Excessive bipartisanship and other matters

The last thing Washington needs is more harmony between the two parties

Published February 25, 2010 11:26AM (EST)

(updated below - Update II - Update III)

One of the strangest prongs of conventional Beltway wisdom is the lament that there is not enough bipartisanship.  The opposite is true:  many of the most damaging acts inflicted on the country by Washington are enacted on a fully bipartisan basis -- the most destructive political act of this generation, the invasion of Iraq, was fully bipartisan, as were most of the post-9/11 civil liberties abuses and other Bush-era initiatives-- and, at least in certain areas, the harmonious joining together of Republicans and Democrats continues unabated:

 Senate votes to extend Patriot Act

Democrats retreat from adding new privacy protections to the law

The Senate voted Wednesday to extend for a year key provisions of the nation's counterterrorism surveillance law that are scheduled to expire at the end of the month.

In agreeing to pass the bill, Senate Democrats retreated from adding new privacy protections to the USA Patriot Act.

The Senate approved the bill on a voice vote with no debate. It now goes to the House. . . .

Supporters say extending the law enables authorities to keep important tools in the fight against terrorism. It would also give Democrats some cover from Republican criticism that the Obama administration is soft on terrorism. . . . Some Democrats, however, had to forfeit new privacy protections they had sought for the law. . . .

"I would have preferred to add oversight and judicial review improvements to any extension of expiring provisions in the USA Patriot Act," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "But I understand some Republican senators objected."

A mountain of evidence has emerged over the last several years documenting pervasive, systematic abuse of the Patriot Act powers.  The proposed safeguards were extremely modest and would have provided minimal oversight on how those powers were exercised.  Leading Democrats such as Dianne Feinstein spent all years ensuring that the proposed reforms were weakened to the point of virtual meaningless.  But as weakened as they were, "some Republican senators objected" and might have called Democrats "soft on terror," so that was the end of that.  The domestic surveillance law that Democrats spent years assailing as dangerously overbroad when out of power is renewed in full now that they are in power.  That's the Beauty of Bipartisanship, and the last thing we need is more of it.

* * * * *

I'm not able to write much today due to travel-related events, so I'll just add a few other items:

(1) Newsweek's Ben Adler purported to respond to the post I wrote several days ago about Newsweek's internal deliberations over the word "Terrorism."  Time constraints prevent me from addressing this, except to say that it's hard for me to believe that Adler actually read what I wrote, since the points he claims I overlooked were ones I expressly addressed, and the aspects of their discussion which he claims I omitted were ones I explicitly included.  Moreover, Adler's denial that Newsweek was reluctant to use the term Terrorism for Joseph Stack is strange, given that the whole point of their deliberations, as the magazine's editor defined it, was to have "a discussion over here about the aversion so far to calling the Austin Tax Wacko a terrorist," and the very first response, from Managing Editor Kathy Jones, was to explain what she called her "rule of thumb" "handy guide" that the word is only for foreigners protesting "the American government," but not used for Americans.  Adler's response is one of those which negates itself, and I'm content to allow readers here and elsewhere to compare what Newsweek actually said to what Adler now claims they said and decide for yourself (see also: this insightful objection to Newsweek's discussion from The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates).


(2) I was on Rachel Maddow's show last night discussing the term "Terrorism" and the Joseph Stack case, and that can be seen here:


(3) Also yesterday, I was on Dylan Ratigan's show, along with Josh Marshall, discussing various matters, and that can be seen here:


(4) This morning at roughly 8:00 a.m., I'll be on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman.  Live video stream and local listings are here, and the video and transcript will be posted shortly thereafter.


UPDATE:  The segment I did on Democracy Now this morning is here.


UPDATE II:  I'm now being deluged by Newsweek responses.  In addition to the above-linked response from Adler, there is now this so-called "Open Letter to Salon's Glenn Greenwald" by Newsweek Managing Editor Kathy Jones, as well as two separate accusatory emails I received earlier today from Newsweek.com Editor Devin Gordon (see that exchange here).  On one level, I really wish I had time to answer these now, but because I'm traveling, I don't.  On another level, these don't really merit much of a response.  I'm more than content to allow readers to read what Newsweek employees now claim they (and I) said and compare it to what we actually said. 


UPDATE III:  I'll just note one more point about Newsweek.  For all their strident claims now that they were merely discussing the reluctance of others to use the term "Terrorism" for Stack, and not their own reluctance, note that they did not, in fact, use the term anywhere in their article about Stark's attack.  By contrast, they classified their piece on Nidal Hasan's Fort Hood attack -- which targeted a military base -- as "Terrorism" and used the term in the body of the piece.  Newsweek can claim now that they were merely distantly observing the practices of unspecified "others" when it comes to how the term Terrorism is applied, but it just so happens that those descriptions comport with their own conduct. 

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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