Archive for the ‘Illegal Wiretaps’ Category

Why Cheney Speaks!

There’s lot’s of discussion and speculation lately over the fact that after spending eight years of secretly running the government from an impenetrable bunker, Dick Cheney is now all over the television defending his torture program.

Many people are scratching their heads and wondering why the most unpopular member of the previous administration wouldn’t just fade off into the sunset and hope to be forgotten as the country looks “forward and not backward” with it’s charismatic new President.

If I had to venture a guess as to why Cheney keeps talking, it’s this:

The only thing standing between Dick Cheney and criminal prosecution is the facade that torture was a policy decision, and that prosecution represents the “criminalization of politics.” In order to maintain that facade, there must be a continuous debate over whether or not it was “good policy” – that is, whether or not it helped to “keep Americans safe.”

To Cheney, it doesn’t matter whether or not people think that argument has merit. What matters is that both sides are continuously being aired, because in his mind, this means that the Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress have to prioritize it among all of the other policy debates; and with the wide range of stated goals put forward by the Obama administration, investigating and prosecuting torture will never move to the top of the “to do” list.

On the other hand, if public opinion is allowed to crystallize around the idea that the Cheney/Bush torture policies were illegal and immoral, as might happen without Cheney’s constant bleating about how proud he is of those very policies, then it becomes much more feasible to investigate and prosecute without getting in the way of other priorities.

And it becomes more likely that the conversation shifts from the debate about policy, to a discussion and eventual public understanding of what really happened, which increasingly seems to have been something like this:

At the time when Cheney/Bush were in charge and had plenty of warning about an impending terrorist attack, they did not “keep Americans safe.” Instead, they were too preoccupied with the politics of trying to create “a permanent Republican majority!”

After the 9/11 attacks, instead of going after the terrorists who were actually threatening the safety of Americans, they immediately began to line up all the ways they could use fear of terrorists to rationalize and gain acceptance for policies that were criminal! Torture, the war in Iraq, warrantless wiretapping, rushed no-bid contracts to political cronies, were all rolled out immediately, using the pretext of being the only policies the President thought would “keep Americans safe.”

And they did it all with the expectation that they could always avoid prosecution by forcing the debate into being about policy, if ever the debate started to turn toward being about criminality!

So that’s why Cheney feels he has to keep yapping about how torture was good policy. He knows he’s not convincing anybody, but he’s keeping the fire burning on the appearance of a political debate, because that’s the only thing keeping him from being frog marched to prison!


Appealing to the Real Middle (Or How John Edwards Can Win My Vote!)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Some time ago, I came across this poll, which I found quite interesting as it posed the following question to a mixed sample of Republicans, Democrats and Independents:

Which one of these four statements do you agree with about President Bush?

1. President Bush has not abused his powers as president.

2. President Bush has abused his powers as president, but the abuses are not serious enough to warrant impeachment under the Constitution.

3. President Bush has abused his powers as president which rises to the level of impeachable offenses under the Constitution, but he should not be impeached.

4. President Bush has abused his powers as president which rises to the level of impeachable offenses under the Constitution and he should be impeached and removed from office.

Using weighted averages to combine Democrats and Independents, 43.6% think President Bush should be impeached (No. 4), and 31.0% think President Bush does not warrant impeachment (Numbers 1 and 2 combined). This leaves a striking 25.4% in the grey area of believing President Bush has abused his powers as president which rises to the level of being impeachable offenses under the Constitution, but he should not be impeached!

How can 25.4% think he’s committed impeachable offenses, but should not be impeached? While I suppose there are a few Democrats and Independents who would say the “War on Terror” justifies some unconstitutional and therefore technically “impeachable” acts, my theory is that the vast majority of Democrats and Independents in this category simply don’t want to go through the distraction of an impeachment process! In other words, it’s not that they don’t think Bush should be held accountable, they just don’t want to it to happen while he’s President!

Much of the growing sense of frustration among Democratic and Independent voters, I think, can be attributed to a Congress that seems to be slowly but surely covering the tracks of accountability for any illegal acts on the part of the Bush Administration.

Approving Michael Mukasey as Attorney General, after he refused to commit to labeling waterboarding as (illegal) torture while indicating he would enforce any future laws enacted against waterboarding, seems clearly calculated to “cover the ass” of those who have already authorized waterboarding!

Granting immunity to telecoms for assisting in illegal wiretapping, which unfortunately still seems to have the support of all but a few principled members of Congress, seems clearly calculated to “cover the ass” of those who have already authorized illegal wiretapping!

Clearly the Congress, although purportedly controlled by an “opposition” party, are largely willing to allow a slow, but inevitable, legal whitewashing of a Presidency that has led the country into disaster upon disaster upon disaster, using obvious lies and seemingly multiple illegal acts!

So why can’t one of the current Democratic contenders make a play for the real middle – those Democrats and Independents who want accountability, but without the sturm and drang of an impeachment process?

Why can’t one of the candidates simply promise that the first thing he will do as President, is to have his Attorney General appoint a Special Prosecutor to thoroughly investigate any potential crimes committed during the Bush Administration? The goal would be to restore faith in our own principles as a nation, and our moral authority in the World.

Up until now, I’ve been an uncommitted, but hopeful, supporter of Barack Obama. I’ve liked some things about John Edwards, but have often felt that his occasionally over-the-top lawyerly posturing undercuts his message, while Obama has a characteristic of openness and sincerity that would be desperately needed after eight years of George W. Bush.

However, Obama has campaigned on a promise to “turn the page” on the Bush Era, which doesn’t exactly telegraph the intention to “clean up the mess.” I don’t want someone promising to sweep it all under a rug or shove it in a closet before running a clean shop. I want someone who is going to clean out the closets and toss out all the dirt before running a clean shop!

And that’s where Edwards could get me to support him whole-heartedly – by promising to do what the current Democratic Congress won’t do, holding the Bush administration accountable for their illegal acts as soon as they leave office and can be prosecuted for crimes they may have committed!

Jane Harman to Blogoshere: “Got a Better Idea?”

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Obviously George W. Bush isn’t the only petulant, childish, simpleton running around the Capitol these days. In fact, he might not be any worse that what the Democrats have to offer! The following exchange recently took place on Daily Kos, beginning when Drational criticized some of the Democrats pushing hardest to accede to Bush’s demand for retroactive immunity for the Telecom industry, including Jane Harman (D-Capitulation).

Jane Harman was removed from her position on the HPSCI after the Congressional changes in November 2006, yet according to a WaPo article today, she is engineering a Democratic capitulation on retroactive immunity behind closed doors:

And as Democratic leaders push their own legislation to rein in the wiretapping program, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) has been quietly exploring avenues of compromise with Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee. Centrist Democrats hope those talks can dovetail with the Senate intelligence committee’s own bipartisan measure on surveillance of suspected terrorists.

Harman then responded with her own post on Daily Kos that included the following classy rebuttal:

What rubbish! For those like me who insist that the President’s domestic surveillance program must comply fully with the Constitution and the 4th Amendment, the only way for Congress to get there is with a veto-proof majority. That’s why I’m working with Republicans. Got a better idea?

Naturally, this led Kagro X to not only rip her logic to shreds (including the highlight below), but opened the floodgate for hundreds of comments, many of which contained better ideas and a better understanding of how the whole “constitutional democracy” thing is supposed to work! (my emphasis)

In fact Rep. Harman appears to conclude that the Constitution will from this point forward forever be hostage to the necessity of a veto-proof majority in both houses of Congress, because that’s what it will take to overcome the newly-minted version of the president’s “inherent powers” that he has been permitted to accrue. The president can authorize anything he wants to, in the name of “national security,” and the Congress will only be able to stop him by passing a law that says he’s wrong, and overcoming his veto of it.

How can it be that the average pseudonymous progressive blogger or commenter (not that I consider Kagro X “average,” by the way!) seems to have a better grasp of how the government is supposed to work than many of the people elected to run our country? And can we please, please, please replace Jane Harman with someone who “has a better idea?”

When Republican Allies Attack! [with updated Brownie Link]

It’s been a bad couple of days for President Bush. Several Republicans, including Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico and Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin stepped up and publicly questioned his program of illegal domestic spying. Then it was released that Scooter Libby says he was “authorized” to leak classified intelligence information to reporters by his superiors in order to undercut the credibility of Joseph Wilson. Jack Abramoff has e-mails showing that Bush invited him to his Crawford ranch. And finally, Michael “Brownie” Brown threatened to spill the beans on the administration’s poor response to Hurricane Katrina. Ouch!

It got so bad that Bush had to pull out boasts of a 4-year-old foiled terrorist plot on Los Angeles’ Liberty Tower to try to get something positive in the news. But oops again – It was actually the Library Tower!

The best line of the day (paraphrased) – from Keith Olbermann – “I don’t know if this mistake indicates a subliminal affinity for the word ‘liberty,’ or an aversion to the word ‘library!”

[Update] Reddhedd has a great summary of Brownie’s testimony, which clearly shows the White House knew immediately how bad Katrina was. It also includes some links to timelines that pull the rug out from under the administration spin, and a reminder that the guy placed in charge of the Katrina reconstruction that is going so well (snark) is Karl Rove! Heck of a job, Rovie!