Someone needs to give Jane Harman an award for this

It will be extremely difficult to top the California Blue Dog in the race for most shameless statement of 2009.

Published May 4, 2009 2:48PM (EDT)

(updated below - Update II)

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about one of the most shameless and absurd spectacles to appear in Washington in some time:  the self-righteous, self-obsessed rage expressed by Blue Dog Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) -- leading defender of Bush's illegal domestic eavesdropping programs -- upon learning that one of her conversations had been legally eavesdropped upon as part of a criminal investigation into the actions of a suspected Israeli agent.  Over the weekend, Harman (along with half of the U.S. Congress) appeared at the AIPAC conference and continued her new anti-eavesdropping crusade, actually vowing to lead an investigation into potential eavesdropping abuses to assure that it would never happen again.  Atrios notes just some of the points that makes her behavior incomparably shameless.

But all that said, nothing can top this quote from Harman, uttered near the end of an AIPAC panel discussion after she realized that nobody was going to ask her about this matter and thus brought it up herself.  As reported by a pro-AIPAC blogger in attendance:

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) said she is "not a victim" but a "warrior on behalf of our Constitution and against abuse of power" . . . .

But almost 40 minutes into the discussion Sunday morning, as moderator Dan Senor started to wrap up and asked the final question of the four panelists, no one had even mentioned the issue.  So Harman took the matter into her own hands -- winding up with a spirited defense of the Constitution and AIPAC.

Jane Harman is a warrior on behalf of the Constitution and against abuse of power -- that's the same Jane Harman who tried to bully The New York Times out of writing about Bush's illegal spying program, who succeeded in pressuring them not to publish their story until after Bush was re-elected, who repeatedly proclaimed the program to be "legal and necessary" once it was revealed, who called the whistle-blowers "despicable", who went on Meet the Press and expressed receptiveness to a criminal investigation of The New York Times for publishing the story, who led the way in supporting the Fourth-Amendment-gutting and safeguard-destroying FISA Amendments Act of 2008, and who demanded that telecoms be retroactively immunized for breaking multiple laws by allowing government spying on their customers without warrants of any kind.

That is who is a self-proclaimed "warrior on behalf of our Constitution and against abuse of power."  How can that ever be topped?  Once Harman is done with her investigation into eavesdropping abuses, here are some other events that can begin:

* a full-scale inquiry into detainee abuses, led by Dick Cheney;

* a bipartisan, Blue Ribbon panel on the corrupting influences of money in government, co-chaired by Rod Blagojevich and Jack Abramoff;

* the launching of a new organization to combat the reckless use of anonymous sources in journalism, headed by Judy Miller and Politico.

On the bright side, many people have lamented the profound failure of Congress to exert oversight over executive branch abuses, but it seems a solution to that problem has been found:  just make sure that the abuses in question happen to Jane Harman, and aggressive inquiries will commence.  Pardon me, but I just have to repeat this one more time:  Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) said she is a "warrior on behalf of our Constitution and against abuse of power."

* * * * *

Though I once disparaged it, I have been increasingly finding mildly productive uses for Twitter, and now use it with some frequency for short notes that seem worth mentioning.  Those interested can follow that feed here.

On a personal note, I made a new friend today via email -- Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media.  Political debates are important but forming new friendships like that are ultimately what really matters, the real motive for doing what we do.


UPDATE:  Among Washington political and media insiders, it has become such conventional wisdom that Bush crimes must not be prosecuted that it's impossible to address every new column dutifully spitting out the same pro-immunity, Brodersque argument.  That's why I have said nothing about two of the most recent and most egregious additions to this growing, Bush-defending canon:  this one in Newsweek and Slate by Jacob Weisberg, and this one in The Washington Post by Michael Kinsley.  Fortunately, Dan Froomkin does his typically thorough and persuasive job of dissecting each of them and highlighting their profound flaws.

On a related note, this week,  two lawyers -- former OLC official James Hirschhorn and former New Jersey Attorney General and state Supreme Court Justice Peter Verniero -- wrote as explicit an endorsement of presidential lawlessness as can be imagined, entitled "Torture memos and the Bush administration: Time to move on."  So extreme -- though typical -- were the logical and ethical flaws in this argument that I asked Salon to send each of them an invitation to be interviewed by me about their piece on Salon Radio.  Hirschhorn, currently a partner in the New Jersey firm Sills Cummis & Gross P.C., sent back an e-mail today which, in its entirety, states:

Thank you for your invitation, but Mr. Verniero and I believe that the piece speaks for itself and will have to decline.

It's hard to fathom the intellectual cowardice necessary to publish such a strident, controversial, provocative argument, and then refuse to discuss it with those who want to question you about it, and worse, to do so on the trite and shallow ground that "the piece speaks for itself."  Actually, "the piece" does nothing of the sort, as it is a model of logical fallacies and historical inaccuracies that provokes all sorts of questions that are dishonestly ignored in the argument.  If someone is afraid to address questions and criticisms about their argument, they might want to refrain from publishing it.


UPDATE II:  In comments, sysprog notes some ample and self-interested reasons why the aforementioned Peter Verniero would be inclined so vehemently to oppose accountability for wrongdoing by government lawyers.  As always, it's worth noting how unsurprising it is that virtually all members of the political and media establishment favor immunity from consequences for lawbreaking and other forms of malfeasance by members of the establishment.  As the Jane Harman saga underscores, establishment elites, if nothing else, seem to be very much in touch with their self-interest.

By Glenn Greenwald

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