Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 28, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

THE NOISE MACHINE GETS NOISIER....Now see, this is why Republican strategists are cleverer than me. For the past couple of weeks they've been hammering Democrats for being weak on terror because they oppose retroactive immunity for telecom companies that may have broken the law after 9/11. And that's pretty much what I'd expect them to do. But it never would have occurred to me to switch gears and claim that the real reason Dems were opposing immunity was because they're slaves of the trial lawyer lobby. That's inspiration. Two right-wing hot buttons at once!

Of course, it's ridiculous enough that it's not getting any traction except in GOP fundraising mailers aimed at the fever swamp, but it turns out that there's actually something to this. It's just not on the Democratic side:

With the House Democrats' refusal to grant retroactive immunity to phone companies — stalling the rewrite of the warrantless wiretapping program — GOP leadership aides are grumbling that their party isn't getting more political money from the telecommunications industry.

...."There's no question that from time to time staff, and maybe some Members, say to fellow travelers: 'Are you giving us some air cover? Are you helping us help you?'"

You almost feel sorry for them, don't you? Almost.

Kevin Drum 11:55 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (36)

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Comments

[Trolling by American Hawk - on the dime of the taxpayers in Texas - has been deleted.]

Posted by: Al on February 28, 2008 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Al K. Troll: "<the usual non-sequitur>"

Posted by: idlemind on February 28, 2008 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

We should never let this one slide by without noting that the Plaintiff's in these cases against the telecoms are being represented by nonprofits.

So STFU, Al.

Posted by: Brautigan on February 28, 2008 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

[Trolling by American Hawk - on the dime of the taxpayers in Texas - has been deleted.]

Posted by: Al on February 28, 2008 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

>> But it never would have occurred to me to switch gears and claim that the real reason Dems were opposing immunity was because they're slaves of the trial lawyer lobby.

NO, Kevin! The HOMOSEXUAL Trial Lawyer Lobby!

Try to stay awake!

Posted by: jinglebelle on February 28, 2008 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

Al, have you forgotten that once upon a time we used these things called "warrants"? Get a warrant for the eavesdropping, the telcos are lawsuit-proof. Now, I understand that running the government in a constitutional way may be a little tough for Republicans, but honestly, there's people in this country who know how to enforce the law, fight terrorism, AND stay on the right side of the Constitution -- they're just not members of the Republican party. We can fix that with another election.


Posted by: dr2chase on February 28, 2008 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

The law as written also allows us to throw the chairman of General Motors in jail for sleeping under a bridge.

The question is, so what? You actually think that some trial lawyer expects to make money suing telecoms for a terrorist? If so, you're delusional!

No, what the telcos fear is being sued by terrorist-hating upstanding US citizens for breaking the law and violating those citizen's rights.

Posted by: idlemind on February 28, 2008 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

I think the Dems may have misframed this issue. The legitimate point behind this is that we want to find out what was done regarding surveillance both before and after 9/11. Shouldn't we be saying that we won't extend surveillance programs until we find out what surveillance is occurring? Is our goal actually to sue the telecoms for cooperating with the government?

Posted by: reino on February 28, 2008 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

I have always been under the impression that the non-profits funding these suits have never expected to collect a dime from the telecoms. They are after discovery. They want to know just how extensive the administrations abuse of our rights has been these last years. Since the administration refuses to tell the public and the congress is going along, the various non-profits are trying to find out using the last remaining branch of government. If the administration would just come clean or if the Congress would refuse to enable the administration's law breaking the suits would be unnecessary.

Of course, such disclosures would probably demand legal actions that would result in several high government officials spending the next several years as guests of the public in various facilities maintained for that purpose.

Posted by: corpus juris on February 28, 2008 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK
But it never would have occurred to me to switch gears and claim that the real reason Dems were opposing immunity was because they're slaves of the trial lawyer lobby. That's inspiration.

Its "inspiration" to have a short list of bleating points that you apply to any issue regardless of the facts?

That's not the word I would choose.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 28, 2008 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

"GOP leadership aides are grumbling that their party isn't getting more political money from the telecommunications industry."

Heh. That's because people don't bet on what they see as a losing horse...

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) challenged Republicans on Tuesday to get off their “dead asses” and start raising money for the National Republican Congressional Committee...And the Republican leader wasn’t the only lawmaker berating his GOP colleagues to raise more money for the committee’s March 12 fundraising dinner...
...According to numbers read during the Tuesday morning meeting, only 15 Republicans have met their pledged fundraising goal for the dinner. Among them are Texas Reps. Mike Conaway and Pete Sessions and South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson, a source familiar with the fundraising totals said. Another 42 have set a pledged target but failed to contribute the bulk of that money. And an astonishing 142 members — almost three-fourths of the Republicans in the House — have failed even to set a fundraising target...
...The NRCC outraised the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee by a very narrow margin in January, outpacing its Democratic counterpart for the first time since the Republicans lost power. But the DCCC maintains a sizable fundraising advantage, closing the month with nearly $35.5 million, compared with the NRCC’s $6.4 million.

Those are just a few excerpts; the whole article is an interesting snapshot of the GOP's current fundraising woes this election cycle, with a little of the why it's happening...The pissing and moaning of the GOP about how little support it is receiving from telecom companies is directly related to their ability to protect the telecoms' interests after the 2008 elections.

Posted by: grape_crush on February 28, 2008 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

You know, there's a lot in the FISA bill that can still be done to tie knots in the repugs.

For example, put in telecom immunity just for the period between 9/11/2001 and 9/10/2002, but quadruple criminal and civil penalties for illegal eavesdropping prior to 9/11.

And since the BushCo DOJ isn't going to move on FISA violation prosecutions, explicitly disallow the "state secrets" privilege for actions prior to 9/11, and authorize private parties to conduct criminal prosecutions of FISA violations prior to 9/11.

Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki on February 28, 2008 at 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

dr2chase: have you forgotten that once upon a time we used these things called "warrants"?

Therein lies the problem. Bush said the companies helped the government after being told "that their assistance was legal and vital to national security." That is, the *executive branch* told them it was legal & vital; getting a warrant would simply concede that the judicial branch has a role in, y'know, warrants.

Posted by: Grumpy on February 28, 2008 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

The differences between the Republicans and the Democrats appear to be as follows:

    • The Republicans are hoping for a domestic terrorist attack.
    • The Democrats are hoping for a meltdown in Iraq.
    • The Republicans are hoping for inflation.
    • The Democrats are hoping for recession.

In the spirit of bipartisanship, may I point out that the longer we stay in Iraq, the greater the odds that a dcomestic terrorist attack will occur; while stagflation promises both inflation in commodity prices accompanied by recession in the labor market.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on February 28, 2008 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

That's just a flake off the whole fetid ball of wax, isn't it, Grumpy? The imperial executive: if the president orders it, it is lawful.


Posted by: idlemind on February 28, 2008 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

The differences between the Republicans and the Democrats appear to be as follows:

Your list illustrates the audacity of hope, and if true, why I'm neither a Republican nor a Democrat.

Posted by: AJ on February 28, 2008 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

You almost feel sorry for them, don't you?

Only in the sense of euthanasia.

Posted by: chance on February 28, 2008 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK


Exactly. Where is the PR/advertising saturation the comms always put up when they want significant Congressional action? Why no “air cover”, why not be jamming bucks into Gooper’s pockets and shafting Dems? Well, there is the likely coming shift in power as someone mentioned above, but that is only a small part. The real reason is that they just are not as worried about it as the Administration clucks furiously scurrying to protect their own rear ends from criminal culpability and public exposure of the fact that they put the American taxpayers on the hook for the massive liability that they want you to believe the telcos face. The reason is indemnification.

Posted by: bmaz on February 28, 2008 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

It came from the top. In Bush's radio address of 23 February, he said:

"When Congress reconvenes on Monday, Members of the House have a choice to make: They can empower the trial bar -- or they can empower the intelligence community."

Posted by: Quiddity on February 28, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

The differences between the Republicans and the Democrats appear to be as follows:
The Republicans are hoping for a domestic terrorist attack.
The Democrats are hoping for a meltdown in Iraq.
The Republicans are hoping for inflation.
The Democrats are hoping for recession.

Duncan, you and AJ can FUCK OFF with that sentiment, and just like I explained to Brojo, I'll explain it to you:

Is it patriotic to send troops to war without the gear they need?

Is it patriotic to send troops home wounded without care?

Is it patriotic to piss away a generation of men and women to satisfy the political needs of a handful of Republican Congressmen?

THIS Democrat doesn't hope for a "meltdown" in Iraq--I hope for the troops to come home. THIS Democrat doesn't hope for "inflation" because that would hit working people harder than anything else.

THIS DEMOCRAT supports politicians who are trying to bring the troops home and THIS DEMOCRAT notes that the only thing done in the last decade to really help working people--the increase to the minimum wage--passed the Congress because there were DEMOCRATS in charge.

Am I pissed because we can't get a timetable for withdrawal and a cutoff of the funding for the war? Yes. But I intend to vote for BETTER Democrats this Fall and I intend to keep doing everything I can to END THE FUCKING WAR.

Again, let me say:

You can fuck off.

Clear enough for ya?

Posted by: Pale Rider on February 28, 2008 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Clear enough for ya?
Not really, since I wasn't agreeing with Duncan Kinder's list, so cool your jets.

Posted by: AJ on February 28, 2008 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Don't you long for the days of innocence when the adolescent pranks of Richard Nixon were considered serious enough, by the mainstream media at least, to warrant impeachment?

Now we have such widespread corruption in Washington that activities that would have been unheard of under a decent president like Nixon, such as selling out the country to Mexicans for the Hispanic vote and cheap labor, or listening in on Americans illegally, are now acceptable.

Posted by: Luther on February 28, 2008 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds almost like the extortion -- the republicans are "disappointed" they're not collecting more dough for giving telcos a free ride.

Posted by: taxpayer on February 28, 2008 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

AJ,

So the pissy little shot at Obama means, what? You're better than everyone?

What jets am I supposed to go cool? Or are you too smart to explain that as well?

Posted by: Pale Rider on February 28, 2008 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK
Again, let me say:

You can fuck off.

Clear enough for ya?

Clearly you do not support the Democrats because they oppose, or at least purport to oppose, hate.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on February 28, 2008 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

When I first read the aide's comments I found it very interesting that the aide wanted to be so bare-faced about shaking-down and blackmailing an industry and its lobbyists.

I don't think the republicans are talking about donations, I think they're talking about illegal pay-offs, bribes, and blackmail.

If only this fucker and his ilk would face trial and get sent away for their crimes.

Posted by: Anon on February 28, 2008 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Clearly you do not support the Democrats because they oppose, or at least purport to oppose, hate.

Where do you get the idea I'm supposed to tolerate your bullshit? Am I supposed to be passive in my advocacy? Am I supposed to be silent while people run wild and take a huge crap on the Constitution?

My tolerance is for people who are weak and don't have a voice--I believe in the maxim that says that you comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfort.

You, on the other hand, are some kind of "I won't take a side, a pox on both your houses" kind of coward.

At least wingnuts take a side, and I can respect that a hell of a lot more than I can someone who just wants to sit back and claim that everyone and everything is so corrupt, there's no point in trying. You just want to sit back and be smarter than everyone else. Which is fine. You're actually just self-centered, and in today's society, that gets confused with actually being intelligent. With you out of the way, the rest of us can get shit done and fix what's wrong with this country--don't bother thanking us for doing that for you, since you don't give a shit either way.

Posted by: Pale Rider on February 28, 2008 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

My tolerance is for people who are weak and don't have a voice

I must apologize for being strong and having a voice - I had been unaware that I suffered from these defects.

All I can say is that I can only hope that the Democrats, despite their past and current performance, live up to your dreams.

Posted by: Dujncan Kinder on February 28, 2008 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry you are so clueless about this particular comment, Pale Rider. I agree with you more often than not, and for the record, voted for Obama in our primary; however, neither party really excites me in a positive way and the Democrats generally get my vote by default rather than with enthusiasm.

Posted by: AJ on February 28, 2008 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

I must apologize for being strong and having a voice

Good try, but no. You're weak and with a voice.

Posted by: bonds in seconds on February 28, 2008 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, this thread is full of invective.

Kevin, would it really never have occurred to you to attack the Democrats for being in the pocket of the trial lawyers?

Bless your innocent heart.

If you were a Republican strategist, that would be the first thing that would occur to you whenever an issue came up that had anything to do with lawsuits. You know when you're at the doctor's office, and the doctor hits your knee with that little hammer, and your leg just kicks up all by itself? This is like that for them.

That's why they've been more effective than we have about message discipline. They have a limited number of catchphrases, and they use them whenever opportunity offers. The real question is, what sound bite of our own can we hit back with? Or go on the offensive with?

I suggest linking Republicans' mistrust for the civil justice system with their contempt for the rule of law generally. Something like, "The founders of our nation put a Bill of Rights in the Constitution and gave us courts to enforce those rights. The Bush Administration not only wants to violate the rights, but then wants to deny the victims their day in court. Apparently they're afraid even to let the courts decide whether the program is lawful or not. Where is their respect for the rule of law?"

Posted by: The Fabulous Mr. Toad on February 28, 2008 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

Then we also have McCain telling Obama:

And a decision to unilaterally withdraw from Iraq will lead to chaos.”

Lead to chaos, huh?

Exactly what do we have in Iraq right now? Nothing if not complete chaos and anarchy.

Posted by: me-again on February 28, 2008 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yeah, and McCain got the James Baker endorsement.

Obviously, McCain is the most "Bush" like president to be running in race kind-of-endorsement. The neo-con's just love him.

Posted by: me-again on February 28, 2008 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK
I suggest linking Republicans' mistrust for the civil justice system with their contempt for the rule of law generally.

Hillary's apparent attempt to sue over the Texas caucus system reinforces the perception that Democrats are lawyer wonks.

Given the Republican take over of the judiciary, Democrats need to reconsider what, if anything, they actually mean by "Rule of Law." The term "Draconian" refers to a set of laws; while the term "Rule of Law" was developed by the Romans, who where hardly soft and fuzzy types.

Posted by: McGruff on February 29, 2008 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

To follow through on the endless Democratic obsession with "Rule of Law," ( which they conflate with freedom ) note the following:

Law Firms Follow Banks to the Persian Gulf

The rush to the cash-rich Persian Gulf is easy to explain: Law firms are following the money.

Posted by: on February 29, 2008 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

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