The big story this week for the blogosphere has been the YearlyKos convention, a highly visible amplification of the reach of a blog community into a political force. Presidential and Congressional candidates have spoken to the attendees, and at least to some extent ratified the hard-Left political direction of the YKos crowd among Democratic politicians. Unfortunately, the Democrats in office apparently don't intend to do much more than pander, as the leadership in both chambers of Congress essentially surrendered to the White House on FISA:
The Democratic-controlled House last night approved legislation President Bush's intelligence advisers wrote to enhance their ability to intercept the electronic communications of foreigners without a court order.
The 227 to 183 House vote capped a high-pressure campaign by the White House to change the nation's wiretap law, in which the administration capitalized on Democrats' fears of being branded weak on terrorism and on Congress's desire to act on the issue before its August recess.
The Senate had passed the legislation Friday night after House Democrats failed to win enough votes to pass a narrower revision of a statute known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The original statute was enacted after the revelation of CIA abuses in the 1970s, and it required judicial oversight for most federal wiretapping conducted in the United States.
The new majority has proven a little too difficult to manage, especially for Nancy Pelosi. The Blue Dogs have actually made the party less reliably Leftist. The Washington Post notes that this group of mostly freshman Democrats from conservative districts helped give the White House its 44-vote margin of victory. Forty-one Democrats crossed the aisle to support the bill, and nine didn't bother to vote at all.
When push comes to shove, especially on war-related issues, the Democrats have failed almost every time to fulfill their campaign promises. The FISA legislation should enrage the Democratic base. The action by Congress this weekend essentially ratifies the NSA's warrantless wiretap program. After its exposure in December 2005, the DKos community and the rest of the Left that propelled the Democrats to power insisted that the TSP was one of the leading examples of the Bush administration's attack on freedom and liberty. The Senate promised to hold investigations into its operation and to even perhaps impeach George Bush for violating the Constitution.
And what did they do? They endorsed the TSP instead. It serves as a big, ugly admission that the Democrats never took the hard Left seriously, but pandered to them instead for political contributions and to buy a noise machine. Attendees at the YKos conference -- which I do consider a marvel of organization by Markos Moulitsas and a genuine accomplishment by their community -- may want to remember this when they assess their impact on actual policy.
In the meantime, Congress did the right thing, especially in insisting on six-month reviews of these changes. The NSA can properly monitor truly international calls that route through American switches. I would have preferred that the restriction remained on calls with one terminus in the US for some evidence of suspicion for a particular phone number, as the TSP operated before, but perhaps Congress can reapply that in six months.