August 5, 2007

Blue Dogs Pass FISA Changes While The YKos Plays On

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.


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Comments (29)

Posted by RBMN | August 5, 2007 8:51 AM

Democrats in Congress know what the Kossacks will say, but they also know that if some large domestic terrorist attack succeeds in the future, the American public is going to be looking for the reasons we failed to connect the dots in time. And if this hadn't passed, there would be a ready answer for the question.

Posted by Lew | August 5, 2007 9:07 AM

I think one of the possible interpretations of this and a few other recent similar instances, is that the right side of the Democratic Party and the left side of the Republican Party together share a set of basic ideas that look a lot like the politics of the older versions of each party. In other words, the middle of the political spectrum in America is motivated by a more pragmatic and careerist concern for competence and professional integrity, than any idealogical adherence to any theory of government's legitimate purpose.

The middle is going to be more affected by issues of corruption and competence than either end. They are perfectly comfortable to have government do whatever it takes to get them re-elected, they just need to have it done competently and without corruption. The election of 2006 turned out like it did because the middle turned against corrupt Republicans and helped the left elect moderate Democrats to take their places. In the future, the middle will turn against corrupt and incompetent Democrats and help the right elect moderate Republicans to take their places.

Like I said, the middle doesn't really care what government does, as long as its done efficiently and without corruption, and it helps them advance their career aspirations.

Posted by Keemo | August 5, 2007 9:12 AM

The House has joined in the Senate in passing the proposal of Senators McConnell and Bond to modernize existing laws related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The House vote was 227-183.

All but two of the "nay" votes were cast by Democrats.

Good take Lew...

Posted by ggeisel | August 5, 2007 9:13 AM

Hillary hugged them all (500 attendees) from the podium. Since Obama committed political suicide this week with promises to invade Pakistan, Hillary will be the Democrat nominee, I think, and that will unite Republicans unbelievably (her presidency would be similar to a terrorist attack, wouldn't it?).

Posted by Bennett | August 5, 2007 9:36 AM

I think Lew has it pretty much right. The big forgotten middle isn't obsessed with politics and generally considers government either a necessary evil (cynical view) or a practical necessity (more benign interpretation). I think we also generally view the activists on either side of the spectrum as the political equivalent of Trekkies (no offense to Star Trek lovers meant).

I also think we are not unaware of the probability that any administration (Dem or Repub) will find a way to abuse whatever power it's given, which is why we grow increasingly irritated with the silly games that Congress so often chooses to play. We elect those people to keep an eye on things for us and not orchestrate meaningless witch hunts just to get on the evening news and score fund-raising points with the base.

Posted by kingronjo | August 5, 2007 9:52 AM

I've been Sold Out

If I was a hardcore leftist from the likes of Daily Kos etal, what other word could I use to describe what is happening to me in DC?

The war is being fully funded, the threats to my cilvil liberties go unchecked, Bush hasn't been impeached, Southwick is out of committee, Hillary hasn't apologized, the list goes on and on and on. I have given my blood, sweat, tears and MONEY to these people, for what?

All I ever read about is how the conservatives are demoralized and on the run. Yet their agenda is still ascendant and unchecked.

The answer is should be obvious to Kossaks everywhere.
First- run primaries and target all those Dems who have sold you out to the Repu"g"s, start with the 41 who have just signed on to this Nazi era inspired wiretapping bill.
Second- any faux Dem who survives our onslaught should not be supported, ie- no money, no volunteering, stay at home and not vote for them.

Why bother having a majority if all they are going to do is vote for BusHitler and the neo-cons. To start, I am opening up my checkbook for Mama Sheehan in her quest to unseat the biggest turncoat of them all, Empress Nancy. This may be a facetious post, but its true. We Repub's had 1/10th the reason to be mad at our people last election cycle compared to what you libs have to be angry about.

Posted by filistro | August 5, 2007 9:59 AM

Lew gives us a breath of fresh air... and quite a bit of optimism, too.

The outer wings of both parties are dominated by people who hate their political opponents more than they love their country. The rise of the blogosphere creates the impression that these types are now the majority, but they're not. Not by a long shot.

Ann Coulter is not typical America. Neither is Cindy Sheehan.

The majority is a vast sea of people who just want the trains to run on time, the money to be spent wisely, and their kids to be safe.

Fortunately for the nation, this sensible middle still wields enormous power.

Posted by Lightwave | August 5, 2007 10:04 AM

The moonbats have always overestimated their power.

They incorrectly believe that there is anti-war majority in this country. The truth is there's a "bring the troops home" majority and a "defeatist" fringe.

We all want to bring our troops home. But millions of Americans have realized that for us to be able to do that, we must win in Iraq first. Evidence rolls in weekly that we're winning, the surge is working, the new strategies are having a major positive effect.

But the fringe defeatists scream and rage that somehow, their views of giving up on the Iraq War are what the country and the world wants. There's a wing of the GOP party that is just as dangerous and just as deluded, and while the GOP has pandered to that wing just as the Dems pander to the moonbats, the reality is that we're a sensible, centrist country most of the time.

Nobody from the Dems is going to tell Kos to his face that he doesn't mean a damn thing to the Dems other than votes to mine. Nobody from the wingnut camp will admit that Bush has kept this country safe for almost six years now.

Kos and the nutroots outlive their usefulness to the Dems on January 20, 2009.

Posted by Lew | August 5, 2007 10:10 AM

Exactly Bennett, the middle is almost completely motivated by "practical necessities" as you so perceptively put it.

The problem with the middle however, is the congenital short-sightedness that "practical necessities" forces on them. The driving necessity for any career politician is always going to be how to stay in office, in the same fashion as that of a corporate CEO whose bonus plan is driven by quarterly performance numbers and daily stock valuations. Both situations force the participants to focus on day-to-day issues of "Looking Good" at the expense of longer-term growth and survival issues.

Similarly, the problem with "extremists" like me is that we tend to obsess about longer-term issues of idealogical bent to the detriment of those shorter-term items of "practical necessity". I can say, without qualification or hesitation, that a politician without an idealogical viewpoint is like a ship without a rudder on a storm-tossed sea. He has no idea or care about where he's going, he just wants to keep the boat from rocking too much while he gets there. But just as important, the problem with a politician who has no respect for those "practical necessities" you mentioned, will run the ship onto the rocks trying to steer the ship to his "promised land" in a righteously straight line.

Politics in the modern era, and perhaps in all previous eras as well, is all about keeping both sides pulling together in the same harness. And it gets harder and harder every election cycle.

Posted by docjim505 | August 5, 2007 10:17 AM

I am reminded of the saying:

If the devil ever succeeded in replacing God, he would have to assume the attributes of divinity.

At least some of the dems have figured out that merely screaming "It's All Bush's Fault!"(TM) at every opportunity doesn't cut it. There is legislation that must be passed, budgets that must be written, funds that must be allocated. In the case of national security-related issues, it's a question of trying to deal realistically with the fact that there are terrorist organizations that want to attack us; all the conspiracy theories about Bush, Rove, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and little green men from Mars won't change this.

As far as the KosKids go, they may be disappointed. They may be angry. They may stay home. However, I doubt that these things will happen. They hate Chimpy McBushitler and the rest of the dreaded neocons FAR too much risk letting the Bush Cabal steal ANOTHER election in '08. Better an ineffectual SanFran Nan than another Tom DeLay.

Posted by Ari Tai | August 5, 2007 10:33 AM

I'm not clear why this issue exists. The majority would like the US borders protected, we insist on documentation for most things that move across the border (even people), and yet there seems to be this assumption "bits" are / should be different.

We can have treaties with countries that have a similar civil society and rule of law that negate the need to inspect (because policing mitigates the threat) but I don't see any freedom of speech or privacy issues for conversations that are enabled by bits or physical presence (neither bits nor people crossing borders should be free of regulation and opportunity to inspect). Granted, there are times when I'd like TSA to have to "get a warrant" but only when I'm irritated at the costs in productive life-times lost waiting in line (it adds up in a hurry).

So, bits or boxes (or immigrants), why treat them different?

Posted by filistro | August 5, 2007 10:44 AM

It's interesting to note how Republicans have suddenly become so sensitive about the "neocon" label. Sort of like Dems not liking to be called "liberal," even though they clearly are.

The neoconservative movement was started by a group of disaffected liberal intellectuals who decided their aims could not be accomplished within the Democratic Party, so they joined the conservatives. (Thus, of course, the "neo.") They are not particularly concerned wth the social issues that animate conservatives, like abortion and gay marriage, though they will certainly exploit these issues to win elections. They believe in the doctrine of cementing American power and alliances worldlwide by the exporting of democracy through military force. They also believe the use of military power is what keeps America dominant.

So the neocons are in historical fact a liberal-conservative amalgam. Yet their influence within the Bush administration has been one of the two most divisive forces in recent politcal history.

The other, of course, was.... Clinton's "Third Way. "

I don't know why should be. I just find it fascinating.

Posted by Bennett | August 5, 2007 11:01 AM

"The problem with the middle however, is the congenital short-sightedness that "practical necessities" forces on them."

I'm fairly sure most politicians are not focused on me or my needs. I am a law abiding taxpayer who gets up and goes to work everyday and tries to be a decent neighbor and contributing member of society. So I don't have any politically playable issues. I don't make for good TV or campaign ads. But the country doesn't survive without people like me as little as we may be noticed or cared about.

And while we may not get much play, nobody wins the Presidency of the United States without the votes of me and mine. Everyone who runs knows this which is why campaigns during the general election always differ from the primary campaigns where the candidates pander to the extremists on either side.

I am no deep political thinker but I believe neither side has it completely correct and the more we yell at each other about our differences the less will anything meaningful get done (which may be a good thing, quite frankly). And I have an inherent suspicion of anyone who is too passionate about anything when it comes to politics or spends too much time on ideas and not enough on actually getting something practical accomplished. Sort of like that saying about warfare, amateurs talk strategy, professionals pay attention to tactics.

Posted by filistro | August 5, 2007 11:56 AM

I should have added that neoconservatives also don't have much use for other policies that matter to "real" conservatives... like smaller government and limited spending.

But of course, that's obvious.

Posted by brooklyn | August 5, 2007 12:00 PM

Just another example of how unethical the current Democrat Party remains...

Dangerously vilifying, exploiting, debasing serious programs designed to keep the American Public safe.

And in the end they are too frightened to stick with their juvenile conviction...

On the other hand, this is a reminder, the President is far from a lame duck.

He still leads in regards to the defense of this Country, and the fight in the GWOT.

Posted by billhedrick | August 5, 2007 12:09 PM

I asked a lefty once what he meant by the lanel "neo-con" and he basically described it as an imperialist Christian Theocrat (!?) Now you and I know this is horse-hockey, but I fear that is the perception that the label "neo-con" has. While I'm an old line conservative, voted for Repubs my entire adult life, I am glad for the neo-cons, even if they may not hew the complete conservative line. Lately though I have been calling j\myself a "JFK liberal" just to get the dumb looks from people.

Posted by M Smith | August 5, 2007 12:34 PM

There is nothing inherently Christian about neo-cons. Bill Kristol (and Irving Kristol), Paul Wolfowitz, Norman Podhoretz, Ben Wattenberg, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle and Leo Strauss are not Christians.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | August 5, 2007 12:46 PM

filistro said:

"It's interesting to note how Republicans have suddenly become so sensitive about the "neocon" label."

It's because you leftist college kids use the word as a catch-all insult.

One thing wiki got right:

"The term is frequently used pejoratively by self-described paleoconservatives, Democrats, and by libertarians of both left and right."

Posted by filistro | August 5, 2007 1:01 PM leftist college kids...

Del, sweetheart.... you've made my day! :-)

Posted by Angry Dumbo | August 5, 2007 1:16 PM

And George Bush, Dick Cheney and Condi Rice ain't exactly Jewish.

Maybe I have misinterpreted your point as thinly veiled anti-semitism. Please clarify.

To blame NeoCons for "tricking" us into the Iraq war is totally lame.

I stand with the Middle East analysis of Charles Krauthammer, Mark Steyn and Victor David Hanson, if that makes me part of the stupid club, I'm glad that I joined. Americas got into this war with our eyes wide open, we even re-elected our CIC nearly two years after the war began. Leave the second guessing to second guessers.

A wise man (Thucydides - for those who care) once said:

The secret of Happiness is Freedom, and the secret of Freedom, Courage.

It is time for supporters of the GWOT to be Courageous.

Stand with our soldiers who take their orders from our Commander in Chief or accept your fate from those who would do you harm.

Posted by Tom Shipley | August 5, 2007 1:26 PM

Why can't we keep a running list of foreigners who we believe are terror suspects. We provide a case to FISA courts that there's reasonable cause for believing these people pose a threat to the US and the court approves monitoring correspondence from them into this country?

Posted by Tom Shipley | August 5, 2007 1:33 PM

Since Obama committed political suicide this week with promises to invade Pakistan

He didn't promise to invade Pakistan. He said if there was actionable intelligence that bin Laden or other AQ targets in the country, he would act is Musharef didn't OK it.

Considering AQ is located in a remote region of the country, you would think military action would have minimal impact on the Pakistani population. And if Musharef objected, it may not hurt his control of the country since he did not aid the Americans in this case.

I would be interested to see a poll of Americans on whether they would back President Obama in such an action.

Posted by kingronjo | August 5, 2007 6:49 PM

with all due respect Tom, you're wrong, Obama did threaten to invade Pakistan. He stated he would go after Osama in Warizstan (sic) sort of like the Mexicans saying they would chase one of their most wanted without our permission into TX, NM, AZ and CA.

In addition he also stated he would secure Pakistan's nuclear weapons. That takes it to a new level totally and is most assuredly an invasion. The 'hot pursuit' argument goes out the window. Unless he has "actionable intelligence" that Osama is hiding out in a nuclear silo in every base around Pakistan. And if I was the Paki leader and knew the 82nd airborne was coming I would live by the motto, "use em or lose em." And I don't think he would be targeting Osama at that point.

I'd like to see that poll too, 'do you back attacking our ally Pakistan and attempting to secure the bases that hold their nuclear weapons before they launch them?"

Posted by Del Dolemonte | August 5, 2007 7:40 PM

Tom Shipley asks

"Why can't we keep a running list of foreigners who we believe are terror suspects"

Because that would be what the leftists call "racial profiling". The fact that we immediately knew who the 9/11 perps were proves it.

The guy who let 9/11 leader Mohammed Atta and his accomplice thru security at the Portland Maine Jetport early on 9/11 was extremely suspicious of both-he could have stopped them, but to his eternal regret he bowed to political correctness, and let them pass.

Posted by red | August 5, 2007 8:34 PM

He didn't promise to invade Pakistan. He said if there was actionable intelligence that bin Laden or other AQ targets in the country, he would act is Musharef didn't OK it.

Don't tell us. Tell the rioting Muslim street that burned him in effigy

Posted by Ric Locke | August 5, 2007 8:52 PM

People, people. The only reason any of this is remarkable is because you're falling into the trap of letting the Democratic Party Left define the debate in terms of their lies and delusions.

Despite Pelosi, Reid, Moulitsas, and the rest of the (properly-called) moonbats, the Democrats did not win the 2006 elections on the basis of withdrawing from Iraq or Impeaching Bush. The good Captain even discussed it here on several occasions. With very few exceptions, Democrats who unseated Republicans either declared outright that it had nothing to do with Iraq or Bush, and everything to do with the Culture of Corruption, or else downplayed the Get Out Now element and concentrated on (perceived) Republican misbehavior in office. That's most blatantly true of the Blue Dogs, of course, but most of the candidates campaigned that way.

When Pelosi and Reid took office and announced that their priorities were Iraq and impeachment, they were not fulfilling campaign promises; they were reneging on campaign promises, at least on behalf of most of their freshmen Congresscritters. The rest of it follows naturally from that.


Posted by docjim505 | August 6, 2007 10:23 AM

Tom Shipley wrote (August 5, 2007 1:33 PM):

He didn't promise to invade Pakistan. He said if there was actionable intelligence that bin Laden or other AQ targets in the country, he would act is Musharef didn't OK it.

Um, by "act", what did he mean? The way I (and a number of angry Pakistanis) interpretted it, he meant "send in the troops". If that's not an invasion, I don't know what is.

By the way, what constitutes "actionable intelligence"? Would that be intelligence provided by the same US intelligence agencies that had us blow up an aspirin factory in Sudan a few years ago, missed the whole 9-11 plot, then assured us that it was a "slam dunk" that Iraq had WMD?

Considering AQ is located in a remote region of the country, you would think military action would have minimal impact on the Pakistani population. And if Musharef objected, it may not hurt his control of the country since he did not aid the Americans in this case.

Yes, I'm sure a US invasion probably WOULD have a "minimal impact on the Pakistani population". O' course, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (an isolated base thousands of miles from the US mainland) had a "minimal impact" on the American population, too. I suspect that the Pakistanis would react to a US attack on "isolated" Waziristan in much the same way as Americans reacted to Pearl Harbor: blood boiling fury and an insane thirst for revenge.

But you're right: maybe Musharaff can plausibly claim "I had nothing to do with it" while being hanged from the nearest lamppost. Maybe FDR could have saved all those American boys who died during World War II if he had only gone to Congress on Dec. 8 and said, "The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, which is a long way from here and, anyway, I had nothing to do with it."

Out of curiosity, do you have ANY idea how idiotic your statements are? You're trying to rationalize the invasion of an allied nation (armed with nukes, by the way) just because they won't totally kowtow to Washington. And make no mistake: when you deliberately put troops into another country without their expressed permission, it's an invasion and an act of war. It doesn't matter how "isolated" the area is that you invade; it's an act of war.

I recall that the German government tried to parse language like this to justify their invasions of Luxemburg and Belgium in 1914. Nobody bought it then, and I don't think anybody would buy it now.

I would be interested to see a poll of Americans on whether they would back President Obama in such an action.

Typical lib: can't you people do ANYTHING without taking a poll? And let's assume that CBS / NYT took a poll that reported that 98% of those surveyed (which is to say, Obama, his wife, you, a few other lefties, and some inmates of the local mental asylum) said that an invasion of Pakistan would be A-OK with them. Would it make such an act "right"? There was quite a lot of popular support for the invasion of Iraq a few years ago, as I recall. Somehow, I think that doesn't begin to justify it in your mind.

Posted by Tom Shipley | August 7, 2007 6:55 AM

For people who for invading a country – in part -- because a member of AQ was treated in country without the knowledge or aid of the government…

For people cheered a president who boldly declared:
"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him."
- G.W. Bush, 9/13/01
"I want justice...There's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive,'"
- G.W. Bush, 9/17/01, UPI
For people who say things like “we need to take the war to the terrorists so they don’t attack us here”…

I’m surprised you’re so languid about the fact that AQ leadership and training camps – and very likely bin Laden himself – are operating freely in a region of an ally of ours. There’s even video of them sending out newly trained cells to attack the West from this area.

The tribal deal clearly has not worked. Either because the tribes are disingenuous or they don’t have the power to expel al qaeda. Meanwhile, we’re sitting with our ass on our hands waiting for these tribes to do something. You guys are really for this? It’s been 5 years. We’ve known where these guys have been for 5 years… and we haven’t been able to stop them from operating freely. That is a massive failure by our government.

"The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, which is a long way from here and, anyway, I had nothing to do with it."

A group that attacked and killed 3,000 Japanese civilians did not enjoy a safe haven in Pearl Harbor.

By the way, what constitutes "actionable intelligence"?

Posted by RJS | September 3, 2007 7:56 PM

"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him."
- G.W. Bush, 9/13/01

Phony quote:

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