what they hope the Democrats will prove. But let's move on, to coin a phrase.

This is, I think, my favorite quotation:

Democrats emphasized again and again that regardless of their reservations about the administration's eavesdropping operation, they were as committed as their Republican colleagues to national security. "We all support a strong, robust and vigorous national security program," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York. "According to the rule of law."

...Which "rule of law" they believe forbids the exact "strong, robust, and vigorous national-security program" that the president ordered!

Other cheers and jeers....

Jeer: Sen. Feingold demanded (unsuccessfully) that General Gonzales be sworn in before testifying:

"Mr. Chairman, I just say that the reason that anyone would want him sworn has to do with the fact that certain statements were made under oath at the confirmation hearing," Mr. Feingold said. "So, it seems to me, logical that since we're going to be asking about similar things, that he should be sworn in this occasion as well."

(Unstated conclusion to the last sentence: ...so we can impeach him for perjury if what he says today differs in the slightest from what he said last time!)

Another fine, golden moment to jeer:

Mr. Feingold was clearly angry when his turn came to question Mr. Gonzales. "You wanted this committee and the American people to think that this kind of program wasn't going on," he said. "But it was." [Gee, why would the incoming attorney general not want to broadcast to the world that we were intercepting al-Qaeda communications? That's a real puzzler! -- the Mgt.]

Not so, Mr. Gonzales insisted. Last year, he said, Mr. Feingold asked him whether he thought the president could authorize eavesdropping "in violation of the law," and that the question was therefore hypothetical.

Those wacky Democrats, always asking just one question too many! There is a wonderful Abraham Lincoln story about asking the "one question too many," but the margin here is too small to contain it.

And a cheer for Sen. Cornyn:

Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said he found it odd that the United States could capture terrorists, "kill if necessary," but that according to some of the reasoning he had heard, "we can't listen to their phone calls."

What a great line; I hope Bush appropriates it for this year's elections.

And all the rest is dicta, as those egghead lawyers would say. These hearings are not going to do a darned thing to help the Democrats and Specter. The reality-based party strangely cannot feel the hand of political pragmatism tugging harder and harder on their trouser cuff.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 6, 2006, at the time of 11:54 PM

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The following hissed in response by: tomlynk

I am just curious as to why this farce is going on. One of the AG's arguments is Executive powers are set in article 2 of the Constitution. Also in that beautiful document is a prohibition of Congress passing laws to limit the powers of the president. Does that mean that the FISA law is of itself illegal? This matter could end up in the Supreme Court. That would be the perfect irony.

The above hissed in response by: tomlynk [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2006 10:20 AM

The following hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist

When...well, just before:

The dreariness of the Senate hearing on the NSA al-Qaeda eavesdropping program was broken by a few moments of amusement -- or at least clarity.

i managed to take a photo of Mrs. Coretta Scott King before she was placed in her coffin, and just before her Funeral turned Political...so to speak.

[KarmiCommunist, we can do without surprise photos of beheaded hostages. Don't do this again. -- the Mgt.]

America's Left, a Communist and radical Muslim loving bunch, see no problem in turning Mrs. Coretta Scott King's funeral into a Political "Bush Bashing" theme.

Jimmy "The Mullah" Carter thought that by repeating his NSA theme from yesterday, that it would sound better today, at Mrs. Coretta Scott King's funeral. Jimmy, it sounded good, and did you see my photo???


The above hissed in response by: KarmiCommunist [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 7, 2006 6:50 PM

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