Profiles in learned helplessness
The regime's Lucy-with-the-football trick appears to be working its mesmerizing spell on the Charlie Brown Democratic leadership once again.
Sure, the Cheney-led government's been flouting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without warrants for more than five years -- openly and defiantly since the NY Times editors finally saw fit to print the story they'd been sitting on since before the 2004 elections. And sure, the regime's refusing to tell Congress what the surveillance actually involves, and lying and stonewalling about the even more illegal interception program that preceded the current lawlessness. The contempt with which the regime views Congress was made so vivid by Attorney General Gonzales' "I'm not even trying to pretend I'm testifying" performance last week that even Republicans wouldn't step up to defend him.
Normal people wouldn't see this as the ideal moment to push for further loosening of warrant restrictions on surveillance. But we're not ruled by normal people, we're ruled by a small imperial court, confident in their ability to cow the people, the supine media, and the increasingly symbolic Congress with the incantation of "heightened threat."
If Democratic leaders had learned anything from the way in which they were stampeded into approving in advance the ruinous Iraq war, or the disgraceful, cowed way in which they went along with "legalizing" torture and indefinite detention last summer and fall, they'd be telling the executive branch to back off and cool their jets. They'd point out that they'd made plenty of changes to FISA already to accommodate the regime's supposed needs, and that they wouldn't even consider further discussion until they were satisfied about what has already gone on.
But no, once again they step eagerly in the trap, still apparently so afraid of being labeled "soft on terror" that they're prepared to give more unchecked power to an already out-of-control executive. This is a level of inability to break out of a losing pattern that, if it happened in a sporting event, would raise suspicions that the fix is in.
When I read this morning that the Congressional leaders actually want to pass FISA "reform" before the August recess, I just lost it. At this point, trying to lobby the leadership feels like a sucker's game. Which is too bad, because the ACLU's produced an excellent lobbying tool, Myths and Facts about FISA that counter every one of the regime's talking points.
Posts by Steve Benen, Jeralyn Merritt, and mcjoan have more detail.
Update: 5:50 pm 2 August - Insight into the weeds of FISA "reform" from TPM Muckraker. Meanwhile, the atmospherics surrounding the negotiations (Roll Call via Talking Points Memo):
Capitol Police officials have stepped up the department’s security presence on Capitol Hill in response to intelligence indicating the increased possibility of an al-Qaida terrorist attack on Congress sometime between now and Sept. 11.Beautifully played, Mr. Cheney.
The August-to-Sept. 11 time frame was confirmed by a Capitol Police source who said Congressional security officials were recently made aware of the potential threat by federal anti-terrorism authorities. The Capitol Police department has a liaison from the Homeland Security Department working in its Capitol Hill command center.
On Thursday afternoon, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer, who currently serves as chairman of the Capitol Police Board, acknowledged the noticeable increase in Capitol Police presence on the Hill but declined to discuss any specific threat or dates.
Update: 12:45 pm 4 Aug - The endgame: Wash Post front page: "Senate Votes To Expand Warrantless Surveillance - White House Applauds; Changes Are Temporary"
Analysis from Marty Lederman, the indispensible.
Webb voted with Bush. I'm leaving the party, and electoral work, for good. Also the country, if I can arrange it. The Military Commissions Act was passed the day before the Webb fundraiser for which I was a major organizer last year. The county chair had to talk me back from the edge that morning. I used up all my hopes and rationalizations then; the well is dry.
"Changes are temporary"? I'm not that much of a fool.