As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

If At First You Don't Succeed, Scare, Scare Again

So the latest on the FISA bill is this: the House and Senate were supposed to meet today to begin the compromise of the RESTORE Act, which has no telecom amnesty, and the Senate Intelligence Committee version of the bill, which does. But the Republicans took a walk and refused to negotiate.

"In what should have been a bipartisan, bicameral meeting, staff members of the House and Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees met today to work in good faith to reach a compromise on FISA reform. As we have said, we are using this week to work on a compromise that strengthens our national security and protects Americans' privacy. Unfortunately, we understand our Republican counterparts instructed their staffs not to attend this working meeting, therefore not allowing progress to be made in a bipartisan, bicameral way. While we are disappointed that today's meeting could not reflect a bipartisan effort, we will continue to work and hope Republicans will join us to put our nation's security first."

So that extension of the Protect America Act which expired last week, which was such an outrage that all of us were going to wind up dead, in our beds, today, in fact I'm surprised there's anyone alive out there still reading, was apparently not important enough to forsake some political grandstanding.

Apparently President Me First and the Gimme Gimmes isn't allowing a compromise because he doesn't want a compromise. He wants the phone companies to get away with lawbreaking and that's the end of it.

Asked about a potential deal with Democrats, Bush said, "I would just tell you there's no compromise on whether these phone companies get liability protection." The administration says it needs the help of the phone companies for its post Sept. 11, 2001, surveillance.

Bush said his strategy for breaking the deadlock on the surveillance bill will be to keep talking about why it should be passed on his terms. "The American people understand we need to be listening to the enemy," he said.

Considering that nobody is paying attention to this irrelevant President or his little fearmongering games, this seems like a weird tactic. That doesn't mean it won't work - there are still enough Democrats, like North Carolina Senate candidate Kay Hagan, who can be frightened out of their wits into giving up crucial liberties (the preferred candidate to take on Liddy Dole, Jim Neal, gets my support for his stance on this alone) - but the President is operating under a different standard. He still thinks that he's the center of attention and he can whip out press releases filled with falsehoods and that'll be enough to send the Democrats into a tailspin. It still might be, but I'm with publius on this one:

In short, the GOP learned too much from its 2002 victory. Rather than seeing 2002 as a one-time victory based on unique historical circumstances, they’ve come to see it as a universal recipe for electoral success. In their minds, they can win by taking any national security issue on which the Dems are divided and embrace the policy that maximizes executive authority (or more precisely, Bush’s authority – I’m sure they’ll all transform into squawking Hayeks if Obama or Clinton win).

The reason the GOP embraces 2002 so completely is essentially the flipside of why the Dems avoid it – they were, shall we say, deeply satisfied by the results. Winning elections is nice and all. But what made 2002 so orgasmically stimulating was the utter decimation of their opponents’ spirit. It’s fun, I hear, to see groups of people you despise so utterly demoralized and shamed. (I feel that way when the Duke basketball team loses). For them, 2002 was like a first-time heroin rush – and now they keep trying to recapture that lovin’ feeling. (ed. They should watch more than the first 5 minutes of Trainspotting. Agreed.) [...]

These historical subtleties were lost on the GOP though. The lessons they took from the 2002 and 2004 elections were to double down on terrorist demagoguery. My ideological comradskies tend to view this GOP strategy through moral lenses – but the party was simply acting rationally. GOP officials thought fear and demagoguery won them elections, so it’s a strategy they returned to [...]

Today, the long-term costs of that short-sightedness are becoming clear. The 2006 election was the first clue, but it won’t be the last. Remember that, in the run-up to 2006, the congressional GOP had fallen in line behind a “stay the course” strategy. They didn’t care that Iraq wasn’t working. What mattered is that it kept their handy “you hate the troops/love the terrorists” strategy intact. But then, miracle of miracles, the Dems turned the tables and used “stay the course” as an offensive attack [cue 2001 Space Odyssey drums]. Because so many GOP candidates (e.g., the odious George Allen) had advocated that very policy from the get-go, the Dem strategy tied the entire party to the war, which made the candidates politically vulnerable.

The 2008 election is shaping up to be an extension of the 2006 wave – and for similar reasons. It’s no accident that the parties’ enthusiasm is so asymmetrical right now. For one, contrary to what its elected leaders think, the Republican rank-and-file aren’t idiots. They are profoundly demoralized by recent failures – and, frankly, by the second-grade level emotional appeals.

The Dems, on the other side, are simply reconfirming Newton’s Third -- for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When your electoral strategy is based on demonizing 45% of the country, that 45% is going to get pissed off and become more politically active. In this respect, the Dean campaign was essentially the first tremor of what could become an Obama earthquake.

If the Democrats have any self-respect, they'd let the FISA bill just die in conference. The Republicans aren't interested in a good-faith effort, obviously; they want either massive executive power or a political issue. The former is unconscionable; the latter DOESN'T APPEAR TO BE WORKING ANYMORE. This isn't leading news programs. There isn't a grassroots community dying for the telecoms to get off the hook. Republicans reached for the needle to get their sweet heroin rush and found it to be empty.

I don't want to get overconfident but if Democrats can resist the sweet dulcet tones of Jello Jay Rockefeller begging them to save his telecom buddies, they should easily be able to just drop this. And it'll blow away. And the lawsuits will go forward, and maybe someday we'll actually get to the bottom of one aspect of what the Bush Administration has been doing for the last 7-plus years. Thin gruel, I know. But also essential.

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