I expect Republicans to eviscerate the Constitution, but, once again, the Democrats failed to hold the line, and, instead, granted the telecoms immunity in the House legislation. I’ll get back to why I emphasized granted, but if you want to know what this is all about, Hilzoy gives the best description I’ve read so far (although Greenwald is pretty good too; so is Lindsay):
Our President and his advisors believe three things which are wrong individually, but disastrous when combined. These are:
(1) The President can do whatever he wants during wartime, whether or not it violates the laws.
(2) It is always wartime, and the battlefield is everywhere, both at home and abroad.
(3) The President has the right to keep what he is doing completely secret. No one — not citizens, not Congress, not anyone — has the right to force him to reveal what he and others in the Executive are doing.
As I said, each of these is wrong individually, but the combination of all three is absolutely toxic. And the secrecy is crucial: if no one knows what the Executive is doing, no one can challenge it….
If the FISA “compromise” passes, it will mean that a President just needs to authorize some program, and say that he thinks it is legal, and telecoms cannot be sued for going along with it, even if it violates the law. Given a President who claims to believe, as Bush does, that whatever he wants to do is legal so long as it is an exercise of his War Powers, this is a recipe for disaster.
Back to why I used the phrase “[Democrats] granted the telecoms immunity.” A while ago, a long time reader didn’t get why the Democrats would actively pass bad legislation, when all they had to do was play ‘stall ball.’ Ineptitude would have been adequate to the task. Hunter asks the same question:
It was easy. I mean, Jesus H. Christmas, it has been the easiest thing in the world — all they had to do was not do it. It’s not freakin’ rocket science — but thanks to the efforts of a number of Democrats, not just Rockefeller and Hoyer but people like Reid and Pelosi, they just couldn’t not put immunity in. We were never told why it was so all-fired important — they would never grace us with any non-childish, non-condescending, non-flagrantly-insulting explanation. But instead of just not passing bills granting immunity, we had Reid treating Dodd more shabbily than he ever treated any Republican, and Hoyer apparently going around Pelosi, and all manner of prodding and dealing by Democrats to get immunity for these acts. It is baffling, and the only rationale available seems to be the most cynical one — it is merely doing the bidding of companies that provide substantive campaign contributions. No other explanation would seem to suffice….
Because of all the issues we’ve faced, in the last few years, this one was an absolute no-brainer, the one thing that the Democrats, no matter how stunningly incompetent, humiliatingly ineffective or bafflingly capitulating they may be, could manage to win simply by sitting on their damn hands. But no; it took serious work to lose on this one….
It is indefensible because it requires not just passive acceptance of a corrupt administration performing illegal acts, but legislators actively condoning those acts with the stroke of a pen.
While Hunter is right about how the Democrats were actively foolish, I think he misses what some Democrats’ motivation is: a lot of them are also neck deep in this shit. After Sept. 11, the Bush administration always invited some Democrats, not because they wanted the Democrats’ advice or support (they didn’t give a damn), but so they could blackmail Democrats into covering up this lawbreaking. Predictably, like suckers, Democrats went along so they could appear to be part of the process. And now, any Democrat who knew about this and did nothing is certainly politically culpable, if not legally liable.
Jonathan Turley is absolutely right about that (around the 4:00-5:00 mark, give or take):
And now the Constitution is being replaced by the rule of law. So what can we do about it?
Simple. Defeat Democrats who supported the replacement of the rule of law with the rule of man in primaries (the House vote shows that Republicans are a lost cause when it comes to defending your freedom). Here’s how to do that. I realize some of you don’t have much money to give, but this is the vitiation of the Fourth Amendment and the creation of presidential fiat. If not for this, then for what?
Suppose, instead of an illegal wiretapping program, we had an illegal torture program, and… nuts.