Lights! Camera! Meltdown!
The hearings on domestic spying that will get underway today had the potential to actually answer some very fundamental questions about executive power in wartime and the limits that should be placed on government spying. Too bad that Democrats have to be involved. And it’s also a shame that this is an election year.
Put those two factors together and instead of a serious debate all we’re likely to see is some more off the wall antics by Democratic Senators and, by necessity, over the top responses by their Republican colleagues in defense of the President.
The fact that this does a huge disservice to our democracy will be lost in the overheated rhetoric by Democrats who will set the stage for potential impeachment hearings next year if the Dems get control of the House. The following is intended to give the readers some hints of what to look for during these hearings:
1. Whichever Democratic Senator gets to lead off the questions, I will bet a week’s wages that the name “Nixon” will be spoken within 2 minutes. And I will bet an additional week’s wages that the ex-President’s name is raised by Democrats more than the current President’s.
2. Much will be made of the charge in the Washington Post yesterday that “only” 10 or 20” terrorist suspects were caught in the NSA digital dragnet while 5000 or so American citizens had snippets of their communications looked at by NSA analysts. I really hope the Democrats take this tack because it will highlight the fact that the program actually works. Those are 10 or 20 terrorist suspects that we didn’t know about before.
3. Democrats will go nuts over AG Gonzales rationale for the program. They will say that when they voted to give the President broad powers to protect the nation after 9/11, they really didn’t mean it. They were for expanding the powers of the executive before they were against it. And we know how well that meme works, don’t we?
4. Ted Kennedy will be incoherent.
5. Arlen Specter will have one foot firmly planted on each side of the issue until the polls tell him which way to jump.
Speaking of Specter, the Pennsylvania Senator came out yesterday and said the NSA intercept program was illegal…without knowing much about it. He said it was “in flat violation” of the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA). Unless the Senator, who is not a member of the Intelligence Committee, has been seeing a soothsayer lately, he really can’t make such an extraordinarily broad claim.
6. Count the number of blue ties worn by Senators. I will bet that more than half of them will be wearing ties of that color.
7. Joe Biden will have a perpetual smile on his face that will need to be surgically removed by the end of the hearings.
8. Diane Feinstein will be wearing a red dress. No word on whether or not Chuck Schumer will also wear a red dress or whether he will go with something more subdued – like a clown suit.
There will be serious questions asked about the NSA program. But since no one can give the kind of technical details that would enlighten the members about whether or not the program is legal and constitutional, the issue will not be resolved to anyone’s satisfaction. Because in the end, there is no alternative but to trust the President that what he’s doing is right.
This is an impossibility for liberals and getting to be a chore even for many Republicans and libertarians. But unless we want our intelligence secrets plastered all over the front pages of the world’s newspapers (or at least more than they are already), no definitive word can emerge that will allow us to judge the efficacy of the program.
The one thing that has struck me about this program and the response by lawmakers is that even Democrats like the ranking House Intelligence Committee member Jane Harman have not called for the termination of the program and indeed, have not even pushed much on reforming FISA to bring the program retro-actively under its auspices. This seems to be a dead giveaway that the program is both necessary and probably technically legal. At least, that would be my reading of the Democrat’s reaction.
Don’t expect too many fireworks between Senators although if the AG proves too much the moving target, Democrats may get frustrated and begin to weep.
I hope they brought their blue hankies with them today.
Lori Byrd and I are on the same wavelength this morning (Not about the blue ties and hankies…about how useless they will end up being.)