Froomkin on Democrats: "How Long Will They Play Nice?"
Simple answers to simple questions: "Forever."
How long will they play nice?
Dan Eggen writes in The Washington Post: "Most House Democrats and civil liberties groups strongly oppose immunity for the communications firms, but other Democrats -- including John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate intelligence committee -- have backed the GOP position."
In fact, twelve other Democrats. Except Dodd:
By contrast, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) is vowing to stage a real-life, in-person, " Mr Smith Goes to Washington"-style filibuster to block any version of the bill that includes immunity. In a statement yesterday, Dodd said: "Few things are more detrimental to this country than the erosion of and attack on the civil liberties we enjoy. This isn't a Democratic issue or a Republican issue; this is an American issue. If after debate, the Senate appears ready to pass legislation granting telecom providers retroactive immunity I will use any and all legislative tools at my disposal, including a filibuster, to prevent this deeply flawed bill from becoming law. More and more, Americans are rejecting the false choice that has come to define this administration: security or liberty, but never, ever both. For all those who have stood with me throughout this fight, I pledge, once more, to stand up for you."
But there was more good news! Wasn't it great to see Edwards tell the Democrats to stiffen their spines?
And, my gosh, wasn't it great to see Professor Obama using his erudition on Constitional law, right there on the Senate floor, defending the Constitution when it mattered, instead of just in the classroom, or by issuing sternly worded statements from far away? Oh, wait, Obama [(866) 675-2008] didn't do that? Sorry. And it seemed like such a good idea. It wouldn't even have taken much courage. Never mind.
(Of course, Hillary was equally absent, but she hasn't been trying to shove the Professor of Constitutional Law thing down my throat for the last few months).
Meanwhile, Rockefeller continues to suck, and Reid continues to mystify.
But all signs point to the Democrats eventually cracking under pressure. The fault lines are already clear.
Eric Lichtblau writes in the New York Times: "Advocates for civil liberties fault the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, for what they see as a weak effort to block the White House immunity plan. Mr. Reid opposes immunity, but his decision to allow an initial vote on the Intelligence Committee plan, with immunity, has angered opponents.
"'If Senator Reid wanted to win, he would have put the [Judiciary Committee bill] on the floor first,' Caroline Frederickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said. 'It seems as if he wants to lose.'"
Thomas Ferraro writes for Reuters: "The Democratic-led U.S. Senate will approve President George W. Bush's demand that telephone companies that participated in his warrantless domestic spying program receive retroactive immunity from lawsuits, a top lawmaker predicted on Wednesday.
"'I think we will prevail,' Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman John Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat and a chief sponsor of the bill, told reporters. . . .
"Top congressional aides agreed with Rockefeller's assessment. . .
"'It's a pretty bad idea to appear cocky,' Rockefeller said. But he noted that the measure was approved by his committee in October on a 13-2 vote. 'That's pretty solid.'"
Rockefeller was further quoted by Daniel W. Reilly in the Politico as defending the telecom companies, "arguing that the companies received explicit orders from the National Security Agency to cooperate with the super-secret surveillance effort. The West Virginia Democrat said the telecom companies were being 'pushed by the government, compelled by the government, required by the government to do this."
Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald is agog at Rockefeller's statements: "Can someone please tell Jay Rockefeller that we don't actually live in a country where the President has the definitively dictatorial power to 'compel' and 'require' private actors to break the law by 'ordering' them to do so? Like all other lawbreakers, telecoms broke the law because they chose to, and profited greatly as a result. That telecoms had an option is too obvious to require proof, but conclusive proof can be found in the fact that some telecoms did refuse to comply on the grounds that doing so was against the law.
"There is a branch of Government that does have the power to compel and require behavior by private actors. It's called 'the American people,' acting through their Congress, who democratically enact laws regulating that behavior. And the American people enacted multiple laws making it illegal for telecoms, in absence of a warrant, to enable Government spying on their customers and to turn over private data. Rockefeller's claimed belief that we live in a country where private companies are 'compelled' to obey orders to break the law is either indescribably authoritarian or disgustingly dishonest -- probably both."
Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball write for Newsweek: "Even if the Senate does eventually pass a measure favorable to the White House, there is no guarantee the House of Representatives will go along with it. House Democrats have been working on their own surveillance bill. It omits immunity and other legal relief for telecom companies and also contains what some Democrats regard as necessary new safeguards to protect citizens against intelligence agency abuses."
Of course, since its Reid and Pelosi who fucked us over on FISA to begin with, when they passed the Republican bill, at midnight, before leaving for vacation, I don't have much hope that they'll put things right. A bit, but not some. If Hilbama would invest just a teeny bit of political capital in this fight, especially Obama--The oratory! The Professorial schtick!--it might make a difference. There's still time for them to see the light.
NOTE Now that WaPo has buried Froomkin's column by taking it off the front page dropdown, and putting it below umpty-million lifestyle blogs on its "Blog Directory" page, I should take the opportunity to salute him.
In the dark days of the early Bush administration, there was one shining light everybody knows about: Paul Krugman. But there was a second light: The Amazing Dan Froomkin. Both of them were calling bullshit on Bush long before anyone outside the blogosphere, and they both used similar methods: Detailed analysis of what Bush was saying and doing; words, numbers, policy positions, modus operandi. In other words, they were practicing journalists. Why one should have sprung from the Op-Ed pages of the times, and the other from WaPo's new media operation, and neither from the newsroom, is a question for historians. It's also a symptom of our sick, sick political discourse.