Sunday, March 12, 2006

Feingold Watch II

Senator Russ Feingold will introduce a Resolution Monday morning to Censure President Bush for his illegal NSA domestic spy program. Having had weeks to explain his rationale and legal authority, George Bush has failed to demonstrate that authority. Feingold thinks it is time to publicly rebuke this President saying on ABC's This Week:

"This conduct is right in the strike zone of the concept of high crimes and misdemeanors"

After seeing his appearance on "This Week", once again Senator Feingold has impressed me with his principled stand and his intelligent explanation of it. As I have read others say this is a good strategic move. It sets this issue for discussion as Bush prepares to once again go out on the road and sell his "War on Terror".

The other thing this did was put Bill Frist on the defensive which we already know he doesn't do very well. Having won this weekend's Republican straw poll, Frist I'm sure was hoping for some positive press. Instead he had to follow Feingold on "This Week" and try to defend the President. All he could come up with was to call it "political" and repeat the old Republican stand-by "this sends a terrible message to our enemies".

No Mr. Frist this sends a valuable message to our citizens, our allies and to emerging Democracies around the world. It sends the message that our Constitution is the law of the land and that we are all equal under it.

Way to go Senator Feingold. We are watching!


  1. First, Frist won a straw poll in his home state of Tennessee. He is not a frontrunner for the nomination by any stretch.

    Second, Feingold is claiming that he is doing this on behalf of the American people. This is not a winning issue. The same populace that all but revolted over the prospect of allowing A-rabs to manage our ports is not going to support articles of impeachment because Uncle Sam wants to listen in when said A-rabs call their friends and family in the Middle East. Feingold has a measure of principle to him, but those who want to jump on his bandwagon after linking arms with Lou Dobbs last week over the ports deal are going to sound disingenuous and hypocritical.

  2. My agreement and support of Feingold is on principle. I never said that this is necessarily a "winning issue". But it is an appropriate move by the Senate for a President who has disregarded the law of the land. My admiration of Feingold is that he seems to do what he feels is right no matter what the political

    Bush tries constantly to take the same tact, but his problem is that he stands on the wrong principals.

  3. The law on this is dubious. Constitutional scholars disagree and the divide is not merely right/left. Compare this to a history of Presidents stretching their power in times of crisis (Clinton authorizing warrantless spying on domestic groups after Oklahoma City) and it hardly seems extreme. It deserves a debate, not censure.

  4. Constitutional scholars disagree and the divide is not merely right/left

    Can you please direct me to a "constitutional scholar" on the left who believes that the President is free to ignore the FISA court?

  5. Cass Sunstein, who has written entire books assailing Bush's conception of jurisprudence.

  6. We should do more than watch, we ought to call our Congressional representatives and Senators and ask them where they stand on censure? Both Feingold and Conyers have bills to censure Bush now. We need to know where our representatives stand on this before we vote for them in November.

    Bush also did more than violate the FISA court. He signed about 35 executive orders authorizing domestic spying without congressional knowledge or approval—unlike Clinton and unlike Abraham Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War. Plus, neither Congress nor the American people know the full extent of Bush's domestic spying program, because Bush has refused to be forthcoming.

    Setting the record straight: Contrary to what anonymous conservative purports, Clinton did not authorize "warrantless" wiretapping, which is illegal under FISA. Clinton authorized "physical searches" for foreign intelligence purposes, which were not restricted by FISA. Unlike Bush, Clinton also never asserted that he had the right to ignore FISA.

  7. Bush authorized wiretapping of conversations between the US and the Middle East. Clinton authorized electronic surveillance of conversations between Americans in the wake of Oklahoma City. Knowing what he knew then he was not wrong. Knowing what Bush knew then and what he knows now he was not wrong. The appropriate analogy would probably be Truman's nationalization of the steel mills. In my opinion wrong and unconstitutional, but it took the Supreme Court to make the decision. If wiretapping is taken to the Supreme Court and they rule against Bush, a failure to cease such activity could be construed as an actionable usurpation of power.

  8. Anonymous Conservative,
    Please provide links supporting your facts? Because, as I noted and support above, Clinton did NOT authorize electronic domestic surveillance and he did NOT bypass FISA. Nor did Clinton bypass Congress, nor did he argue that he had the right under the "Unitary Executive Theory" to ignore the law as he saw fit. Bush has done all of those things, and that's quite a difference. As with the signing statement Bush attached to McCain's anti-torture bill, Bush has stated that he believes he's above the law. Each Executive Order that Bush signed to authorize domestic spying, and he signed about 35 that we know of, was a violation of FISA. The Supreme Court doesn't need to find Bush broke the law. Bush has admitted he did so and his EOs are proof enough for Congress to censure Bush.

    Nixon was charged in Article II with an impeachable offense for illegal wiretapping without a ruling by the Supreme Court. The difference between Bush's illegal wiretapping and Nixon's is that Nixon's was very limited in scope, whereas Bush's may be extremely broad. Bush's domestic surveillance program may exceed what he has admitted to publicly. Further, there are private companies involved with the NSA data mining, such as AT&T—potentially targeting millions of phone calls and emails. Nor may the domestic spy program be limited to domestic to foreign communications. Without the oversight of Congress and the FISA Court it's impossible to know what criteria, limits, etc., the Bush administration goes by, if any, in its domestic spy program or how many people are being spied on?

    Whatever became of FISA warrants, which are easy to obtain and rarely denied? Bush has used the NSA, whose mandate was to conduct foreign surveillance, to spy on Americans in ways that violate the Constitution, such as the 4th Amendment, and he's done so without any oversight or check from FISA or Congress. It's lucky we found out about this. But how many other powers has Bush asserted without our knowledge, and will we ever find out?

  9. First of all, Nixon authorized wiretaps to spy on his political enemies (largely though not exclusively as part of the coverup of Watergate). Clinton too used extralegal means to pursue political opponents, but that's a different story.

    The point being that, as I said before, there is plenty of precedent for presidents making decisions first and receiving assent (be it legislative or judicial) later...if it is received at all. Most Americans are actually concerned about the threat of terrorism, a target too many on the left see as secondary to President Bush. Might posterity decide the President overstepped his bounds? Sure. But in the meantime, the majority of the population feels safer knowing that the government is doing something to protect it.

    FISA has pitfalls, among them the fact that the government needs to know the name of the person it intends to surveil. This is not always feasible when the conversations cross borders. Cell phones are easily replaced. Lastly, sometimes the evidence does not yet meet the burden of proof. FISA was part of the 1970's-era reforms that gutted the intelligence community (particularly human intelligence) and paved the way for the lapses that led to 9/11. Throwing a few clicheed quotes from Benjamin Franklin or Samuel Adams will not disguise the fact that every democratic society has had to find the appropriate balance between liberty and security. Neither you nor Russ Feingold will be the final arbiter.

  10. After listening to Feingold's speech and the subsequent Republican "rebuttal" comments, I can't tell which sounded more ridiculous (as I paraphrase): Arlen Specter's assertion that "no one suggests that George Bush has acted in bad faith," or Jeff Sessions' attempt to argue that "Daniel Inouye is grieving for his deceased wife by hoping the Democrats will support the troops by accepting Bush's program of warrantless wiretaps!"

  11. Giraffe4:31 PM

    Senator Feingold has my attention.

    We can debate back and forth about who did what in the past while forgetting that the present is our problem.

    Saying this president makes us feel safe, is a very wide stretch for any American to take who is paying attention.

    He's way over his head in this job, and it is a tough one, we must all admit. None of us can possibly know the secret deals being cut, and the back room strategies being hatched to keep him afloat.

    For all appearances, he is a Cruise Ship President. Each morning he gets the program slipped under his door that tells him what to wear, where to go, and what to do. Doesn't it seem obvious that this is what is happening.

    Nothing has gone right with him, and sometimes I wish he would vary the script. Being bull headed is not being a strong leader. AS I write this, I am looking at the photo on the previous blog. He looks so trapped. He needs a way out before he cracks.
    Maybe Feingold would do him a favor.

    Feingold takes a chance. It's obvious that he is willing to risk just to keep some balance in the agenda.
    We shall see.

  12. That's a copout. If he's a puppet, who's the puppeteer? Dick Cheney? He's been marginalized since the Iraqi insurgency mushroomed. Condi Rice? Iraq certainly wasn't her doing. Karl Rove? Rove is not a policymaker, he's an image man. For better or for worse, Bush's program unites elements of different subordinates POVs and repudiates others. He can be a. an evil genius, b. a dimwit and thus a puppet of other evil geniuses or c. none of the above. A and B are mutually exclusive.

  13. Whatever the hell he is the U.S. and the world will be better off when he is out of office!

    But it will take years - maybe decades to repair the damage.

  14. Giraffe10:09 PM

    I'm not sure who he is either, but he has put terrorists, journalists, and Democrats all in the same boat, and is using homeland security as HIS personal homeland security, and THAT has nothing to do with the security of the American people. wE HAVE EVERY RIGHT AND DUTY TO TRY TO EXPOSE WHO HE REALLY IS BECAUSE HE IS DESTROYING THIS NATION. Whoever is pulling the strings is
    starting to loosen their grip. For that we can be thankful. The more they struggle to pretend to be what they are not, the more obvious it becomes. Cutting Feingold off in mid-speech in the senate was a perfect example of how difficult it is for them to hear the truth. I say they protest to much. That is always a sign of guilt. Maybe there is a conscience somewhere. WE shall see.

  15. Your anger borders on the irrational. It is the functional equivalent of the right-wingers of the mid-90's droning on about Clinton's supposed body count. You cannot merely disagree with his policies (or, better yet, differentiate between those that you disagree with and those that do not particularly offend you), you need to demonize him and those in his Administration. Bush's foreign policy decisions have been part of a conscious attempt to render the country secure over the long term. Reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of such policies, but there is no need to ascribe sinister motives. Katrina was the byproduct of poor leadership by Bush and an orientation towards terrorism that rendered FEMA of a number of post-9/11 reforms that needs to be reevaluated. Lastly it was the result of a devastating hurricane that hit a uniquely vulnerable area. The point is simply that too many on the left have crossed the line from disagreement into frothing, raving villification.

  16. You cannot merely disagree with his policies (or, better yet, differentiate between those that you disagree with and those that do not particularly offend you)

    Let me be the first to say that I am not particularly offended by George Bush's policy of not supporting his top aides' right to shoplift from Target stores!

  17. Giraffe7:16 AM

    Perhaps you are right about the raving, but that is the passion that allows me to say what I am sure many Americans feel.

    Your attempts at being so logical, and informed often miss the point, because they are always attempts to bring the subject to your new point of discussion. I really don't care a tinkers damn about your new points of discussion, but I'll give you one since that is your style.
    How can you not be enraged by what Bush just did in India and Pakistan? How much closer has he brought the world to destruction? How much safer are we all with this country sanctioning greater nuclear power to India.

    Aparently he now wants to divide the world into red and blue countries, for his own attempts at keeping control.

    If you don't get passionately angry at some of his actions, somethings missing in this picture. I'm not a bit ashamed of my anger or my raging. It is the proper response here, if you care about life beyond yourself.
    Explain HIS logic. Mr. Studious, Logic Man.

  18. I will ignore the clumsy insults and focus on your question.

    To argue that India is somehow in America's 'orbit' is ridiculous. India was part of the non-aligned movement during the Cold War. She is liberalizing her economy (and prospering) but that does not place her lock-step behind George Bush. India has close ties to China and votes against America more often than not in the General Assembly.

    India had been a nuclear pariah, possessed of the bomb but not subject to oversight. Now most of India's nuclear facilities are subject to IAEA inspection. Peaceful nuclear technology undermines the likelihood India would provide a market for a rogue Middle Eastern country such as Iran. I'm not naive enough to suppose that this technology could not be dual-use, but there is a far greater difference between none and one than there is between having enough weapons to destroy Pakistan twice and having enough to destroy them several times over. Intelligence is the ability to make reasonable distinctions. This is one such distinction.

  19. Lost Wages Joe11:18 AM

    Greetings AnonCon, my little neocon friend. Regarding your multiple-choice question earlier in the string, I would vote B. I would contend that our illustrious leader is, in fact, a dumb-ass, and that the Prince of Darkness, Big Swingin' Dick Cheney, is the puppeteer. Cheney may be marginalized as far as his deservedly-miserable public image goes, but it sure looks to me like he's still calling the shots.

    I would also proudly cop to "frothing" anger towards this administration. I don't trust them, I don't like them, and I disagree with nearly every position that they have taken on every issue. I would again point out, as I have in the past, that this administration's mistakes have directly resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people. I think that's grounds for moral outrage and righteous indignation. Wake up and smell the rotting corpses, A.C.

  20. Dick Cheney is a bogeyman and little more. He satiates the need of the Left for someone to blame for any and everything, and since they have convinced themselves that Bush is an idiot they need someone with an intellect. Cheney had his favorites in place at the beginning of Bush's first term. Almost to a man they are gone. His influence on domestic policy has never been particularly strong. His influence in Iraq waned as the insurgency grew.

    Depending on who you ask, Hussein was killing his own people at the rate of 20-30,000 a year. 30-40,000 is the number of people who have died in the three years since the invasion. Even if you believe the worst case scenario reports from Iraq, life is far better than it was under Saddam.

  21. Giraffe12:04 PM

    Anon Con, How come you never give any sources for your information? I read this blog because it always gives references.

    Numbers aren't the best way to determine whether life is better or worse in Iraq.

  22. Since Lost Wages Joe has gone back to your multiple choice question, I will do the same.

    Choice A and B are only mutually exclusive because Bush can't be a "dimwitted genius!" However, he can be an "evil dimwit" who is a puppet of other "evil geniuses," or, as is seeming more and more the case, a puppet of other less dimwitted "evil dimwits!" That would be my choice, C.

    As for Cheney, you have described him as "marginalized" and as one who "will depart if and when he wants to depart" (from another thread.) That sounds to me like you are perfectly willing to use mutually exclusive arguments when it suits your purposes!

    As for Rove, you have said he "is not a policymaker, he's an image man." I beg to differ. Rove is a "cutthroat politics" man. In fact, he is the Barry Bonds of politics, willing to do anything to score political home runs, even if it means injecting disasterous policies into the agenda (and risking eventually shrinking America's testicles to the size of a pea!)

  23. Cheney controlled one of the most powerful entourages in Washington, including Wolfowitz, Libby, Feith, etc. Libby is indicted, Wolfowitz is at the World Bank and Feith is out of government. Sources? George Packer, Fukuyama...I spend more time reading books than I do articles.

    You say numbers aren't the best way to discern what's better or worse in Iraq. Why not anecdotes? How about the girls who were plucked off the street so that Qusay could rape them (despicable as rape is in this country, it is infinitely worse in one where premarital intercourse is still punished by death)? How about two of the three largest sectarian groups trampled underfoot by the third? The Arabization of Kirkuk? The Anfal? The oppression of the Southern Shias? You can make a case that the war was not in our geopolitical interests, and you can certainly argue that the Administration emphasized faulty intelligence because WMD was a better casus belli than democratization. Lastly, you can make one large case or a million smaller ones that postwar Iraq was utterly bungled. To argue that Iraq is worse off without a brutal tyrant and his perverted, sado-masochistic sons is a far tougher case to make.

  24. Giraffe5:13 PM

    Everybody please support Feingold. Call your congressmen. We need to keep this issue alive. Democrats have an opportunity to speak up and we need to let them know what we think. A censure will clip the wings of arrogance in the White House, but we can't just hope it will happen, we all need to get to the Congress. We did it with the port deal and we can do it with this deal too. You are all very prolific writers. Get your words to the Congress. Thank Feingold. Don't just let him hang in the wind wondering if we are behind him.