S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

National Security Drama in the Senate

Senators tied in knots by circumstance -
Republicans in the Senate have some difficult decisions to make, and so do Democrats. The NSA domestic spying issue epitomizes what a political minefield senators on both sides of the aisle face. With ambitions to be the next president, Republican senators will continually be faced with opportunities to distance themselves from President Bush. Amidst charges that they are weak and unfocused, Democratic senators have regular opportunities to stand vigorously on principle with the advent of the current administration's incredible governance problems.

Minority Leader Harry Reid had to figure out yesterday what to do about Senator Russ Feingold's introduction a presidential censure resolution (based on the NSA issue) without seeming to lack backbone as an opposition leader. Democrats ended up backing away from the Feingold proposal.

Senator Russ Feingold has to figure out the next strategic steps to take as he pursues his goal of holding our current president accountable for breaking the FISA law. On the Senate floor yesterday, to quote the NYT,
The senator, Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin, said, "What the president did by consciously and intentionally violating the Constitution and laws of this country with this illegal wiretapping has to be answered." He added, "Proper accountability is a censuring of the president, saying, 'Mr. President, acknowledge that you broke the law, return to the law, return to our system of government.' "

Senator Arlen Specter has to figure out what the NSA domestic spying program is all about without being in on any administration briefings. Without such knowledge his committee cannot exercise proper oversight of the program's lawfulness. His Judiciary committee will now have the responsibility to deal with the Feingold censure resolution, according to this USA Today story from which I quote,
A day of tough, election-year talk between Feingold and Vice President Dick Cheney ended with Senate leaders sending the matter to the Judiciary Committee.
"I look forward to a full hearing, debate and vote in committee on this important matter," Feingold said in a statement late Monday. "If the Committee fails to consider the resolution expeditiously, I will ask that there be a vote in the full Senate." . . . Even as he spoke, Democratic leaders held off the immediate vote that Majority Leader Bill Frist requested. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he didn't know if there ever would be one. Durbin said that Feingold had sought to use the censure resolution "as a catalyst" for thorough hearings and investigations.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Republican straw poll winner, will have to figure out how to do his job while running for president in 2008. He called for a quick vote on presidential censure resolution introduced in the Senate yesterday. At that the Democrats blinked. Score one.

Senator John McCain, Republican straw poll loser, has to figure out how to continue to be the perceived front runner for the nomination, at the same time as he relates to an increasingly unpopular lame duck president and serves as Arizona's senator. This was his early "take" on the domestic spying question, according to a (12/21/06) USA Today story,
"Do I have the legal authority to do this?" Bush said Monday. "And the answer is, 'Absolutely.'" He cited his constitutional authority as commander in chief and the congressional resolution, which he said authorized him to bypass requirements for a warrant.
Members of Congress from both parties who voted for the law said in interviews Tuesday that they had no idea the administration would interpret it to cover such a step. In a review of the five-hour House debate, no mention of intelligence gathering in general or electronic surveillance in particular -- or of bypassing warrants -- could be found.
"I think it's probably clear we didn't know we were voting for that," says Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Senator Jay Rockefeller has to figure out how to exercise Democratic leadership in the Senate Intelligence committee, because the chairman, Senator Pat Roberts, refuses to investigate the administration's NSA domestic intelligence program. According to the Washington Post,
The Senate intelligence committee, once a symbol of bipartisan oversight, is now so torn by partisan warfare that it can barely function in a time of sharp national debate over intelligence matters, according to several analysts,
officials and past and current members . . .
Their anger has focused mainly on the committee's chairman, Republican Pat Roberts of Kansas. A staunch defender of Bush administration policies, he recently said some of the panel's Democrats "believe the gravest threat we face is not Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, but rather the president of the United States."
When Roberts adjourned a committee meeting last month rather than allow a vote on the proposed wiretap inquiry, Vice Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) declared the panel "basically under the control of the White House, through its chairman."
Polarized - Some of these knots could be untied if Republicans would join with Democrats more often in bipartisan ways. They must understand that they are burdened with a president who is in job approval free fall.
Drama - There are few academy award winners here. The Democrats must continue to try to find their voices, as Senator Feingold bravely did with his censure resolution. For now he will be relegated to the "Bad Cop" role in the drama, while the rest of the Democrats continue to try too hard to look like the "Good Cops."

My "creative post" today at Southwest Blogger is a poem about windmills.

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