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December 17, 2005
Presdent's Address: Live Blog

I will be reviewing the rare, televised weekly address by George Bush on the filibuster of the PATRIOT Act renewal. It will start in three minutes ...

9:07 - PA tore down the "wall" and received large bipartisan majorities ...

9:08 - The law did exactly what it was designed to do. Bush makes a powerful point when he says that the terrorist threat will not expire in two weeks.

9:10 - Surprise! Bush went on the offensive on the NSA leak -- he stresses that the NSA only worked on international communications, not domestic. He called the leak "illegal", and he took complete responsibility for the program.

9:12 - The program gets reviewed every 45 days, and the White House has to reauthorize it each time. Bush says he has done so over 30 times, and Congress has received "over a dozen briefings" -- hardly a surprise for Capitol Hill.

9:13 - Why does the sound keep cutting out on CNN?

9:13 - He finished, more in a minute ...

9:14 - Russ Feingold says that we have to have laws allowing this operation -- but that's not true. The NSA has ALWAYS had the authority to intercept international communications; it's part of the NSA charter to do so. Feingold also argues that whatever is not explicitly legal is somehow prohibited under American law, but the opposite is true. In order for something to be illegal, it has to be explicitly made so by law. Anything unaddressed remains legal until the Legislature makes it illegal. Feingold made the opposite argument several times -- and that speaks much more towards an American tyranny than anything Bush said or did.

Final - I found it encouraging that Bush went on offense today, scolding a minority of Senators who are too squeamish to help preserve the vital part of American defense that has kept the nation safe for the past four years. I especially found his unexpected and welcome ownership of the NSA program encouraging and heartening. Running away from the issue would have prolonged the notion that the effort had broken the law, when a careful reading of the NYT story shows exactly otherwise. Congress had ample opportunity to stop it as well, receiving a number of briefings -- which Feingold confirmed but dismissed since he didn't get included in it -- which clearly shares the credit and responsibility across all branches of government.

I was going to comment separately on Bush's upcoming Oval Office address, scheduled for tomorrow evening, but it seems appropriate to tie it to this address. It is the first Oval Office address since May 2003, and it caps a recent effort by the White House to take back the momentum on the Iraq War and its support on home.

I'm happy to see Bush re-engage the home front on the war. It is absolutely unconscionable that we have not heard directly from the President from the Oval Office, the world's most powerful venue, in two and a half years on this subject. I don't know where the President's political staff has been over that period of time, but the eschewing of this venue has been a disaster for Bush. The President has enough difficulties in getting his message through a hostile media filter -- and they have simply forgotten to use the most powerful tool in their hands to combat it. We shouldn't go three months without such a speech, keeping us updated on progress on a war which by its nature does not lend itself well to landmarks and metrics. To go thirty months without seeing the familiar environs of the President's primary work area is simply self-defeating in the extreme.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 17, 2005 9:03 AM

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