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Tilting at Windmills

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January 26, 2006
By: Paul Glastris

A QUESTION OF INCOMPETENCE... Framing thought for the day: the primary worry about the NSA eavesdropping program shouldn't be civil liberties, but incompetence.

Most people agree, or can be convinced, that in order to root out terrorist threats we need to give the NSA enhanced permission to snoop on domestic communications. But this is a potentially very dangerous power were giving the government. So the question is, do we trust the Bush administration to use this power with care and competence?

The answer is, of course not. The administration has shown, time and again, that it cant be trusted to manage the power it has. Iraq, Katrina, the budget, mine safety, prescription drugseach and every one a monumental screw-up. What possible reason do we have to presume that the administration hasnt screwed up the NSA eavesdropping program? We have no real idea who the NSA is spying on. Could be al-Qaeda cells. Could be your wifes cell phone conversations. We have no idea.

Theres only one way to make sure the Bush administration hasnt blown this very important and delicate domestic spying activity. Its the mechanism bequeathed to us by the Founders: Congressional consent and oversight. But the president doesnt believe he needs Congress consent, and the Republican-controlled Congress doesnt believe in tough oversight.

The upcoming hearings on the NSA eavesdropping program are certainly welcome. But given the realities of one-party control in Washington, there's really only one way for the American people to make sure they have a domestic spying program that smokes out terrorists without shredding their civil liberties. They have to vote for it this November.

Paul Glastris 9:23 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (88)

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Comments

Speaking of which, how do you spell 'Incompetence'?

Posted by: JimBobRay on January 26, 2006 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

I think it is difficult to convince the public that all of the failures that you ennumerate are actually failures. The media's supine position and he-said-she-said style of reporting, combined with the right-wing echo chamber make it almost impossible. Asking the Democratic Party to decide whether to frame the NSA wiretapping as a competence issue or a civil liberties issue is like asking me (5'7", 44 years old, white) to decide whether to dunk a basketball with my left or my right hand.

Posted by: Barringer on January 26, 2006 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

Do your best not to stand up for values most Americans believe in, that would be bad framing.

In 2004, did more Bush voters believe he was incompetent, but decided to vote for him anyway, or believe he was dictatorial, but decided to vote for him anyway?

Posted by: Boronx on January 26, 2006 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

If the Peter Principle is that people are promoted to their level of incompetence, can we say that the corollary should be that the George Principle is that people can be promoted *past* their level of incompetence?

Posted by: Chris on January 26, 2006 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

No, the frame should be that which is supposed to frame the primary responsibility of the president -- governing according to the US Constitution. Bush has failed to do so. His actions were both directly unconstitional -- violating the 4th amendment -- as well as indirectly unconstitional, through willful disobedience of Congressional authority, illegally failing to keep Congress properly informed and violating FISA.

Bush's actions were Unconstitional, Illegal, and Authoritarian.

Posted by: Bragan on January 26, 2006 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Who can we vote for in November? There's one party rule in the United States because the (laughingly-referred-to-as) opposition sucks.

Posted by: anonymous on January 26, 2006 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

With Republicans dropping the ball on so many things and Democrats never even getting a hold of the ball, I think Novemember is going to come down to the lesser of two idiots... which doesn't bode well for the Democrats.

"Bush might have illegally spied on terrorists," isn't going to work as a battle cry.

Posted by: Frank J. on January 26, 2006 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

I am the wife. Get with the times, men.

Posted by: most women readers on January 26, 2006 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

I have to comment because this is exactly what I am preaching in my district. The only way we can get our Dem vote back is to convince the voters that it's a woodshed moment and that this is Daddy's moment. It's accountability time and we have to empower these people, Who's in charge? You're in charge. Use it. It's time to remind Congress who really holds the keys.

Nothing else will work, people are too comfortable, disconnected from anything but a channel changer and too willing to rationalize away political sins. If you have a better idea, tell me.

Posted by: ELR on January 26, 2006 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

It's not the only way.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." --Thomas Jefferson

Posted by: vampire77666 on January 26, 2006 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure about your premise that people agree that snooping powers need to be enhanced. My reading of polls is that a plurality, even a majority, thinks that the current system in which a warrant is required for wiretapping US citizens is appropriate. Why should we give this up?

Moreover, most people would agree, if put to it, that the government should not be able to wiretap citizens merely on suspicion, but should have to have probable cause to do so. Especially if they understood how undemanding a standard probable cause really is.

Posted by: David in NY on January 26, 2006 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Good post, Paul, but I agree with Barringer. In the 21 century Republicans do not admit mistakes. They try to turn every error and misjudgment into an asset, like they are trying to do now with domestic spying.

It's something I've puzzled over for a while -- this conservative dichotomy. They have a mind set where even though they proclaim to want the government off their backs (taxes, property rights, gun ownership) they simultaneously invite the government to directly violate everyone's civil rights in the name of national security. It's like they need to advocate for domestic spying in order to justify the scope of the threat they perceive.

Conservatives are willing to sacrifice everything our founding fathers found so important in declaring independence from the Crown -- rule of law, privacy, civil rights -- at the altar of National Security. It doesn't matter how professionally domestic spying is conducted. Conservatives believe sacrificing our rights is our patriotic duty when the country is threatened (which, because of the possibility of terrorism, it always will be). To conservatives, the rule of law has become a bureaucratic technicality. How sad for us.

We need to challenge domestic spying in court immediately and hope saner judicial minds prevail. That's the only way I see to rein in Bush's imperial presidency, at least until 2008. Hopefully we can undermine some of his power by making inroads into the Congress this fall by giving the boot to politicians like Rick "K Street Who?" Santorum.

Posted by: pj_in_jesusland on January 26, 2006 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

In addition to demonstrated incompetence, does it hurt to remind people that the reason that oversight laws like FISA were enacted was exactly because the Republican Party had shown that given the chance, they will illegally break-in and wiretap their domestic political opponents!

Of course Democrats believe in wiretapping al Queda terrorists, we just don't believe that with unlimited power, that's all Republicans will do.

Trust but verify!

Posted by: Ed on January 26, 2006 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Frank J the whole terrorist scare fest is starting to wear thin. Your boys are only concerning with winning elections. Everything after that the Repubs are winging it. Policy suck and someday the bill will come for all the reckless spending and tax cuts not to mention war.

Posted by: morg on January 26, 2006 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

"Bush might have illegally spied on terrorists," isn't going to work as a battle cry.

That crude reductionism may wobble, but it won't spin well once you factor in Bush's 1) incompetence, 2) lack of credibility, 3) arrogance. We, the public, can't trust Bush to wield such dangerous authority both because he's a proven moran and a liar. Bush has over-reached. The American Democracy may be in poor condition, but the myth is still strong, and Democrats can win by attacking the arrogance and insolence of the would-be boy king.

Posted by: Bragan on January 26, 2006 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure about being a proven "moran," but Bush is certainly a moron.

Posted by: Bragan on January 26, 2006 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Paul's right:

INCOMPETENCE is the common thread. And it's very effective.

We (most people who read and comment on this site) care a lot about ideology. We know the details on lots of little issues.

Most people don't. Their opinions are all over the place. Read any set of polls on basic issues and you'll find people hold "liberal" and "conservative" opinions at the same time.

Nor do they know who controls Congress, what's in the Constitution, or what countries neighbour Iraq, etc.

But most people have a pretty good understanding of competence vs. ineptitude.

Plus it's a common thread of so many policy debacles recently. High debt - incompetent Treasury secretary. Iraq - incompetent Defense Secretary, Medicare - inept implementation, etc.

It's simple and it would be very effective.


Posted by: Samuel Knight on January 26, 2006 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

The fundamental problem of Democrats this fall is the lack of concern about threats that they manifest. I've been reading this blog and a few other left wing blogs looking to see what are the issues being raised. They are not the threat to the country posed by militant Islam.

To take one tiny example. How many of you know that Tehran bus drivers have been going on strike to try to unionize and get better wages ? This could be a crack in the regime's hold on Iran. There is tremendous discontent among young people there. The second language of blogs is Farsi. Who is supporting them ? Jimmy Hoffa Jr. Nobody elese in the Democratic Party has mentioned the subject.

Alito will be confirmed and the Senate Democrats' concern is with fund raising, not any threat to liberty from him. The Democrats have got to get serious about security or November will be another 2004 moment. The talk here and in other Democratic Party fora is all tactics, not national security. The NSA story is a huge loser for Democrats.

Posted by: Mike K on January 26, 2006 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

The reason that unwarranted snooping remains a civil liberties issue, in principal and above all, is that autocracy is inherently untrustworthy.

Given the benefit of the doubt, power corrupts (etc.) And even in the most simple society, with a leader of the best intentions, the leadership will always be wrong, for some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time.

So granting anyone the authoritarian right to dictate how it's gonna be for the rest of us from now on (e.g. till our never-ending war against "terrorist" enemies is won) is to volunteer too easily for a march to perdition. That is the most desperate option, to be taken only at the very last.

This is why the founding fathers, in their humble wisdom, set up checks and balances. Competence and other virtues are important, and Democracy doesn't reliably manifest them either, but at least it tends to be self-correcting. Autocracy does not.

Posted by: sadderbudweiser on January 26, 2006 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

"I think Novemember is going to come down to the lesser of two idiots"

Isn't it ALWAYS?.

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 26, 2006 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

And how has W supported the youth movement in Iran Mike K? Oh that's right, by pushing them away and into the arms of their current lunatic leader by saying asinine shit like "Axis of Evil" and irrationally invading their nearest neighbor.

Guess what? The Republicans run the show. They should be nurturing the young people of Iran. So really, problems with Iran are all on them. In other words, STFU Mikey.

Posted by: ckelly on January 26, 2006 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

In all likelihood, if you can not trust one president with such power it should never be granted. vWhen given power, people use that power. That's how it works. I don't believe a whole lot of extra powers actually needed to be granted. I think on 9/11 the intelligence system had it's head up it's asses focusing entirely on china and russia and could have been detected and prevented had their focus been on afghanistan and al queada.

I'm sick of people saying dems need ot "get serious on security". That's BS, bush isn't serious about security, he doesn't act like he is either. He acts like a bully. If we pick fights with the republicans, we will be viewed as strong, and in the minds of most people Strong=secure. It's an association on an instinctual level that can not be overridden by logic or reason. Republicans have used this to great effect. And Democrats who focus too much on logic and reasoning lose the most potent weapons in the manipulation of others. If john Kerry had stood up and called GWB a coward for hiding behind the swift boat veterans durring the debates GWB would have lost, then John Kerry would be sitting in the oval office right now.
But then again, for most of you "acting serious about security" is your way of acting strong. but you're not strong, You're weak and it shines through. That's why it hasn't worked. My way will work, because we can never out brutalize the republicans. We can shove their faces in the mud though.

Posted by: SoulLight on January 26, 2006 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Incompetence is a very good partisan battle cry--I have suggested that the Democratic message should be 'We will fix...." and you can fill in the blank with anything that Dumbya has touched. I very much disagree with the assertion that we should frame illegal domestic spying in this fashion. This should be a non partisan issue and I am opposed to Democrats trying to make political hay of it because that trivalizes the issue. The point is that you can always cobble together a majority of people who will agree that the Bill of Rights should be ignored. Although it is popular as hell, people could get elected by promising to ban pornography despite the First Amendment, a majority including a lot of liberals would ban handguns despite the Second Amendment. While people are uneasy about the domestic spying depending on how that issue is framed, a majority will say "well I have nothing to worry about" and there goes the Fourth Amendment. I do not want a Democratic, Green or any other president eavesdropping on any Americans phone calls without being required to show probable cause. Do not give the wingnuts the ability to say see that just proves the Democrats will say anything out of hatred for Dumbya--this is not about Dumbya, it is about civil liberties and a number of Republicans agree. I would not count on being successful in November given the low level of confidence I have in the Democrats and this is too important an issue to get lost in partisan bickering.

Posted by: terry on January 26, 2006 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Let us not forget the first well-publicized use of Patriot Act powers. The repugs used it to track Texas democrats when they wanted to gerrymander the districts. It was clear to everyone that the Patriot Act was not supposed to be used for partisan politics and it was just as clear that the repugs used it for just that the first opportunity they could.

So the only time they use these powers with any degree of competence is when it is wrong, and bad for the country to do so. They are competent at partisan politics and nothing else.

Remember this: George W. Bush with no family connections is a used car salesman.

And just what type of special surveillance powers would you trust to a used car salesman.

For you SoCal readers - remember the Cal Worthington and his dog Spot commercials? W. would be perfect in that role. Instead, he's fookin' president. ugh.

Posted by: mroberts on January 26, 2006 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

When the facts are inconvenient, invent new facts. Unfortunately for your position, Bush did notify the Congressional leadership, has kept them informed in a timely manner, and has welcomed Congressional hearings. I do agree wholeheartedly that the bedrock requirement for public faith in the President's personal integrity cannot be minimized; thats why I'm grateful we are not using this power on a bunch of hapless Micheal Dale's, or delegating it's authority to Hugh Rodham hanging out in the WH.

If you would like to read a hair raising story about a true rogue govt agency literally - LITERALLY - going through citizen's underware drawers, read John Stossel's paean to the NEA and our public school system here:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/Commentary/com-1_25_06_JS.html

Posted by: wks on January 26, 2006 at 10:43 AM | PERMALINK

It may be, but it is best to oppose domestic spying on the basis of principle. Once you start talking about things like incompetence or efficiency rather than principle, you begin to act like the stereotypical Democrat, without any principles, and thus enhance your chances of losing elections. Given the current streak of electoral losses, that's no mean feat.

Posted by: lib on January 26, 2006 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin's argument is why we lose elections.

We have a President who admits to breaking the law.

The mealy-mouthed CW amongst some Democrats? Frame the issue in a way that it takes 10 minutes and a 1000 words to explain.

He broke the law. He admits to it. Either you defend the Constitution on principle or you don't.

That's the frame.

Posted by: Ras_Nesta on January 26, 2006 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

To take one tiny example. How many of you know that Tehran bus drivers have been going on strike to try to unionize and get better wages ? This could be a crack in the regime's hold on Iran. There is tremendous discontent among young people there. The second language of blogs is Farsi. Who is supporting them ? Jimmy Hoffa Jr. Nobody elese in the Democratic Party has mentioned the subject.

Excuse me while I wipe a tear from my eye. Thank you.

Mike K's sudden affection for unionizing workers is so moving, I just had to pause for a moment there.

As was said of Ronald Reagan's views on unions: he likes them as long as they're in Poland.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on January 26, 2006 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Um, Kevin, if the Bush administration is so incompetent, why hasn't there been an attack by AQ in the US since 9/11?


I think you are on the right track trying to find a campaign theme other than "Bush lied, Halliburton, AARRWWWGH," and trying to get to the right of Bush on the war against the jihadists is a promising idea. Remember, President Kennedy (he was Sen. Kennedy's older brother, for those of you with short memories) was elected on a campaign promise to close the missile gap with the Soviets and defend Taiwan against Communist Chinese aggression. Let's see the Democrats come up with some more aggressive strategy to deal with Iran, for example.

Anyway, that's how I see it.

Posted by: DBL on January 26, 2006 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

One thing I've been thinking... If this is a war on terrah, then really NSA needs to spy on the Tim McVeigh types too. How can we sleep at night and be secure from the next domestic terrah without it? Clearly, Bushie must spy on everyone. Wasn't McVeigh an NRA member? Better spy on the NRA and militia types. And rednecks. And all white males....

Posted by: ckelly on January 26, 2006 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Good point by Mike K. about national security. Here is where we need to frame an argument about lessened security -- not just incompetence -- under Bush. But we will need support from military experts, especiall retired military.

Suggestions for framing the argument that Bush has weakened American security:

1. Two reports out this week say the Army is stretched to the breaking point. We can't commit to unwinnable and unnecessary wars.

2. Our intelligence and planning organizations failed us in Iraq. Bush hasn't gone nearly far enough in overhauling the intelligence organizations. He has put political hacks in charge at the CIA, just like he has done in so many other agencies and positions.

3. Terrorist attacks, many against Americans, have increased significantly around the globe. Here we are funnelling billions into missile defenses when military experts from top to bottom in the Pentagon say low intensity regional conflicts are what the DoD should be preparing for.

4. Domestically our harbors and chemical plants are wide open to penetration as DHS wastes billions installing video camera security systems in places like Bellows Falls, Vermont. DHS is getting failing management grades from the Office of Management and Budget -- from the Executive Office! Management of the homeland security mission is very poorly organized and implemented.

5. Although it seems surprising, studies out of various Human Security think tanks document how there are markedly fewer wars worldwide since 1990. One reason is the fall of the Soviet Union. But the big reason cited by most observers is UN interventions in world hot spots. And this is despite the UN's failings (cited by Bush and Bolton ad nauseum) and America's unilateral approach to world affairs.

We need to make a better case that diplomacy -- treaties, regional alliances, intelligence sharing, energy self-sufficiency & all the nitty gritty relationship things Bush can't land on in a flight suit -- this is the meat of American security in the 21st century. Muslims don't hate American successes and freedoms -- hell, we're their best customers. They just want us out of their countries. We're going to need diplomacy to defuse the Korean and Iranian nuclear weapon programs that have occurred under Bush's negligent watch. We'll need help from Russia, China, India and others. Bush has burned too many allied bridges with Iraq.

6. Bush could have done all the spying he wanted with warrants. Warrants would not have slowed him down. He would have caught the Brooklyn Bridge Bomber with a warrant. Warrants make us secure AND protect citizen rights.

But the question of spying competence arises when you consider that Bush failed to act on all the intelligence we had prior to 9-11 indicating the pending attack. We don't want Bush and the Republicans managing such a critical function as national security.

Posted by: pj_in_jesusland on January 26, 2006 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Feh! You libruls.

How's THIS for competence?

Huh?
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on January 26, 2006 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

This is cowardice or foolishness, I don't know which. Drum here is making the same mistake that alot of people in the press are making. The issue isnt that he wiretapped people. Even if he turned out to be spying on completely innocent people, on purpose or by mistake, that wouldn't be nearly as important as the power grab here.
This is a constitutional crisis. The president has broken the law, and other than a feeble defense based on the AUMF (which no one believes in, and which clearly fails), what he is saying is that in war time he gets to. If this is allowed to happen then checks and balances are gone. If the president can interpret laws so that they don't apply when he doesnt want them to, then congress has no power over the president at all. He has already violated Supreme Court orders in the detention cases. This isn't a partisan issue, and it isn't about whether more wiretaps is a good thing. If you continue to make it about that then you either don't understand the issues here or you are too much of a coward to face the horror of what is happening. The Republic is collapsing as you sit by and dither about who could more effectively spy on us.

Posted by: progdem on January 26, 2006 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

PJ, Good post. We both must live in the same part of the country. You want a reality check on the average voter? Go to your nearest Walmart and stand outside on a Saturday for about an hour and watch the decision makers. By in large you will never reach them with reason, only emotion. They want to be safe, full and important. Bush still speaks to all three of those for them. I've always said that the overiding personality trait of Dixie is an inferiority complex. It's historically and culturally derived. The achilles heel in that complex is one thing alone--pride. If you can convince them that Bush made a fool out of them (again a tool of emotion), then you can win. Other than that and outright starvation I don't see a way.

Posted by: ELR on January 26, 2006 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, DBL, it is only due to Dear Leader's vigilance that the dirty brown terrorists haven't bombed your double-wide trailer there in Bugtussle!

I swear to God, I grew up with nuclear MADD dangling over my head, and you piss-stained pussies fall all over yourselves to wipe your butts with the Constitution the minute a terrorist says "Boo!" Traitor.

Posted by: Ras_Nesta on January 26, 2006 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

MAD, not MADD. (I guess Mothers Against Drunk Driving could be nuclear-powered, though.)

Posted by: Ras_Nesta on January 26, 2006 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

I'm a little puzzled by the notion that "the primary worry about the NSA eavesdropping program shouldn't be civil liberties, but incompetence." Isn't the worry that surveillance powers will be used inaptly or ineptly precisely a civil liberties concern? And to the extent the "competence" worry is a separate thing flowing from the Bush administration's track record, is that supposed to entail that it would be fine and dandy if a less error-prone Democrat had authorized the circumvention of the warrant process?

Posted by: Julian Sanchez on January 26, 2006 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Um, Kevin, if the Bush administration is so incompetent, why hasn't there been an attack by AQ in the US since 9/11?

Bzzzzzttt. Asked and answered over a thousand times in various posts and threads.

Posted by: ckelly on January 26, 2006 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

I swear to God, I grew up with nuclear MADD dangling over my head

Posted by: Ras_Nesta on January 26, 2006 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Its still dangling over to your head and when we add Iran, way more likely to be used.

Posted by: McA on January 26, 2006 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Bullshit. The issue is that they are most likely SPYING ON INNOCENT AMERICANS.

Posted by: brewmn on January 26, 2006 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

If I may interject here folks.
Yesterday I posted a link to a study which concluded that dems and repubs ignore the facts equally.
Here it is again.

http://www.livescience.com/othernews/060124_political_decisions.html

Now what I would suggest, IMHO is that the people of this great country don't want to see the constant bickering that I see on C-Span. I believe that they stop listening to raised voices and lose the message, despite the issue. Now if someone from a particular party were to begin to promote Team Work in solving our problems the public would sit up and take notice. Use partisanship to get all ideas on the table then use teamwork to weed through them to find an equitable solution. That person would probably get re-elected. Those who agree and support that position would also get re-elected. Potential freshmen who support and promote Team Work would get elected.
This way no one has to change their mind. They go after something they want from their gov't.
Team Work.

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 26, 2006 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Let's see the Democrats come up with some more aggressive strategy to deal with Iran, for example.

How ridiculous is that? No matter what a Democrat comes up with as it relates to public policy, foreign policy or social policy--this administration does not listen to anyone.

They are a fund raising machine that cannot stop campaigning and scheming to fleece America. They cannot govern or lead.

Case in point: why does the Mexican Army continually cross into US territory and fire on US Border Patrol Agents?

This idea that 'we have not been attacked' is ludicrous on its face. There is a full scale incursion into the US from Mexico that involves drugs, criminal activity, the stealing of property and the trafficking of persons. It could be stopped tomorrow if they had the slightest interest in doing so--you want to get the Mexican Army to back off, you better be ready to deploy US troops and give them the proper rules of engagement to dissuade this activity. If you want to stop this activity, you have to put troops out there and defend the border. But because this administration refuses to address this one simple solution, and because no one is talking about it, they get a pass.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 26, 2006 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Put it on the ballot. Diebold will make sure it passes.

Posted by: steve duncan on January 26, 2006 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,
totally wrong on this on
i would trust this program even less under a "competent" administration.
no, the issue here is civil liberties. I don't trust ANY government not to use "unlimted" power in any way they want, including for political purposes, it's just too tempting.

Posted by: Rick on January 26, 2006 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

I think we need to emphasize Bush's audacity in his Constitutional criminality, while taking for granted that what he actually did is well-known to anyone paying attention. This avoids the problem of trying to explain things to the channel-changer, and instead gives the dems an emotional face: How dare he trash our Constitution! He thinks he's a dictator! And the answer to all questions, a la "Clinton got a blow job!" will be, "He trashed our Constituion!" no mattere what the question is.

Posted by: Ace Franze on January 26, 2006 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK


For a while, I was pretty sure that the American people would give the Republicans a good spanking in November. Maybe not enough for the Dems to win the House or the Senate, but certainly to make things a bit closer up on Capitol Hill.

As it stands now, though, with the Dems just carping about stuff that is just plain WRONG (i.e. there are constant assertions about violations of the Fourth Amendment; where has that been proven? Nowhere. Try and take the case to court and see if you win on 4th Amendment grounds. Good luck trying, but you'll lose badly), it is increasingly obvious to me (and to Karl Rove, who you know is just loving this) that the Republicans will do very well this November.

R pickups look likely in MD, NJ and MN. The Dems may pick up RI and PA. Seems like a net R pickup to me.

Dems = losers.

Posted by: Jojo on January 26, 2006 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Incompetence?

That's like saying, "Well, the accused has admitted to breaking and entering. But the real issue here is whether he should have used a crowbar to jimmy a window or whether he should have picked a lock."

The issue is Bush broke the law.

That's it, period. There is no point to discussing anything else because it distracts from this simple point.

Which is exactly what the Republicans and their apologists want to happen.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on January 26, 2006 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Woops! Sorry, I didnt' scroll up to see that it wasn't Kevin.

Still my point applies. Competence isn't the issue with this outrage. Lawlessness is, and that is what we should focus on.

The Bush administration is lawless.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on January 26, 2006 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK
Framing thought for the day: the primary worry about the NSA eavesdropping program shouldn't be civil liberties, but incompetence.

Framing thought for the day: Democratic activists should spend more time making strong, principled criticism and less time hemming and hawing about how to "frame" criticism.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 26, 2006 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

BTW - 9-11 is a great example of incompetence. The President was warned - he did nothing about it.

And then to add insult - his administration ignored warnings of airborne pollutants - and now some rescue workers are suffering needlessly.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on January 26, 2006 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

"The issue is Bush broke the law."


Bullshit. The issue is that they are SPYING ON INNOCENT AMERICANS.

Posted by: brewmn on January 26, 2006 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Jacob Weissberg at Slate makes a stronger charge against Bush than mere incompetence -- Bush authoritarian power grab is UnAmerican.

Boy George the Tyrant must be deposed (through the American way of impeachment, which of course requires that the Dems win back the House this year).

Posted by: Bragan on January 26, 2006 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

"promoted past his level of competence"

When, was that? Was he really competent as an Andover cheerleader?

"If you want a better deal, go see George, if you want a better deal, go see George" But, is he Cal or his dog "Spot"?

Posted by: stupid git on January 26, 2006 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Bullshit. The issue is that they are SPYING ON INNOCENT AMERICANS. Posted by: brewmn on January 26, 2006 at 11:39 AM

Brewmn, Bush broke the law to spy on innocent Americans.

Capeesh?

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on January 26, 2006 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Bush broke the law to spy on innocent Americans.

Yes, but can we/Congress (yes, I know I'm dreaming) prove the latter? While I strongly believe what you say is true, do we have the evidence (or will the evidence become declassified in the near future) which proves that Bush spied on innocent Americans? This is why I think the stronger case is to focus primarily on the fact that Bush broke the law (FISA) and violated the US Constitution, and is arrogantly unAmerican in his disregard for Congressional authority.

Posted by: Bragan on January 26, 2006 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

lurker 42: I believe that they stop listening to raised voices and lose the message, despite the issue.


.

so volume is the new black?


.


speaking of cspan......dick armey on washington journal today and he made me laugh when he said in a very reasonable voice...

that the abramoff scandal...


a. wasn't systemic (k-street project)

b. was against the current rules (who is in control?)

but he seemed sooooo reasonable....

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on January 26, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

Morpheus is right. To frame it as "Spying on innocents" plays right into the "Protect the terr'st" meme the right loves.

Bush admits to violating the Constitution. Make the choice, GOP, protect the foundation of the country you claim to love or protect your precious party.

If you whine about terrorists, you are a piss-stained traitor.

Posted by: Ras_Nesta on January 26, 2006 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK
The issue is Bush broke the law.

That's it, period.

Well, no, its not it, period. There is more. Bush violated the Constitutional order of government, and broke the statute law, and thereby endangered both the freedom for government intrusion except via lawful process that is the fundamental defining value of America and endangering the national security by avoiding the accountability rules imposed by Congress to guarantee that limited resources necessary to protect the national security against dangerous threats are narrowly focussed on that specified use.

Breaking the law is the beginning, but the harm produced or threatened by that illegality is important when you start advocating remedies, especially if you want to advocate extraordinary remedies like impeachment.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 26, 2006 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

There is tremendous discontent among young people there. The second language of blogs is Farsi. Who is supporting them ? Jimmy Hoffa Jr. Nobody elese in the Democratic Party has mentioned the subject.

Mike,

That's a fair point, but go back and read the threads about Iran from earlier this month. The trolls here made it very clear that only wimps would try and engage Iran diplomatically or support the elements working toward democracy there. In fact, most of the discussion was just them baiting us to suggest anything other than an all-out military strike as a solution.

If I recall, the message was that real men bomb first -- and I don't know understand how bombing Iran back into the infrastructural stone age is going to help those yearning for greater freedom there.

I personally didn't know about the bus drivers striking, that's good news. Iran has been at the tipping point of greater liberality for some time, and Time had a good article a few years back on just how thirsty many of their youth are for Western music, goods, and freedoms. They hold secret dance parties hours out in the desert to avoid the religious police, trade black market CD's on the sly, and drink alcohol.

I don't think either party has any coherent solution to the Iranian problem. What do you think the strategy should be?

Posted by: Windhorse on January 26, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Simple message
The other party controls congress and they've sold your capital to Jack Abramof and his gang of theives. The other party controls the whitehouse, and their guy said a dictatorship would be a lot easier, just so long as he's the dictator. Now he says he can break the law any time he wants.
If a corrupt monarchy suites you, vote for these guys.
If old fashioned American Democracy is good enough for you, vote for a Democrat instead.

Posted by: Boronx on January 26, 2006 at 12:12 PM | PERMALINK

The Bush administration has not simply screwed up when given power or exercising power, it has affirmatively, knowingly, and deliberately abused that power and stretched it beyond its intent.

Any foot in the door of power for this criminal administration is not just a leg in, but entire troop.

Bush is a dictator wanna be.

Power is a drug to which he is addicted and won't quit using until he leaves the country a smoking wreck of freedom run aground.

Posted by: Advocate for God on January 26, 2006 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry for coming so late to the table. 'progdem' stated this same argument in a slightly different way. The issue is not incompetence - it is arrogance. The FISA court was set up in 1978 and its record of denying a wiretap requests since then is almost laughable - something like 100,000 to 7. So why hasn't the Bush adminstration taken that easy road to get legal approval for the wiretaps? Because they are arrogant and think they above the law. George Bush is not the king, he's the president. And whether or not he wants to admit it, he's a public servant. So it's high time he started serving the interests of the public instead of the narrow interestes of his friends in high places. That arrogant attitude has shaped every action of this administration and it started weeks before the Supreme Court committed their own act of arrogance by putting him in office above the wishes of the majority of Americans. Harry Truman quoted Ben Franklin in saying something like "To step down from the presidency to become a common citizen is actually a step up in status." That should be the focus of the Democrats - is the average citizen comfortable with the attitude of the average Republican in office that they are smarter and more righteous than any of the rest of us?

Posted by: Lamonte on January 26, 2006 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

"This election isn't about ideology - it's about comptence!"

I can't remember who came up with that line.... was it Paul Glastris in 2006, or was it Michael Dukakis in 1988?

Posted by: GOPGregory on January 26, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Well there is only 36% still behind G.W.,But you guys will come around and drop him, And join the rest of the free world.

Posted by: pssst on January 26, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

GOPGregory: . . . was it Michael Dukakis in 1988?

I think it was Nixon, just before he resigned.

Name the Democratic presidents who have resigned.

Posted by: Advocate for God on January 26, 2006 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Why, that's actually a reasonable point McA.
Too bad that we attacked the only member of the Axis of Evil without a nuclear program, isn't it?

Posted by: Marc on January 26, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, by all means, let's make our statement for the election "By gum, if you let them get away with this they'll screw this up too!". That will dispel the image of Democrats as whiny naysayers.

Do you really think the most salient flaw with this program is that it won't be managed intelligently? If that's your stance, even I wouldn't vote for you on this issue.

No Democrat should be allowed to open their mouth on this topic without a clear statement that this spying is illegal and unconstitutional. Otherwise the question becomes "Is the president fighting too hard in the war on terror?"

Posted by: ask on January 26, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

There is no constitutional crisis here. The Congress retains the power - the absolute power through its control over the Federal purse - to stop whatever executive activities it thinks are inappropriate. Congress could completely defund the NSA, for example, and there's not a damn thing the president could do about it.

The only crisis here is political. The minority in the Congress is unable to force the majority to rein in presidential power. Presumably, the majority believes that NSA surveillance of international communications between AQ afiliates and their contacts in America is either legal or desireable. That's a political problem, not a constitutional or legal one.

Posted by: DBL on January 26, 2006 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

I stick with the SPYING ON INNOCENT AMERICANS. I think people are happy to have the law broken on their behalf if it's broken to get at the bad guys. It's when their own ass is in the sling that they start to pay attention.

While I agree with the posters that, in a functioning democracy, this program would represent a constitutional crisis, most Americans, in my view, don't give a damn about the ideals embodied in our constitution. When we argue legal vs. illegal, we come off as caring more about esoteric niceties than the safety and freedom of Americans.

Attack this administration's argument at its strongest point, i.e., we are only doing this to protect you. They are not, they are using it to gain a greater degree of social control. When a serious investigation is conducted, the fact that (hundreds of thousands? millions?) of people have been subjected to warrantless spying will be uncovered.

Posted by: brewmn on January 26, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

"Most people agree, or can be convinced, that in order to root out terrorist threats we need to give the NSA enhanced permission to snoop on domestic communications."

Would you like to try to support such a statement with somesort of fact, polling, or further arguement. Because I ain't buying it. Put me down in the other than "most people" column. I am most certainly not "convinced"!

Posted by: Robert Earle on January 26, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

WHY IS IT THAT ALL OF THE CROOKS AND CRIMINALS END UP IN TEXAS , I KNOW IT IS A BIG STATE ; WITH A BUNCH OF PLACES TO HIDE . ALASKA IS LARGER , TRY GOING THERE FOR THE HUNDRED YEARS---YA'LL ---WONDERING

Posted by: WONDERING on January 26, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

"And how has W supported the youth movement in Iran Mike K? Oh that's right, by pushing them away and into the arms of their current lunatic leader by saying asinine shit like "Axis of Evil" and irrationally invading their nearest neighbor."

Have you ever read any of Natan Sharansky ? He has told how much hope the dissidents gained from Reagan's "Evil Empire" speech.

Have you read about the Iranian college students and their rallies to cheer American themes ?

"Guess what? The Republicans run the show. They should be nurturing the young people of Iran. So really, problems with Iran are all on them. In other words, STFU Mikey.

Posted by: ckelly "

You really don't know, do you ? You think that banning capital punishment will make the French like us and that confessing our sins and looking weak will make the Arabs like us.

You really need to read something other than left wing writers. Noam Chomskey does not have the solution to American security.

I suspect, and hope, that we have Special Forces in Iran right now. Maybe you should read Billy Waugh's book.

A feminine America will not be safer.

Posted by: Mike K on January 26, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect, and hope, that we have Special Forces in Iran right now. Maybe you should read Billy Waugh's book.

If we do, you just gave it away, dumbass!

Great! Now we have to remove our SF teams from Iran and call back the Navy SEALS from seizing that oil rig. That's a fine kettle of fish you've gotten us into, Mike K!

A feminine America will not be safer.

I agree! Time to throw the Republicans out of office and put Democrats in charge! Wussy Republicans who have never served in combat should not be leading this country.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 26, 2006 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

I think that the only plausible place Bush could be vulnerable legally on this is evident in NYT piece on NSA and FBI sharing. If inquiries generated by leads provided to the FBI were to lead to criminal investigations and prosecutions unrelated to terrorism (I would think even accidentally), those would be be outside of constitutional protection.

Posted by: aaron on January 26, 2006 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

"If we do, you just gave it away, dumbass!

"Great! Now we have to remove our SF teams from Iran and call back the Navy SEALS from seizing that oil rig. That's a fine kettle of fish you've gotten us into, Mike K!"

Pretty funny. In case you didn't know, Billy Waugh is the guy who had OBL in his sights and a large size can of whupass in his hand when the Clinton pussies said no.

"A feminine America will not be safer.

I agree! Time to throw the Republicans out of office and put Democrats in charge! Wussy Republicans who have never served in combat should not be leading this country."

And those Democrats like Joel Stein should be in charge, eh ?

I've got a couple of brothers-in-law, ex-fighter pilots, who would like Pat Schroeder in their sights. She and that Clinton Sec AF who said Marines are too masculine. They should be running the war.

RRRRight !

I agree that Democrats should raise hell about the NSA surveillance, defend those poor sheepherders in Guantanamo and filibuster Alito. But, of course, I'm not trying to win an election so be my guest.

Posted by: Mike K on January 26, 2006 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

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If you like it there is lots more at Theres lots more at H.L. Comics Links
Thank You

Posted by: HL on January 26, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Gotta hand it to the wingnuts: If Mike K is any indication, they got the Joel Stein talking points out in one hell of a hurry.

Posted by: brewmn on January 26, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Pat Schroeder???

You're trying to make poor crying Pat Schroeder into a point of argument on a blog thread in January, 2006?

Good Lord, Kennedy--get yourself back on the meds and rest up for your trip to the boneyard.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 26, 2006 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Joel Stein? Who the hell is that?

Is he the President of the United States who has admitted to breaking the law in violation of his oath of office?

Pat Schroeder? You trolls must be parodies of the stupidest 'wingers on earth to be bringing her up.

Again, piss-yellow cowards, which is more important, the rule of law and the Constitution, or your Dear Leader (the only big strong daddy who will save us all)?

Posted by: Ras_Nesta on January 26, 2006 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Paul, I agree with Ed and Mike K's comments above, but would add these points:

1. Since most of us agree that wiretapping al Qaeda is a good idea, it would be suicidal to accept Bush's framing of the issue and argue against doing that.
2. If you make the issue "competence," you base your opposition on a ground that most people feel incapable of properly judging. Who can really judge the competence of the White House when most of what it does is secret?
3. Virtually everyone can understand the problem with giving the President unrestricted power to wiretap. Who, then, is to say that he didn't wiretap Kerry or Howard Dean, or Warren Buffet's stockbroker?
4. The whole problem of the NSA's wiretaps would be a lot less serious if it were, indeed, "incompetent."

Posted by: keith on January 26, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

"Gotta hand it to the wingnuts: If Mike K is any indication, they got the Joel Stein talking points out in one hell of a hurry.

Posted by: brewmn "

I subscribe to the LA Times and I heard Hugh Hewitt take him apart on the radio. Tough to miss.

Pat Schroeder may have been forgotten on left wing web sites but she is well remembered in the military. I recall when an officers club was punished for a Halloween party decoration using her face. That, of course, was when team Clinton was still in office.

I think the Democrats could have a couple of good issues. I do think a practical amendment of FISA would be worthwhile. I also think that the intelligence committees should be monitoring the NSA program. The problem with that idea is that Pelosi is trying to purge Jane Harmon off the House intel committee. If she is bounced off, that leaves Alcee Hastings, well known felon, as the senior Democrat. Do you really think the administration is going to be briefing ex-judge Hastings, impeached for corruption, with top secret stuff ?

Once again, the Democrats have to get serious.

It may be fun to see Ted Kennedy totter out on the stage once more but, if you want to govern, you've got to get serious.

The left is where the right was in the 1950s. I knew guys who joined the John Birch Society but I wouldn't elect them to anything. You've got to keep the Michael Moores at a distance. Not sitting in a box with James Earl Carter at the convention.

Posted by: Mike K on January 26, 2006 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

"Framing thought for the day: the primary worry about the NSA eavesdropping program shouldn't be civil liberties, but incompetence."
No Paul, the primary worry is that the President of the US is breaking the law.

Posted by: John D. on January 26, 2006 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Left out of the list of screw ups is that the Antrax killer is still at large.

Posted by: David Patin on January 26, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

I just want to put out there that George bush is certainly not doing something that is new. Marshall law has been employed over and over again during times of war. We also know that it hasn't always been very sucessful. In either case we can't exactly judge until we understand the depth in which the authorities are examining and who they are targeting. And more importantly we can't eliminate the ability of the president to instate martial law. This does not mean that I think that martial law should go unchecked. I personally think that future presidents and the current president should be made aware that unnecessary use of power is not within their license when it can not be proven necessary. Just as police must obtain a warrant in order to search a suspect so also should the president obtain such a warrant within a reasonable space of time. Logically the president may need to search in secret in order to prevent information from being lost.
Lastly I feel, at present, somewhat more secure knowing that at the very least the administration is still pursuing the possible future offenders.
Nobody wants to see another September 11th and I think we can all agree on that.

Posted by: Paraodeus on January 26, 2006 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK

"Just as police must obtain a warrant in order to search a suspect so also should the president obtain such a warrant within a reasonable space of time. "

So FDR should not have been spying on the Japanese before Pearl Harbor ? Come on.

Part of the issue is the technology. If they are listening to thousands of calls for phrases that suggest clandestine contacts, no warrents can ever be obtained. If they find a hit, then it may be useful to go back to a modified FISA court, one that is more cooperative, and get a warrant after the fact.

Remember that Moussaoui's laptop was the subject of an FBI request for a FISA warrant and they were turned down. It was DOJ that turned them down but that was the Gorelick wall issue.

My daughter is a lawyer and FBI agent. For a while she was drawing up FISA warrant applications. It was far from automatic and a lot of work. No way could that be done for a massive packet sniffing program.

Posted by: Mike K on January 26, 2006 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

The Republicans are extremely competent at the only thing that matters: stealing elections.

Americans elected Al Gore president in 2000. The Republicans stole the election, and George W. Bush was sworn in.

Americans elected John Kerry president in 2004. The Republicans stole the election, and George W. Bush got a second term.

Expect more of the same in 2006 and 2008.

There will never be another Democratic president.

The Republicans are also very competent at enriching their already ultra-wealthy cronies and financial backers, the corporate elites of the military-industrial-petroleum complex, at the expense of the American people. That's what they do once they seize power through stolen elections.

Lying, stealing and cheating -- Republicans are very competent at all of these things. Expect more of the same, for the foreseeable future.


Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 26, 2006 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

Don't be so down SA.

There will be another democrat president as soon as dems figure out they need to denounce waccos like you and make clear that you don't represent them.

Posted by: aaron on January 26, 2006 at 10:41 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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