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December 23, 2005
Daschle: Democrats Clueless On 9/12, Too

Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle writes an op-ed in today's Washington Post (which the Post covers as a news item on page A04, just in case its readers miss it) claiming that the declaration of war granted to Bush after 9/11 specifically limited his war powers. It's a must-read, if only to demonstrate that either the Democrats have to be the worst historical revisionists still received by polite society or have been truly clueless about the nature of the war on Islamofascist terror since its start.

Daschle actually makes a case for both in his essay:

On the evening of Sept. 12, 2001, the White House proposed that Congress authorize the use of military force to "deter and pre-empt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States." Believing the scope of this language was too broad and ill defined, Congress chose instead, on Sept. 14, to authorize "all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed or aided" the attacks of Sept. 11. With this language, Congress denied the president the more expansive authority he sought and insisted that his authority be used specifically against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

Just before the Senate acted on this compromise resolution, the White House sought one last change. Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words "in the United States and" after "appropriate force" in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused.

Perhaps Daschle didn't notice, but the entire reason that Congress passed the war resolution was that the United States got attacked -- inside the United States. It's as if that context never occurs to Daschle. We had taken attacks from al-Qaeda on a number of occasions, including on two of our embassies and one of our warships -- both clear cases of casus belli under any terms of war -- and Congress never bothered to act on any of the previous attacks. The Clinton administration never bothered to ask for a declaration of war or its cousin, an authorization to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against al-Qaeda or anyone else, and Congress never bothered to propose one.

That changed because our homeland suffered an attack for the second time -- the first being the World Trade Center in 1993, which also didn't provoke a Congressional act -- and we discovered that the rats that perpetrated the terrorist act had lived among us for months, if not years, before attacking. America found out that we had not taken terrorists seriously enough to re-cast our defense posture to make a serious effort to find and destroy terrorists among us as well as those outside the US prior to 9/11. That was the context of the Congressional resolution and the admnistration's request for it. Nowhere in that resolution does it restrict the Bush administration from conducting its war operations within the US, and contrary to what Russ Feingold and Tom Daschle would have Americans think, laws do not enable government power but restrict them. That which is not explicitly forbidden is therefore assumed to be legal, and not the other way around, as a moment's thought will clearly show.

Can you imagine that, in the days when the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center still dominated the nightly news, Congress would have passed a resolution barring the US from pursuing terrorists within the United States, implicitly or explicitly? The American people would have held 535 recall elections by October 20th and tossed every last Representative and Senator out on their ear -- and Tom Daschle damned well knows it.

Daschle also includes another bit of sleight-of-hand:

As Senate majority leader at the time, I helped negotiate that law with the White House counsel's office over two harried days. I can state categorically that the subject of warrantless wiretaps of American citizens never came up. I did not and never would have supported giving authority to the president for such wiretaps. I am also confident that the 98 senators who voted in favor of authorization of force against al Qaeda did not believe that they were also voting for warrantless domestic surveillance.

Cute, but entirely off-topic. That isn't what the NY Times alleged in its supposed scoop. In fact, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau wrote explicitly that the NSA always waited for warrants when their investigation involved domestic wiretaps. The only warrantless wiretaps came on international communications where "US persons" -- a specific legal status -- were not involved, a legal practice both under FISA and the Constitution.

Daschle demonstrates that he has no grasp of what the issues are in this debate -- and if he's being honest about his intent in the days after 9/11, it shows that he and his party remained absolutely clueless about the nature of the threat from terrorism. He's made the pages of the Post a grand endorsement for the wisdom of the people of South Dakota, whom the entire nation should thank for their vote in 2004.

UPDATE: For the legality of the NSA operation, please see Power Line's extraordinary work, as well as the Hugh Hewitt interview of Cass Sunstein (not exactly a conservative legal mind).

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 23, 2005 5:58 AM

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Tom Dashwit has finally admitted his truth. This speaks loud and clear. As Senate majority leader at the time, I helped negotiate that law with the White House counsel’s office over two harried days. I can state categorically that the subject ... [Read More]

Tracked on December 23, 2005 6:51 AM

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