Monday, January 30, 2006

Security and Politics 

For those busy twisting their hankies about NSA surveillance, I recommend you read Debra Burlingame's op-ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal (available via Taranto).

I said it in earlier commentary and I will say it again. If the Democratic Party wants to lose in the '06 interim elections and get really crushed in the November '08 elections, it will continue to make a stink about this and the Patriot Act. On the other hand, if the Democratic Party has serious political objectives, it will stop running down this blind alley. The American public will not vote for people who try to stop coordinated intelligence and surveillance activities. Warrants, schmarrants. If the Democrats don't want to be McGoverned (that is, utterly decimated electorally in a unprecedented landslide), they will drop this "angle."

Otherwise, they will hear from Debra Burlingame. I've met her. She will run circles around them, and make them look weak, foolish and malicious.


By Blogger Final Historian, at Mon Jan 30, 04:15:00 PM:

Actually, most people are so ignorant of the Patriot Act attacking it isn't so dangerous as it might appear on a security basis. However, I agree about the NSA wiretaps. The more that is talked about them, the more the American people will know about them, and the more I suspect them to agree.  

By Blogger Lanky_Bastard, at Mon Jan 30, 05:56:00 PM:

Maybe it's about principles, not an "angle". The GOP used to fight for unpopular principles (remember "small government", "balanced budget", "not-the-world-police"?).

The executive requires oversight lest it eventually trend to tyranny. That is a near continual refrain from our founders. Someone ought to protect that. In fact both parties ought to protect that. Nope, we'll get politics instead.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Mon Jan 30, 06:12:00 PM:

Lanky - oh please, cut it out..principles? If it was about principles, they'd shut up and move on. Every president since Carter, disaster that he was, has had this same power and authority. People weren't jumping up and down saying Clinton has usurped our civil liberties over NSA surveillance. Frankly, if the current admin wasn't doing this, I'd want their heads examined. Read the Burlingame piece please.

What the Administration has been doing is LEGAL. There is nothing wrong with it. It is a rather explicit war power, and it pales in comparison to some powers that have been exercised by previous presidents.

So, it is frankly ONLY an angle - an angle for James Risen to sell books, for the NYT to sell papers and distract attention from its own felonious handling of the leaks, for the Democratic Party/BDS crowd to further exorcise their Bush demons. But it has nothing to do with principles, Lanky. Zippo. The Executive Branch went to Congress's intelligence committees and disclosed the program. If somebody wants to bring a case to have the Judicial branch have a looksee (which they now have) then there will be further review. The eXecutive Branch has sought and received all manner of legal opinions on the matter. It has a series of constitutional cases on its side. Of course, since journalists don't even read those cases (and wouldn't understand them if they did), they have no hope of understanding the issues. So that bit will get sorted out later.

Principles. Politics. Yeah. Right.  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Mon Jan 30, 09:14:00 PM:


Funny that many Republicans are also questioning the legality of the program. Funny that Bush himself said 'wiretaps' require a court order even while this program was up and running. Funny that you'd compare Bush's surveillance with that of Carter and his successors when you know that this program is so much more.

If you're strictly a Bush apologist, that's o.k., but please stop pretending that you know more than you do about this matter. The technology being used most likely doesn't have specific legal precedent, but there's that pesky Constitution and its ridiculous fourth amendment to contend with.

I believe in the principle behind investigating the White House on this matter, especially with all of their other indiscretions.

Some of us are actually principled in this matter. Dismissing us seems combative and unnecessary. We have real suspicions about a government that's made a habit out of consolidating executive power and lying to America.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Jan 31, 12:21:00 AM:

Speaking as someone who voted for Clinton TWICE, Bush has not even approached the Clinton scandals, particularly abuse of power ala siccing the IRS on political opponents, personal smears by the President's political operatives, and poking about in FBI files by the power-mad First Lady.

Whatever else you can say about Bush, he's been remarkably clean.

Bush's "wiretaps" comment as he made clear referred to completely domestic surveillance. I find it ridiculous that Dems want to require a warrant to listen in on Al Qaeda comms to agents in the US.

Pick one: civil rights for terrorists, or saving American lives.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Tue Jan 31, 08:42:00 AM:

SH - I am not dismissing you as anything. Stop being so bloody paranoid (or self centered; or stop projecting, or something...you're a shrink, right?). I am merely making a political projection that is quite simple - though you may try to suggest it is an insult -- if it makes you feel better somehow. In my view, it is this - if the Democratic Party embraces the NSA surveillance program issue and tries to turn it into an assault on Bush, or the Executive Branch, it will be demolished on the issue. People like Debra Burlingame, and those on the other side of the issue, will paint the Democratic Party as persistently unserious about terrorism. They will go on to say that the fundamental difference between Dems and Reps on this issue is that Dems see it as a law enforcement issue, and Reps see it as war.

I think the majority of the country sees it as war, not a law enforcement problem. This is not personal Screwy. This is merrely political prognostication. The NSA surveillance issue is a LOSER for the Dems.

I also happen to feel it is a nonissue and will be resolved thusly by the courts as falling squarely within the President's Article II powers.

I suppose you will disagree.  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Tue Jan 31, 10:58:00 AM:

Yeah, I probably will.

And, here's some grist for your mill, I do see the Al Qaeda problem as a law enforcement problem. I believe we made a big mistake when we elevated them to the status of warrior. They're thugs.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Tue Jan 31, 02:39:00 PM:

Now that is a crucial distinction. I am glad you made it. I think you are wrong, and I think the empirical evidence proves demonstrably that you are wrong.

Anybody who kills more than 2,000 people on a single day by flying planes into buildings (btw, they could have killed thousands more were it not for some pretty astounding engineering) and tries to attack strategic centers of commerce and government is at war with you. In fact, they declared that they were at war with us in 1998. By the very scale of the assault, al qaeda would be an UNPRECEDENTED "law enforcement problem" - forgetting the fact that the threat emanates from beyond our LAW ENFORCEMENT JURISDICTION. If it is a law enforcement problem, which police force would you have enforce our laws, Screwy?

Of course, until they actually attacked us in our homeland, we treated them like a law enforcement problem. That, it is fair to say, DID NOT WORK. Do you disagree with that?

Since they attacked us, we have treated them as though we are at war with them too. That has been infinitely more effective. No more similar attacks since then at least -- certainly not something one would have predicted on 9/12/01.

The notion that somebody would cling to this bizarre theory that al qaeda is a "law enforcement problem" is frankly beyond description. I would invite you Screwy to please respond how it is that you seem them this way. Please, go on. I would also invite any member of any party with political ambition to join this discussion and embrace publically this law enforcement concept of al qaeda -- and see how they do at the ballot box.  

By Blogger Screwy Hoolie, at Tue Jan 31, 04:14:00 PM:


First of all, since you come from a militaristic philosophy, I understand that you will find it difficult to imagine international justice organizations leading the way against an international ring of loosely affiliated outlaws.

International cooperation in gathering intelligence through justice entities as well as military intelligence coupled with an international willingness to arrest and try offenders can be effective if (a) international trust and cooperation can be secured; (b) military entities are willing to support law enforcement through surgical strikes, special ops, and, as in the case of Afghanistan, a willingness to dismantle entrenched power structures that train and empower terrorists.

When the most powerful nation in the world declares war against you, your stock goes up. Is Al Qaeda as powerful as Hitler's Germany? As powerful as the Viet Cong? Of course not.

High profile acts of mass murder certainly move the more emotional among us to cry war. However, the warrior approach is resulting in increased terrorist attacks, increased global insecurity, and the threat of losing domestic civil liberties.

This is an incomplete response (I'm at work and have to run), and I know you'll just hate it.

But it's an important conversation to have.

And, yes, anyone who runs on a platform like this will be shot down. But that's due to the war = patriotic frame that the Rovian Bushies put around the 9/11 attacks.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Wed Feb 01, 08:07:00 AM:

SH - as Ronald Reagan used to say, "there you go again." Militaristic philosophy? It is my "militaristic philosophy" that leads me to conclude that airlinerbombing thousands of people in NY and Wash is an act of war and deserves a warlike response?

I don't "hate" your response Screwy. It kinda makes me laugh to be honest.

It reminds me of the German Jews who insisted long after Hitler had come to power, and after the Kristalnacht, that they were good Germans, and had no need to leave Germany. They refused to believe that their Jewishness, which they denied in favor of their Germanness, would make them Hitler's target. They simply didn't understand that war had been declared on them. Not only declared, but prosecuted.

I have this sense, Screwy, that you won't accept the fact that you're at war until a plane flies through your window, or a suicide nutbomb blows himself up in a mall.

Well, Screwy, you have that luxury i suppose. The fellow running the country doesn't. At least you acknowledge that your position is a political loser (in a democratic, thank god, country).

You are also wrong about your hypothesis linking "a warrior approach" to increased terror attacks, increased global insecurity, etc. Dead wrong. Of course, in the US, we know there have been no successful terror attacks since 9/11. We also know that in the intervening 4+ years now, we have reversed the tide of support and sanctuary of Arab Islamoterrorists from Afghanistan, to Pakistan, to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq and yes, even the European states.

I also take tremendous exception to a pathetic, paternalistic comment you made regarding "the more emotional among us" crying for war due to high profile acts of mass murder.

Actually, Screwy, the same 70% of us who supported Iraq, the same 70+% who supported Afghanistan, the same 70% who support NSA terror surveillance -- is that the more emotional among us? -- this majority of the country acknwledged that we were attacked, that war was declared upon us, and that we needed to respond in kind.
That isn't emotion Screwy, that's coldhearted logic.

But if by the "more emotional among us" you mean Debra Burlingame, because her brother was a pilot murdered that day, than your comment is beyond merely paternalistic and foolish, it is also callous; it is malicious; it is deliberately inciteful; it is arrogant.

You're lucky to live here Screwy and ride the backs of so many others. Be grateful.  

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