Friday Talking Points [38] -- Whiners And Cheeseheads

[ Posted Friday, July 11th, 2008 – 16:46 UTC ]

Welcome back to Friday Talking Points, after a one-week hiatus!

While plenty has happened in the past two weeks which bears close and careful analysis, I'd like to begin by focusing on one event. Barack Obama announced a masterstroke of political tactics last week, and I don't think everyone has appreciated fully what it is going to mean. I say this not as an "Obamamaniac," or as some starry-eyed follower who has been caught up in his "personality cult," but rather as a political observer (with an admitted left-wing bias) applauding a Democratic candidate on a monumentally brilliant decision.

I speak of Obama's acceptance speech. Which will be seen -- live -- by over 80,000 people in the stadium where the Denver Broncos play football.

That is just stunning.

Think about it: could John McCain even raise such an audience in Minnesota for the Republican convention? My humble guess is that McCain would have to bus them in to fill the seats.

I must admit, I had been a bit worried about the convention season, since the Democrats decided to schedule theirs first, meaning that a week later the Republicans may have stolen their spotlight... and (more importantly) the "bump" in the polls which traditionally follows the conventions for both parties. But I am worried no more.

Because America will get the following images in quick succession. First, Barack Obama accepts his party's nomination in front of a teeming throng of people (the biggest crowd to ever see such a speech in America's history) -- and all types of people at that: young people, ethnically diverse people, people from all walks of life, people who look like America -- and he does so on the forty-fifth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech. The networks will fall all over themselves drawing the obvious parallels, and my guess is that whatever "roving reporters" they have covering the speech "live" will have to fight to be heard over the roar of the crowd.

The cable news video montage, which will be replayed over and over again will go thusly: King's "I have a dream..." / Obama accepting nomination / eighty thousand people yelling their heads off in absolute joy.

Then, about a week later, John McCain will give his acceptance speech in front of a group of old, white people -- the same old, white people we've seen at every Republican convention for the past three or four decades. And remember, McCain will have to read his speech off of a TelePrompTer -- something he's notoriously bad at doing. And he'll have to follow a speech by (assumably) President Bush, and (if we're really lucky) Vice President Darth Cheney as well.

The only thing Obama has to avoid is getting too Leni-Riefenstahl-ish over the presentation. As long as none of the television talking heads says the words "Nuremberg rally," Obama will be golden.

As I said, I had been a little concerned about the convention season, and thought Obama would balance it with wiping the floor with McCain during a few national debates, but now I think he's got a good shot of gaining an insurmountable lead in the polls following convention season.

One can only hope...


Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

There were a few strong candidates for MIDOTW this week, I'm happy to report. Senator Russ Feingold showed (once again) why he should really have run for president this time around, by leading the fight on defeating the new FISA bill. Unfortunately for him (and for us) he wasn't successful, but that doesn't mean he didn't fight the good fight and give it the ol' college try. So Senator Feingold deserves an honorable mention this week for his efforts to protect the Constitution.

Likewise Dennis Kucinich. He has been fighting tooth and nail (against Nancy Pelosi, among other Democrats) to move forward articles of impeachment against George Bush. Due to some backroom deals (and arm-twisting, no doubt), his bill may actually be taken up by the House Judiciary Committee next week. This is indeed progress, but his award will have to wait until it actually happens. But, again, he deserves mention here for his efforts nonetheless.

But the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week was Senator Edward (Teddy) Kennedy, for making an appearance on the Senate floor in support of the Medicare bill which went through this week.

Not only did Teddy appear in the midst of chemotherapy for his brain tumor, but his presence meant the deciding vote would be cast in favor of the bill. As if this weren't enough, his vote convinced nine Republican Senators to hastily change their vote at the last minute, to side with the Democrats.

That's pretty impressive, I have to say.

The "Lion of the Senate" appears to have a few more roars left in him. More power to him! Get well soon, Teddy, we need your voice in the Senate now more than ever.

[Congratulate Senator Edward Kennedy on his Senate contact page to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

Sad to say, we also had a few contenders for the prize of Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award this time around. First, there was every single Democrat who voted for the FISA overhaul demanded by George Bush. Since you guys can't seem to find a clue with both hands, a flashlight, and a map, allow me to enlighten you: you voted for this abomination the same week that Congress' approval rating dropped to a new low in all of history -- only nine percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. You think maybe the two are somehow related? Nine percent... that's pretty bad. That means you have disgusted not only the Republican opposition, but also virtually your entire political base. Like I said, you think the two might somehow be related to each other?

Runner up this week for MDDOTW was Jesse Jackson, who proved what a nutjob (nutlessjob?) he truly is this week on FOX News. Or maybe not... how many thousands of interviews has Jesse done? Maybe he knew his microphone was on? Who knows... it'll end up helping Obama, that's for sure, but it still was a pretty embarassing thing for a Democrat to be caught saying.

But I can't dump on ol' Jesse too much. Anyone who has read "Green Eggs And Ham" on Saturday Night Live can't be all bad.

And, just as an aside, can we please call it what it is, rather than a "Sister Soulja moment" -- "disavowing black radicals to appear 'safe' to white voters moment," perhaps. I'm just saying... it'd be more honest.

Anyway, even Jesse Jackson couldn't sink to the level of our Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week, since the (dis)honor goes to... Barack Obama. Here is Obama, back in January (Talking Points Memo has the whole timeline of quotes):

I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill.

Ever since 9/11, this Administration has put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand.

The FISA court works. The separation of power works. We can trace, track down and take out terrorists while ensuring that our actions are subject to vigorous oversight, and do not undermine the very laws and freedom that we are fighting to defend.

No one should get a free pass to violate the basic civil liberties of the American people -- not the President of the United States, and not the telecommunications companies that fell in line with his warrantless surveillance program. We have to make clear the lines that cannot be crossed.

That is why I am co-sponsoring Senator Dodd's amendment to remove the immunity provision. Secrecy must not trump accountability. We must show our citizens -- and set an example to the world -- that laws cannot be ignored when it is inconvenient.

And here he is in June, just before he voted for exactly what he said he was going to support a filibuster in order to block:

It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives -- and the liberty -- of the American people.

It's not so much that he voted with Bush. It's that he said he wasn't going to, and then he did. Now, I have been in the trenches for Obama fighting off charges of "flip-flopping" because I think John McCain flips and flops about ten times for every time Obama does, so nobody can accuse me of jumping all over Barack here. But there's just no excuse for giving the opposition some ammo to use against you, especially on a vote where it would not have even mattered which way Obama voted (it would have passed anyway).

So for such flip-flopitude I must in all conscience award the MDDOTW award to Barack Obama this week. For shame, Senator Obama.

[Contact Barack Obama on his Senate contact page to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 38 (7/11/08)

In the continuing battle to get the mainstream media to pay attention to John McCain's inconsistencies, gaffes, and other flip-flops, Steve Benen over at The Carpetbagger Report has done a bang-up job of assembling the ultimate McCain flip-flop list. He is currently up to sixty-one major reversals for McCain -- almost none of them addressed whatsoever in the mainstream media at large. Benen has come up with a new title for McCain as well -- "Jukebox John" -- for changing his tune every few minutes.

Over at Huffington Post, Max Bergmann has an impressive list of idiocies from McCain from the past week alone which is also worth a look.

But there may be some good news on the horizon... or, to put it more accurately, some bad news in the press for McCain. John McCain has relied on "his base" (the media) for lots of feel-good stories because he cultivates a close relationship with the reporters covering his campaign. But that all may be changing. His new campaign head, Steve Schmidt, is of the Karl Rove "the media is the enemy" school of thought, which may signal a sea change in the relationship between the candidate and the (up until now) sycophantic press who is supposed to be covering him. Perhaps the feeling of being jilted will wake a few reporters up enough to actually examine McCain's record.

Hopefully, we'll begin to see signs of this in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled. Onward to this week's talking points, provided (as always) as a courtesy for any Democrat getting interviewed this weekend.



John McCain's campaign co-chairman Phil Gramm has singlehandedly counteracted Obama's perceived blue-collar voter "cling to religion" gaffe in one fell swoop. Obama, and Obama surrogates, should beat this drum as hard as possible in the next few weeks, especially since Gramm is John McCain's top economic advisor, and not some peripheral person to his campaign. And most especially since Graham is apparently standing by his comments.

"John McCain this week labeled Social Security 'an absolute disgrace.' Then John McCain's top economic advisor -- someone you would expect to see on McCain's Cabinet if he gets elected, and who now runs a Swiss bank -- just called the American people 'whiners' for seeing the reality of the Republican economic policies on their pocketbooks. The elitist attitude dripping from their words is just astounding. People in America are hurting because of what George Bush and the Republicans have done to our economy. People are not 'whining,' they are crying for help. These cries obviously fall on the deaf ears of John McCain, and the deaf ears of the man he trusts to give him economic advice. After all, Phil Gramm and John McCain don't have to worry about mortgages, gas prices, or student loans. They are millionaires. The GOP should just change its name to the 'Millionaire Party' -- it certainly would be a lot more honest."


   How many houses do you own, Senator McCain?

There are a number of ways to point out the elitism inherent in John McCain, but the best way is to focus on his own (and his heiress wife's) vast wealth as a way to show voters who he really is.

"No wonder John McCain doesn't 'get it' about the effects of the Bush economic policies on average Americans. It was just reported that his wife spent three quarters of a million dollars -- in just one month -- on her credit cards. This isn't exactly an 'average American family.' I keep wondering why the media doesn't ask very simple questions to show what an out-of-touch elitist John McCain really is -- questions like: 'So how many houses do you and your wife own, Senator McCain?' The average voter would be astonished at the answers to easy questions like that. If, of course, they were ever asked."


   Mental recession?

But Phil Gramm didn't stop at just labeling Americans as "whiners" -- he also told the country that we were in a "mental recession." Here's the quote: "You've heard of mental depression. This is a mental recession. We have sort of become a nation of whiners. ... You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline."

Barack Obama has already jumped on this one, and I can't improve on his words, which should be repeated by Democrats everywhere this weekend:

"I guess what he meant, is that it's a figment of your imagination, these high gas prices. America already has one Dr. Phil. We don't need another one when it comes to the economy. It's not just a figment of your imagination. It's not only in your head."


   Where's John?

John McCain has the worst attendance record in the United States Senate. He is running for president, but the media keeps letting him get away with criticizing Barack Obama's votes on issues, when McCain himself refuses to even show up to vote. It has now been over three months since McCain cast a single vote (his last one was April 8th -- he has now missed over 75 votes in a row). This needs to be pointed out.

"Where's John? Senator McCain has been using his opponent's votes as fodder on the campaign trail, but at least Barack Obama shows up for important votes. John McCain didn't even show up for the vote on the new GI Bill, and then later tried to take credit for it -- even though he opposed it. So the next time you hear John McCain talking about the way Obama just voted, the next question should be: 'Where's John?' If McCain can't even be bothered to take time from fundraising with fat cats to do his duty in the United States Senate, then he shouldn't be given a free pass when it comes to speaking of voting records. I say again: 'Where's John?'"


   Iraqis demanding timetables for U.S. withdrawal.

Iraqi leaders are now signaling in no uncertain terms that they want a timetable for American troops to leave their country. This threatens to derail Bush's efforts to tie the hands of his successor with a new Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that he wanted to sign without the benefit of congressional approval. But apparently Prime Minister Maliki is now looking over his own domestic political landscape and has come to the conclusion that it's time to ask the Americans to go. This paints George Bush and John McCain into the same corner.

"Both George Bush and John McCain have previously said that if the Iraqis were to ask us to leave, then we would, since they are a sovereign country. Now that the Iraqis are apparently ready to do just that, Bush and McCain are scrambling for some way to explain this. It seems that the Iraqis themselves are closer in their thinking to Barack Obama's plan for Iraq than to the 'we'll be there for 100 years' thinking of John McCain. I look forward to McCain 'refining' his plan to accept this 'fact on the ground' in the very near future, as his plan moves closer to what Obama has proposed."


   Is John McCain a cheesehead or not?

John McCain just raised the bar (or lowered it, depending on your outlook) on political pandering. He said, in an interview with a local television station, that when a prisoner of war in Vietnam, he gave his captors false information. He's told this story before, but the problem is he conveniently changed a key part of it in an effort to appeal to local voters. Here's what he said: "When I was first interrogated and really had to give some information because of the pressures, physical pressures on me, I named the starting lineup, defensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers as my squadron mates."

The only problem is, every other time McCain has told this story, he said it was the Green Bay Packers. The local station he gave this interview to is, naturally, in Pittsburgh.

"John McCain says he is reluctant to talk about his time as a prisoner of war, which is amusing because he brings it up every chance he gets. Just look at his campaign ads. But he just took political exploitation of his POW experience to a new level. In Pittsburgh, he told a POW story and substituted the 'Pittsburgh Steelers' for what he used to say was the 'Green Bay Packers.' Now, I would believe those who say he just had a 'senior moment' on the campaign trail if he had said this in San Diego, or Jacksonville, or Chicago. But he was clearly trying to appeal to local voters with this charmingly false story. How can we believe anything McCain says about his war experiences if he'll lie about details in a cheap effort to get votes? Will McCain stop at nothing in his effort to say anything to get elected? If he were here right now, I'd have to ask him: Sir, are you now or have you ever been a cheesehead?"


   GOP desperately seeking a platform.

The Republican National Committee has apparently discovered the internets. They now have a web page up soliciting ideas for the party platform. I provide this link for informational purposes only, and definitely not to encourage people to rush on over there and add spurious suggestions along the lines of: "Give a full pardon to Voldemort." Ahem.

But while this could be interpreted as an actual grassroots effort, a quick glance at the campaign calendar makes you wonder whether it isn't too little, too late for the RNC.

"It's kind of sad, really, to see that the Republicans are less than two months away from their national convention, and they don't know where they stand as a party, as evidenced by their beginning to solicit ideas for their platform online. Perhaps Americans will visit their online platform ideas page and tell them there are two reasons why they're not going to do very well in this election: their disastrous domestic policies, and their disastrous foreign policies."


Cross-posted at Democratic Underground

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

-- Chris Weigant


19 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [38] -- Whiners And Cheeseheads”

  1. [1] 
    Michale wrote:

    Since FISA seems to be the soup de jour, allow me to do a repost from down under....

    As an aside to David.. I'll address the points you made down there, up here.. Since this commentary does have a bearing on the FISA questions....

    FISA provides authority for warrantless monitoring of foreign communications.

    There have been very few cases involving the constitutionality of FISA. 2 lower court decisions, the courts found FISA constitutional. US v. Duggan, defendants were members of the IRA 743 F.2d 59 (2nd Cir., 1984). They were convicted for various violations regarding the shipment of explosives & firearms. Court held that their compelling considerations of national security in the distinction between the treatment of US citizens and non-resident aliens.

    In US v. Nicholson, defendant moved to suppress all evidence gathered under a FISA order. 955 F.Supp. 588 (Va. 1997). The court affirmed the denial of the motion. There the court flatly rejected claims that FISA violated Due process clause of the 5th Amendment, Equal protection, Separation of powers, nor the Right to counsel provided by the 6th Amendment.

    However, in a 3rd case, the special review court for FISA, the equivalent of a Circuit Court Of Appeals, opined differently should FISA limit the President's inherent authority for warrantless searches in the foreign intelligence area. In In re Sealed Case, 310 F.3d 717, 742 (Foreign Intel. Surv. Ct. of Rev. 2002) the special court stated "[A]ll the other courts to have decided the issue [have] held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information . . . . We take for granted the President does have that authority &, assuming that is so, FISA can't encroach on President"s constitutional power."

    OK, as I have established as fact, it IS perfectly legal for US intelligence to monitor foreign communications without a warrant…

    That's established as fact..

    OK Let's take a look at domestic laws..

    Cops get a warrant for Joe Blow's phone for illegal narcotics. During the course of this LEGAL monitoring, Jon Public calls Joe Blow and says something about having illegal guns for sale.

    Using this NEW information, cops can now get a warrant to monitor Jon Public's phone…

    A textbook example of how one legal warrant provides PC (probable cause) for a SECOND legal warrant on a totally unrelated crime.

    Everyone with me so far???

    OK, so what have we learned??

    It is perfectly legal for US intelligence services to monitor foreign communications without a warrant..

    On the domestic side, if evidence of a crime is learned during the execution of a legal warrant then this new information can be utilized as PC (probable cause) to obtain a NEW warrant to monitor the subject of the NEW crime…

    OK, so how does this all tie in to HR6304??


    We have legal authority for US intelligence services to monitor foreign communications.

    Interspersed with foreign communications is American communications..

    During the execution of legal monitoring, evidence of crime is flagged. Anything else is NIV'ed..

    Once the flagged item is analyzed, it is determined that it either originated or destinated in US Soil or it involves a US Citizen. One this information is learned, a warrant is obtained based on PC (probable cause) from a legal and constitutional monitoring.

    I'll be here all week. Be sure and tip your waitresses….


  2. [2] 
    Michale wrote:


    I hope you don't mind that I use your name instead of your posting name. 'David' is a lot easier to remember to spell than Akh... Akj... Er.... the other one...


    1) The first two cases were challenges to the constitutionality of FISA and the rulings by the lower court simply held that FISA was constitutional.

    Yea, that's the point I was trying to get across. That it's perfectly legal and constitutional for Intelligence services to monitor foreign/international communications...

    2) The 3rd case had to do with whether the government could use FISA to gather evidence of a crime. The decision ruled that the Patriot Act provided new latitude in surveillance and said that the government could collect evidence related to a crime as long as a substantial portion of the surveillance was of foreign powers.

    Yes, exactly. Basically, the FISA "appeals" court stated the the President has the authority to instigate warrantless monitoring of foreign/international communications.

    3) None of these cases have anything to do with Bush's circumventing the FISA law with the NSA surveillance program. The evidence collected suggests that the President circumvented the courts altogether and authorized the NSA's spying program which also intercepted domestic communications.

    The point here is that there really isn't any difference between domestic and international communications anymore.. All telecommunications is trunked on global lines.. It's like trying to pick out a single white minnow in a school of millions of light grey minnows.

    The technology doesn't exist to do that. So it must all be scooped up and analyzed and then either flagged for further attention or NIV'ed...

    One estimate has AT&T owing as much as $146,000 per individual with a phone in the U.S. if they were sued and lost. No wonder they want this bill.

    And THAT is exactly why TelCom civil immunity was so important.. Imagine EVERY American allowed to sue for a couple hundred thousand... Our telecommunications infrastructure would last a day... MAYBE two...

    5) There doesn't seem to be much argument Bush and the telecoms broke the law. That's why they've fought so hard to amend it and provide retroactive immunity.

    Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons should be applauded..

    6) I like how you mentioned "probable cause" in your argument. The warrant could be obtained with probable cause. That was the old FISA. Under the new bill, no probable cause is needed. There is also no need to prove that it's a foreign power or agent that is being spied on. The government can now spy on Americans.

    No, the government can spy on foreign/international communications. HR6304 doesn't change that.. But IT (HR6304) does INCREASE the 4th amendment safeguards.

    Have you read HR6304?? From my last couple weeks on HuffPo, I practically have the damn thing memorized...

    And there is ZERO Constitutional conflict with it.. It's GOOD for this country.. THAT is why it has enjoyed such huge bi-partisan support.

    The new bill actually erodes our rights more.


    Wrong... It actually increases protections. I can quote you the relevant sections if you don't want to read it yourself.. Trust me, I can quote them from memory! :D

    And, it provides protection to lawbreakers. And encourages companies to break the law in the future.

    No... It allows companys to do the right thing for the country without fear of being prosecuted for it.. Kinda like if you drive 90 mph to get your wife in labor to the hospital. You break the law, but it's for the greater good...

    The question really comes down to one of our founding principles: Are we a nation where no man is above the law? Or is somehow the President more like a king and above the law?

    Strangely, that's not the question I see posed here...

    The question I see posed here is, "Are we going to allow our "principles" to sign our death warrants?? Or, are we going to adjust our thinking to the reality of what we find ourselves in?"

    Gotta go... Gonna watch WANTED... I never knew Angelina Jolie had so many tattoos :D


  3. [3] 
    akadjian wrote:

    I like how one of her tattoos says "Know your rights".

    But Brutha Michale, you're really confusing me.

    First, you say ...
    "it's perfectly legal and constitutional for Intelligence services to monitor foreign/international communications"

    Then you agree with me about them breaking the law and say ...
    "Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons should be applauded."

    So on the one hand you're arguing it's legal, and on the other hand you're arguing it's illegal, but should be done anyways.

    Now I don't know a lot about logic, but I do know that you can't argue both of these points.

    So which argument would you like to take?

    I'd like to refute one of them, but I can't so long as you take both sides of the issue and do the job yourself.

    In the end, what I'm coming away with is that you know this is right, you know it deep down. You believe it. You're not sure why you believe it, but you believe it.

    So, like the characters in Predator who spray the forest hoping to hit their elusive prey, you fire off arguments left and right hoping to hit what you know is out there but cannot prove.

    - David

    "We go straight from the gut, right sir? That's where the truth lies, right down here in the gut. Do you know you have more nerve endings in your gut than you have in your head? You can look it up. I know some of you are going to say 'I did look it up, and that's not true.' That's 'cause you looked it up in a book." - Stephen Colbert, White House Press Corps Dinner

  4. [4] 
    akadjian wrote:

    p.s. I would love to ask John McCain to name 3 Green Bay Packers (and Brett Favre doesn't count). Or 3 Steelers other than Ben Roethlisberger.

  5. [5] 
    Michale wrote:


    First, you say …
    "it's perfectly legal and constitutional for Intelligence services to monitor foreign/international communications"

    Then you agree with me about them breaking the law and say …
    "Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons should be applauded."

    So on the one hand you're arguing it's legal, and on the other hand you're arguing it's illegal, but should be done anyways.

    Now I don't know a lot about logic, but I do know that you can't argue both of these points.

    So which argument would you like to take?

    It IS legal for Intelligence services to monitor foreign/international communications. The FISA Act of 1978 established.

    As far as the TelComs go, where the alleged illegality enters into things is that in assisting the Bush Administration with LEGAL monitoring, American communications were also monitored. That is the inherent flaw with FISA. It was fine back in 1978 where communication lines by country were easier to access. Now, it's all one big clump of lines. A "line" can carry a call from Syria to Argentina one moment and then carry a call from Sheboiken, NJ to I'llBeQuirky, NM the next moment.

    So, what's an intelligence specialist to do??

    That is why I have maintained from the get go that FISA is woefully inadequate to handle CT operations.

    But there explains how monitoring one line may be perfectly legal at one moment and be perfectly ILLEGAL the next moment.

    This is the problem that HR6304 was meant to address...


  6. [6] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Poor intelligence specialists. They never seem to have enough intelligence, do they?

    But if I understand you correctly, we are essentially saying the same thing:

    1) Monitoring foreign communications is legal under the FISA guidelines

    2) President Bush and the telecoms broke the law to establish a program that went beyond these guideline
    s to monitor Americans without a court-approved warrant or probable cause.

    NOTE: Your explanation that a line can be a foreign call one minute and a domestic call the next is not what was going on. The government was targeting Americans for surveillance in this country without a court-approved warrant.

    They could have been targeting terrorists. They could have been targeting Democrats like Nixon did.

    We'll never know though because the black hole of secrecy has become law.

    Here's a simple question that I think I know your answer to but am curious: Is it ok for the President to break the law?

    - David

    "Let's talk about your camp, Colonel. And don't play dumb, you're not as good at it as I am!" - Colonel Flagg

  7. [7] 
    Michale wrote:

    We'll never know though because the black hole of secrecy has become law.

    Yep, it's called Counter Terrorism Operations. And it's ONLY effective when absolute secrecy is maintained...

    Here's a simple question that I think I know your answer to but am curious: Is it ok for the President to break the law?

    It depends...

    Why is the law being broken??

    To serve selfish interests??

    Or to serve the greater public good??

    The answer is easy once that is established..

    No to the former...

    Yes to the latter...


  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    Where you as horrified as I was when Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA operative was exposed??

    You were, weren't you. And not just because you think it was Bush who did it, but because it put her life at risk...

    You have outrage that one operative's identity was exposed.

    But yet, you want to expose CT operations and methods that puts at risk hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of lives...

    Do you see the inherent contradiction in those two positions??


  9. [9] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Ah, a utilitarian. Interesting. Let's look at a quick example.

    Suppose I live in utilitarian land. I want to kill my neighbor and take his money. But ... there's a problem. Killing my neighbor is deemed wrong by my utilitarian neighbors.

    Now if my neighbor is a terrorist, however, things are different. So I build a case against him as a terrorist. I claim he has weapons of mass destruction. The people say, where's your proof? I can't tell you because it might jeopardize my terrorist operations. Well, how do we know he's a terrorist? Because I tell you I have proof. Where's the proof? I can't show you, but he's a terrorist and if I don't kill him millions will die.

    Is it ok to kill my "terrorist" neighbor?

    According to your "greater good" argument, the answer would be "no" because I'm acting for selfish reasons even though I'm stating otherwise.

    But, as one of the neighbors in utilitarian land, you don't know why I really want to kill my neighbor. The only argument you hear is that he is a terrorist and this sounds good from a utilitarian standpoint.

    As a neighbor, what do you do? Do you let me kill my neighbor because I say he's a terrorist?

    Iraq is not about terror. It is about our country wanting to secure oil for the future. To refer back to the analogy, it's about taking their money.

    Similarly, the new FISA is not about terror. Even though the President will claim this over and over. The new FISA is about our President selfishly protecting himself and the telecom companies that broke the law. The new FISA is about extending the power of the executive branch.

    Yet it's amazing to me that people still believe our President is trying to act for some greater good even though time and again, his words have been proven just that, words.

    Really, he's using terror as a political weapon. The big question will be, now that the Democrats have caved on one issue, how will he use it next? Republicans always have to have some issue that the Democrats are weak on. Even if they manufacture it. My guess is we'll be hearing a lot more about Iran.

    But I'm glad we agree on something: Our President needs more intelligence. I've argued from the very beginning that he doesn't have enough intelligence. And every time I think that maybe he has enough intelligence to handle an issue, he goes out and proves me wrong.

    So my profound hope is that through FISA, our President might actually listen to some of the people in his country. Maybe he'll wiretap an actual economics expert. Or a security expert. Or some statesmen. Or even just some average people. My hope is that he may actually gain some intelligence if he is able to listen to enough people in America.

    - David

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    Your entire argument falls apart with one fact.

    President Bush knows more about the situation and issues then you do.

    That being the case, you simply cannot unequivocally state that he is in the wrong...

    As to your scenario, let me lay one on you right out of "24"... Literally..

    Recall the 2nd Season (Or was it third??) where Jack Bauer was "ordered" to kill Ryan Chapelle or else thousands would die??

    It's called the Devil's Alternative. AKA Damned if you do, damned if you don't..

    How does this apply to your "Kill Your Neighbor" scenario? Easy...

    If you know in your heart and are completely sure that killing your neighbor would prevent the death of thousands, then THAT should be your only consideration... The fact that you would also get your neighbor's land (or wife, but we don't want to open THAT can o' worms, do we??) should be completely irrelevant...

    Consider the issue of Johnny in The Dead Zone... He KNOWS that Greg Stillson is going to ignite WWIII and kill MILLIONS... Does that justify killing Stillson??

    Finally, I ask you to consider things without an eye towards GOP/Democrat, Bush Bashing or any other partisan/political crap....

    Do we, as a country have a right to survive?? Do we, as a country, have a right to protect our citizens? And, if it comes down to a choice between a little less privacy, but a lot more safety, then what is the logical choice??


  11. [11] 
    akadjian wrote:

    I don't know that our esteemed President Bush does know anything more than I do.

    I judge him as I would anyone else. I look for evidence to see what kind of a job he is doing. So I'd look at things like:

    - How he falsely talked us into the Iraq War
    - How poorly he handled Hurricane Katrina
    - How much of the legislation he has passed has gone to help large corporate donors like the oil companies, pharmaceutical companies, and banking industries
    - How he plays politics w/ the justice department; firing attorneys for no other reason than they don't align politically with him
    - How he talked big about a faith-based initiative and then, once elected, barely funded it
    - How he promised "small government," yet resides over one of the biggest governments in history
    - The national deficit
    - And, the current banking and housing crisis

    When I look at the evidence, I don't see President Bush doing a good job. This has nothing to do with partisan politics.

    Evidence seems to be what separates us. I'd like to see some. And you're comfortable with vague assurances from our President that he knows what he's doing. Well, if he knows what he's doing, he sure does an awfully good impersonation of someone who seems completely unqualified and overwhelmed by the job.

    Don't get me wrong, Michale. I'm sure he's a decent guy. But he's a decent guy who doesn't seem to know what he's doing. And I'd like to think that we should have someone who is qualified to be President as our President.

    There's two ways to get respect. One, is from the position you hold. And the other is to earn it. I respect the position of the Presidency. But the man who is holding it has done little over the course of 8 years to have any of the earned respect.

    You're arguing that anytime Bush (or anyone for that matter) shouts "terror" he should get what he wants. No questions asked. Because you know in your heart.

    In my fictional scenario you said you'd let me kill my neighbor if you knew in your heart I was doing what was right. How do you know? All you have to go on is my word.

    That's why I'd like to see some evidence. Because all of the evidence I have seen so far seems to point to the fact that this isn't about terror. It's about using terror to play politics. Which is disgusting.

    For instance: Whatever happened to going after Osama bin Laden? Remember him? The actual terrorist? Why don't we hear President Bush talking about going after him anymore?

    - David

  12. [12] 
    Michale wrote:

    Your argument hasn't been whether or not Bush has been doing a good job. It's apparent that there have been some screw-ups, although it's easy to counter that with the old "hindsight is 20/20" adage..

    No, your argument is that Bush isn't acting for the greater good and that Bush is using terror as a political weapon. And your only basis for that is your animosity towards Bush.

    Evidence seems to be what separates us. I'd like to see some. And you're comfortable with vague assurances from our President that he knows what he's doing.

    And that's where my experience comes into play. I KNOW what it's like to command troops. I KNOW that what I hear and do is not necessarily for consumption by the grunts on the line..

    The truth is we were viciously attacked on 11 Sep.. The threat IS real whether it's acknowledged by the Left or not.

    So, if the President says that he has to listen to my phone calls, because it's the only way to listen to terrorist's phone calls, then I don't have any reason NOT to believe him. Trust is not an issue because I don't really talk about anything that I would care who listened in on.. Once again, I don't feel that MY personal privacy is worth ANY risk to innocent lives.

    Let me put it another way.. Imagine YOU are in sole control. You have the MICHALE-given authority ( :D ) to allow or deny Bush's surveillance program.. You, of course, would deny it. A week later, there is a devastating terrorist attack that kills hundreds of thousands.. And it comes to light that surveillance WOULD have allowed authorities to prevent the attack.

    Just IMAGINE how you would feel. Being the cause of someone's death, however righteous the cause, is the VERY WORST possible feeling that you could EVER have to live with. The ONLY way you could feel worse is multiplying that feeling by thousands. Or hundreds of thousands..

    I know you don't like my "what if" scenarios. Having been on the receiving end of a couple the last week or so over at HuffPo, I see your perspective as to how annoying they are. But I think it is different in this case, because over there, the guy was arguing a tangible legal/illegal issue. With my "what if" I am going for the esoteric consequences of our actions.

    In my fictional scenario you said you'd let me kill my neighbor if you knew in your heart I was doing what was right. How do you know? All you have to go on is my word.

    Actually, I said if YOU knew in your heart yada yada yada. But I see your point.

    However, your neighbor situation is not exactly analagous.. Allow me to tweak it..

    First off, my relationship with you is bad. You have lied to me time and time again. When a flood was threatening our neighborhood, your haphazard approach to laying sandbags caused immense damage to our neighborhood and killed a few people...

    Now, as bad as you are, your neighbor is much MUCH worse. Your neighbor is the PROVEN leader of a neighborhood gang. This gang is responsible for a dozen brutal murders in the neighborhood. This is all documented as fact.. Then you come to me and say, "Michale, I want to tap my neighbor's phone line to make sure he is not planning more attacks on us."

    Now, it's confirmed that we don't like each other. You look down on me and I don't trust you. But, I also know that your neighbor is scum of the earth and so, without hesitation, I say go for it and do you need any tools??

    A couple days after you surveill the neighbor, you come to me and say, "Michale, this neighbor is going to attack again and kill every one of us in the neighborhood. I need to kill him before he does. But I won't do it, unless you agree"

    I don't trust you. You are incompetent and a liar. But I also must consider that, since you are "in the know", that you MIGHT be right and telling the truth. I know that the neighbor has instigated attacks before so there is ample precedent to believe that it's possible he will attack again.....

    So, what goes thru my mind??

    On the one hand, you could be lying for political advantage within the Neighborhood Assosciation.. But can I afford to take that risk??
    Can I afford to nix your planned assassination, only to see the deaths of each and every one of our neighbors???

    OK, OK, that's a hell of a "tweak", but you have to admit, it's more analogous to the current situation.

    That's why I'd like to see some evidence. Because all of the evidence I have seen so far seems to point to the fact that this isn't about terror. It's about using terror to play politics. Which is disgusting.

    For instance: Whatever happened to going after Osama bin Laden? Remember him? The actual terrorist? Why don't we hear President Bush talking about going after him anymore?

    That's the problem with CT operations. If it's public, it's completely ineffective. Worse, it's actually COUNTER productive.

    I have always said that one of the worst things about being a cop is that it ONLY shows when you are doing a BAD job.. Multiply that twenty-fold and you get an idea how bad it is in CT ops.. When CT ops do a bad job, people die...

    As far as not mentioning Bin Laden.. Would YOU want to talk about your biggest abject failure of your presidency???

    Oh, and just for the record?? Regarding your "neighbor" problem??

    Gut the fucker!!


  13. [13] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Heh. Very interesting. Can see how politics make the job really tough. Your comments remind me of the HBO show "The Wire." Cops on the ground get pressured from the top all the time in the show. Yet they still have to deal with the reality on the street. Very realistic. I think you'd like it.

    But my argument that Bush is using terror as a political weapon does not come from my animosity towards Bush.

    It comes from what I've seen of his administration. He has chosen to pursue Iraq rather than pursuing Bin Laden. He continually beats the Democrats over the head claiming they are "soft on terror".

    And rather than fight to go after terrorists, all of his requests are about expanding executive power. For example, one of the complaints from the intelligence community has been that there's not enough info on the ground. But is this part of his plan? No.

    Everything with this President has to go through the Office of Political Affairs. Karl Rove's former office. This is the office that is politicizing every aspect of Bush's administration. He has set up his administration to keep Republicans in power first, do a good job of running the country second.

    So rather than my argument coming from any animosity towards President Bush, my animosity towards Bush is driven by his approach to politics - use terror and fear to stay in power. Of course, the coin flips both ways. The Democrats need to be tougher and define themselves better.

    What I like about Obama is that I believe he will put the country first without politicizing the argument. That's my hope anyways.

    (Ok, it's true he let me down on FISA, but I still believe he will do a better job. My feeling on FISA is that he caved to political pressure rather than doing what is best for the country, but that's another story.)

    As for the scenario above. As you tweaked it, you're coming closer and closer to having evidence that the fictional terrorists are terrorists. So long as there is legal evidence, I'm all for going after them.

    But when you start going after terrorists just because someone says they're terrorists, that's a dangerous can of worms. Why not just label all Muslims terrorists? For that matter, why not just label all Democrats terrorists :)?

    Wow. This is a lot for a Monday. I'm out.
    - David

  14. [14] 
    Michale wrote:

    I won't go point by point.. Just a couple mentions..

    And rather than fight to go after terrorists, all of his requests are about expanding executive power.

    Expanding the executive power to fight terrorism. I mean, seriously. Do you HONESTLY think that Bush WANTS to listen in on every day Americans?? Why?? Ignoring the sheer MAGNITUDE of such a task, the question is why would Bush want to?? Do you think he REALLY cares about Billy Joe Jim Bob's moonshine?? Or Aunt Matilda's corns on her feet??

    What reasonable and rational reason would Bush have to want to do that??

    Political blackmail is a possibility, I grant you, but a remote one. The likelihood of getting caught and the consequences of getting caught are just too great to consider it a realistic reason.

    As far as keeping Bush in power?? In 8 months or so, Bush is going to be gone.. So, that's not logical either..

    What I like about Obama is that I believe he will put the country first without politicizing the argument. That's my hope anyways.

    Same here... That is why I was so heartened by Obama's support of FISA. It's just not possible that it was a case of political pandering. As the reaction showed, Obama lost a LOT more than he could EVER hope to gain.. The fact that there was every political reason to kill HR6304 or at least stand against it, shows me that Obama stood on principle more than anything else. That politics didn't enter into his decision. That's the kind of attitude that first drew me to Obama. A kind of "Jack Ryan" who does the RIGHT thing, regardless of whether or not it is popular...

    But when you start going after terrorists just because someone says they're terrorists, that's a dangerous can of worms. Why not just label all Muslims terrorists? For that matter, why not just label all Democrats terrorists :)?

    Let me tell you a story. It's not a "what if", it's a true story.. I was chief of operations for a large security company that specialized in high risk operations. I had many good friends on the local, county and state police forces. One day, a high profile State official was brutally murdered.. (Not one of our clients :D ) It was the talk of the town for months. They finally arrested a subject and said that the motive was strong arm robbery. But there was major controversy surrounding the arrest. There didn't seem to be much evidence to support a conviction and there was compelling evidence to support that the suspect was a patsy and that the real motive was a conspiracy high up in the State government. It was rather personal for me, because my wife was an eyewitness to the crime. But it was never followed up on.

    I remember remarking to one of my cop friends how this conviction seemed like a bum rap and maybe the guy really didn't do it.

    His response I remember to this day, verbatim..

    "Doesn't matter if he did it or not. He was a scumbag who probably did a bunch of other stuff that he didn't get busted for. So it all comes together in the end"

    That bothered me for two reasons. One, I didn't like that an innocent man was going to die. (Did I mention he was put to death for the crime??) And, two... It means that the REAL killers are walking around free..

    Now that was back when I was young and more idealistic than I am today...

    I now since the point of that cop friend's attitude..

    How does this translate to the "terrorist" issue??

    If there are people being held as terrorists who are well and truly completely innocent of ANY crime, I am sure that that will come out. I mean, seriously.. Do you think our people WANT to torture innocent people because it get's them their jollies??? Do you HONESTLY think that??

    So, if the people are truly and completely innocent, it will come out..

    And for those that are guilty, well then they just had a turn of bad luck.. Perhaps they should have lead a more honest life....

    It's a shame that this is the way it has to be, but when one considers the alternative.....???

    Aren't you glad I didn't do a point by point? :D


  15. [15] 
    akadjian wrote:

    Wow. You believe politicians? Now who's idealistic? :)

    And it's not about keeping Bush in power. It's about building a "permanent Republican majority."

    And yes, if everything is secret, I don't necessarily trust politicians (whether they be Dems or Reps) to use their power for good. Nixon succumbed to temptation. Hence the reason for oversight, not a rubber stamp.

    And I don't believe in the "guilty until proven innocent" argument you put forth. That's not a law I'd support.

    Your example of someone being executed when they may not have committed the crime is a great example of what could happen. Now that person might be a scumbag, but could also be a saint. Doesn't matter. We can't prosecute people just because they might be a scumbag. Not until we prove some crime. It's the basis of our entire justice system.

    And Glenn Greenwald at Salon has a great article on how many of the Dems covered their own butts in the FISA vote:

    Peace out,

  16. [16] 
    Michale wrote:

    Wow. You believe politicians? Now who's idealistic? :)

    I keep telling ya'all, with a few exceptions (4 to be exact) I am the most liberal one on here. :D

    And yes, if everything is secret, I don't necessarily trust politicians (whether they be Dems or Reps) to use their power for good.

    And therein lies the rub.. Because you and yours cannot be adequately protected unless it IS in secret..

    For me, if it's a choice between knowing the secrets or putting me or mine at risk, I would rather stay blissfully ignorant..

    Our world has grown so complex and interwoven that you simply CANNOT go thru life without SOME form of trust in your elected officials. Otherwise you will be miserable..

    Remember the old sitcom, FAMILY TIES?? It was the series that launched Michael J. Fox's career. David Gross & Meredith Baxter-Birney played old hippies who have grown up and were raising kids. Their youngest got so caught up in "causes" (Ozone depletion, global cooling (ok I made that last one up :D ) ) that she just was sooo depressed and depressing.

    Anyways, my point is, if you think worst case scenario about EVERYTHING, what's the point in life???

    And I don't believe in the "guilty until proven innocent" argument you put forth. That's not a law I'd support.

    I sure wish more on the Hysterical Left would keep this in mind...

    Your example of someone being executed when they may not have committed the crime is a great example of what could happen.

    Yea, but as I see things now, you have to consider what COULD happen if NO action was taken.. That doesn't really apply to the murder, but it does in today's counter terrorism actions. Yes, it's sad that an innocent man is incarcerated.. But what of the possibility that the man is guilty and allowed to kill again??

    And Glenn Greenwald at Salon has a great article on how many of the Dems covered their own butts in the FISA vote:

    Normally, I don't read Greenwald. His Anti-Obama stance rubs me the wrong way.. But I made an exception and I am glad I did. Because it simply re-enforces what I have been saying all along. That these measures **ARE** necessary for the sake of the country. It's a complete bi-partisan conclusion..

    It's also as I suspected. The ONLY reason that Impeachment is "off the table" is because Congress authorized EVERYTHING that Bush did....

    I have been saying that exact same thing for months..

    Nice to be vindicated.. :D


  17. [17] 
    akadjian wrote:

    I don't find Glenn to be anti-Obama at all. He is just trying to make the argument about principles over politics.

    Democrats were involved in FISA not because they agree with it, but because they were afraid of being labeled as "weak on terror."

    It's not a compromise. They got their asses kicked. When Republicans use the phrase bipartisan, this is typically what they mean. It means getting the Democrats to "rubber stamp" everything you do. And then branding them as weak.

    Not to let the Dems off the hook. There's two sides to every relationship and many Democrats have played right along with the Bush administration because of politics. They've made bad decisions such as authorizing the Iraq war because they were afraid of being labeled weak.

    Same for the new FISA. Bad for the country, but they're afraid of being called weak.

    They need to work to stand for their principles. I think this is largely what Glenn and Chris and I and others are arguing in different ways.

    - David

  18. [18] 
    Michale wrote:

    Democrats were involved in FISA not because they agree with it, but because they were afraid of being labeled as "weak on terror.

    Assumes facts not in evidence.. You can't know what is in their hearts. Senator Obama made a pretty convincing case that the new measures are needed...

    I tend to think the best of people (usually). Unless there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I think that Senator Obama and the rest of the 'crats followed their conscience and did what is best for the country.

    I mean, seriously.. The GOP's leader has approval ratings in the TEENS!!!

    Why would the Democrats CARE about any GOP branding??

    The excuse that the 'crats were afraid of being branded as "weak" by the GOP is simply not logical..


  19. [19] 
    akadjian wrote:

    You do follow your GOP script very well. When in doubt, say something LOUDLY and then just say the opposition isn't logical. Ah, the irony of name calling someone "non-logical." Classic.

    Here's the case:
    - Obama opposed retroactive immunity in the bill
    - He then changed his mind and decided to support it

    Here's part of his response:
    "I wouldn't have drafted the legislation like this, and it does not resolve all of the concerns that we have about President Bush's abuse of executive power."

    He has concerns and says if he had put the bill together, he wouldn't have done it this way. He is compromising and not doing what his conscience says.

    He's making a bet though that the people upset with his FISA decision will vote for him anyways. He is both avoiding criticism as weak and working to attract voters swayed by right-wing arguments. And, as Glenn argues, he may be helping many in Congress to cover their butts.

    But what he is clearly not doing is passing what he thinks is the best FISA bill.

    - David

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