Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Dems get mixed reviews

By Carol Gee

Last night's Democratic debate at Soldier's Field in Chicago was rather enjoyable, even exciting at times. The candidates did well, for the most part, and differentiated themselves along the way. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann did a fine job of moderating. It didn't take him long to understand where he was losing: the good crowd refused to hold its applause as he had instructed. It was great fun to see a bunch of rule-breaking Union members together and acting up.

The main point is - And this is not saying anything new, any one of the Democratic candidates would be infinitely better as President, than OCP (our current president). It is the Democrats' race to lose in 2008. We could have a worse problem than this in our crowded field.

But I am still bent out of shape about the diminution of our civil liberties protections under an amended new law sanctioned by Democrats feeling in a bind and trusting DNI Admiral Mike McConnell. The dilemma for congressional Democrats last week must have felt like an awful one for them, though I think not enough to capitulate in such numbers. Too many good folks flunked the constitutional test, according to aghast Dahlia Lithwick at Slate Magazine, who headlined her piece: "In Gonzo We Trust - They want to fire Alberto Gonzales and give him new eavesdropping powers?" To quote,

There is virtually no way to reconcile Sen. Mark Pryor's, D-Ark., claim that Gonzales has "lied to the Senate" and needs to go with his vote to expand the reach of our warrantless eavesdropping program. And how can one possibly square Sen. Dianne Feinstein's, D-Calif., claim that the AG "just doesn't tell the truth" with her vote to give him yet more unchecked authority? You either trust this AG with the power to listen in on your phone calls or you do not, and the mumbled justifications for these "yes" votes ( … but Gonzales shares his authority with National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell; … but the bill sunsets in six months) do nothing to lessen the impression that some Democrats mistrust Gonzales when it's convenient, but not when it's truly important.

I agree! (See also my post of yesterday). As I told one of my S/SW commenters, I want to forgive them but I am not there yet. I will eventually get there because I am forgiving by nature. But not be for a while, because I feel so justified in the merits of my case.

This is no small thing. The outcry has been widespread, but not universal in the MSM. Walter Pincus today at the Washington Post was very careful not to raise red flags with his readers, though the headline was less careful: "Same Agencies to Run, Oversee Surveillance Program." I guess it is early in the game for this well respected reporter. Even the mainstream media's USA Today is in agreement that Congress was wrong to go along with the outrageous power grab of OCP. Yesterday's Op Ed headline was amazing: "Wartime power grabs require beautiful sunsets." To quote the opinion piece,

If there is any redeeming feature of the excessively invasive eavesdropping law that Congress passed last week and President Bush signed Sunday, it is a "sunset" provision that makes all the bill's controversial provisions expire, unless Congress and the president agree to renew them.

. . . It's dangerous to give any administration permanent powers to fight a temporary war, even one that could last as long as the one against Islamic extremism. It's just as dangerous to trust an administration to police itself without court supervision.

A skittish Congress allowed itself to be stampeded last week into granting the president unfettered surveillance power. When it returns to Washington, it should do what it can to make sure that the sun goes down on this flawed measure.

The abridgement of U.S civil liberties is a serious and on-going problem. It is not enough that it will be "sunset-ed" (maybe) in six months. It serious enough in my mind that I will regularly visit the issue until it is fixed. As if I could have anything to do with it! But united activists could.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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