Monday, March 06, 2006

Bush to DOJ: "Will No One Rid Me of This Meddlesome Priest?"

Dana Priest. Of the Washington Post.

Bush is going after journalists like Ms. Priest, and James Risen of the NYT, for disclosing his secret criminal behavior. Like the CIA's kidnapping and detaining suspects on Bush's orders, in secret prisons around the world, torturing and murdering them without benefit of any legal authority, no due process. Or the NSA's warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, and other illegal spying on Americans. Bush has directed the Justice department to investigate the criminal prosecution of journalists for reporting what your government is doing to people all over the world, in your name. Bush is targeting all journalists who report his administration's illegal behavior.

The White House has no problem with the media leaking classified information that Bush-Cheney want leaked. Like Valerie Plame's name. And Brewster-Jennings, the cover agency that the CIA created for her and other clandestine CIA operatives to work out of. But hypocrisy has always been a Republican strong suit.

This week, Republicans angrily broke with Bush over the U.A.E. ports' deal. If Republicans are angry with Bush about anything, it's that too many of his chickens are coming home to roost at one time and making it hard for them to face their constituents.

Make no mistake about it, Republicans in Congress have no intention of stopping Bush. They will do what they need to do to make what Bush is doing not illegal. They will turn Bush's actions into the law of the land, and damn the Constitution. But even Republicans are having a hard time convincing themselves that their rationalizations will fly.

The Republican committee chairs are stalling the hearings that Americans want and expect, but they have to do it before the news sinks in with most of America that this is only one of several invasive (and criminal) spying programs that the NSA has turned on U.S. citizens:
Specter said Monday that he wants Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to testify again before his committee about the legal rationale for the NSA program. Specter said he worried that Gonzales' subsequent written responses to the committee suggested that the administration was conducting other secret programs.

"The letter that he sent to clarify his testimony raises a lot more questions," Specter said. "There is a suggestion in his letter that there are other intelligence programs which are currently under way."

In the last few years, after some Bush-Cheney assault on Americans' civil liberties, I've seen Arlen Specter step up to the plate and I have had hope. Hope that I could relax and let our elected leaders do their jobs: To protect our Constitutionally-guaranteed rights and then save us from the problems created by their legislative interventions. I could let my guard down and get on with my life. However, once my back was turned, Specter inevitably would cut some deal in the dark of night that gave Bush everything that he wanted. Specter would then deliver "the speech." About how no bill contains 100% of what anybody wants. About how life on the Hill is about compromise, and getting the best bill you can at the time.


The only people compromising in Washington are the Democrats, much to their constituents' displeasure.

Cooperative compromise by all parties may have been true in Congresses pre-Newt and pre-Christian Coalition. Back when Democrats, Republicans and Independents saw each other first and foremost as people and neighbors, Americans on the same side, with shared values and ethics. When civility reigned, and expressing the reasoning behind your beliefs and ideas wasn't risking ridicule, derision and shouting down. In the days before we learned civic conversation from Limbaugh and Hannity. Before Congressional Republican leaders arbitrarily and unilaterally changed the rules by which they make law, ruthlessly eliminating any and all opposition and alternative ideas before they are ever expressed. Threatening to trigger "nuclear options" if disobeyed.

Since World War II, whenever modern conservatives have gotten ahold of power, Republicans turn on everybody who doesn't share their strict and narrow views. They do not compromise and they do not yield. Opposition is not merely swept aside, it is to be annihilated. Conservatives have brooked no opposition, not even from within, from one of their own. Jim Jeffords learned that lesson that hard way.

As a moderate, Jeffords found himself in a continual headlock with his party's leadership when trying to best represent his constituents. Jeffords switched political parties thereby denying Republicans the majority. Hell hath no fury like a Republican scorned.

Arlen Specter delivered that same tired speech again after the Patriot Act Reauthorization bill passed several days ago. This time, however, the reason for his "yes" vote came with the tortured logic understood only by those who work as professional dissemblers:
Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., was in the odd position Tuesday of urging his colleagues to pass a bill so flawed that he planned new legislation and hearings to fix it.

"The issue is not concluded," said Specter, R-Pa. He said he plans more legislation and hearings on restoring House-rejected curbs on government power.

His bill would make the government satisfy a higher threshold for warrantless wiretaps and would set a four-year expiration date for the use of National Security Letters in terrorism investigations.

However appetizing to Specter's colleagues in the Senate, the new bill contains items House Republicans flatly rejected during talks last year.

Sensenbrenner has insisted that once the House approves the renewal and sends it to Bush, his chamber is done with the issue for the year.

Many years ago (I think it was in during the Carter administration), Max and I had an argument about the Holocaust: Could it ever happen again?

Max said it couldn't because it had happened. It was fathomable, and the world was alerted to the possibilities of human nature in a time of modern civilization. Not some remote period in human history, not B.C. but A.D. Not in the Dark or Middle Ages, but in our own recent memory, during our lifetime.

I argued that that was the very reason that it could happen again. Because people wouldn't believe that it was possible, in one lifetime, for so many millions of people to follow blindly a mad and evil regime. It would take the careful management of certain people and groups (or the breaking of the triangle, as Peter Daou terms it), stripping particular groups and institutions of their influence. The media.

Those that can't be bought outright (corporate media), pay them individually for favorable articles (Armstrong Williams). Embed the media with the troops so that they won't write anything critical, because they've become "one of the gang" whose lives depend on the soldiers that they're traveling with. Journalists should never become beholden to the subjects of their stories. Or vice versa.

Journalists aren't supposed to be schmoozing with the people they're covering, but these days we see them 'cavooting' with the very people that they're supposed to be reporting objectively on to the public.

In a way, the imprisonment (or threat) to today's media is long overdue. But for dereliction of duty. For giving this White House, and Republicans, and the rightwing a free pass for so many years. Today's media deserves being raked over the coals for not scrutinizing the Bush administration as it did the Clinton administration. The media deserves condemnation for abdicating their vital role as the fourth estate of this democratic republic. However, it leaves us, The People, in an awful mess.

"Then they came for the journalists"

This story and Bush's tactics have come full circle. It began with the media as willing accomplices in Bush's intimidation scheme to subvert the democratic republic (Bob Novak/Judy Miller/Bob Woodward/Valerie Plame/WMD/Iraq) to, hopefully, recognizing that Bush and Republicans are only too happy to eat their own young. It remains to be seen whether journalists realize that their only protection is to break with their tradition of cowardly appeasement, investigate and expose the Bush administration's criminal enterprises. And quickly. For everyone's sake.

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