Various matters

Bipartisan attacks on Obama over Israel, illegal wars, and Reid's Rovian tactics on the Patriot Act

Published May 26, 2011 3:27PM (EDT)

(updated below - Update II  - Update III)

Travel yesterday and today has prevented and will continue to prevent extensive posting until later today, perhaps tomorrow morning (for those in Boston, I'll be speaking at this ACLU of Massachusetts event this evening).  Here are a few items worth noting until then:

(1) Democrats continue to cowardly distance themselves from Obama's very unremarkable comments about Israel, while Republicans continue to accuse him (falsely) of the ultimate political sin:  "President Obama is not Israel's friend."

(2) In response to the growing recognition (in both parties) that the war in Libya is patently illegal, the White House has requested that Congress vote for a resolution supporting the war, but Congress thus far appears unwilling to do so.  If we were a country that even pretended to believe that the President is bound by the law, that would be a serious problem.

(3) All the giddy, chest-beating victory rituals over Osama bin Laden's death are likely to be inconsequential if this continues; then again, it seems to be affecting only those whose interests are rarely heard in establishment media discourse.  That, combined with the extraordinary weakness of the GOP presidential field, makes Obama's re-election seem quite likely, at least at this point, even if this economic suffering continues to be ignored.

(4) GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain is absolutely horrendous on civil liberties, as this interview with The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf (among other things) proves, yet even he finds Obama's targeting of U.S. citizens for assassination as Terrorist suspects to be a bridge too far (the interview with Friedersdorf was the first Cain learned about this policy; he might try reading some newspapers).

(5) In an interview with Spencer Ackerman, Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden claims that abuses of the Patriot Act are far worse than is known; indeed, he claims that the way in which the Executive Branch is interpreting the law is unknown to the public and far more vast than is widely understood (despite that, Wyden failed to join the 8 Senators -- 4 from each party -- to vote against cloture on the Reid/McConnell proposal to extend the Patriot Act for four years without a single reform:  something even the Warriors-on-Terror at The Washington Post Editorial Page oppose).  Meanwhile, reflecting how little partisanship matters in such areas: consider who is attempting to enact reforms and who is blocking them

Similarly, Harry "Rove" Reid now joins Dianne Feinstein in announcing that any Senators who try to delay extension of the Patriot Act are risking a Terrorist attack.  Here's what the Majority Leader said about Rand Paul's attempts to add reforms:

"If the senator from Kentucky refuses to relent," Reid said earlier Wednesday, "that would increase the risk of a retaliatory terrorist strike against the homeland and hamper our ability to deal a truly fatal blow to al-Qaida."

It's so outrageous how those Rovian Republicans try to exploit the Terrorist threat to extract civil-liberties-abridging legislation they want, isn't it?  In sum, Congress -- with the Democratic leadership and the White House fully on board -- is trying not only to extend the Patriot Act with no reforms, but prevent any debate on whether that should happen.

(6) Julian Assange yesterday participated in a press conference about Bradley Manning and voiced some acerbic and accurate critiques of media coverage of that matter (I was scheduled to participate in that call as well, but scheduling conflicts prevented that).

(7) I was interviewed by Dylan Ratigan for roughly 30 minutes for his podcast show late last week; the discussion, regarding the Obama presidency, can be heard here, along with a full transcript.


UPDATE:  The New York Times today -- with no explanation as to why -- grants anonymity to a "senior administration official" to voice the same fear-mongering claims Reid is voicing over the Patriot Act:

If there is a lapse, a senior administration official said, the F.B.I. would be able to continue using orders it had already obtained, but it would not be able to apply for new ones if further tips and leads came in about a possible terrorist operation. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, reacted with alarm to that prospect, saying no one could predict what the consequences of a temporary lapse might be.

"This is unprecedented," the official said. "We don’t believe the risk is worth it."

In other words: extend the Patriot Act immediately with no reforms, no amendments, no debate -- or prepare to die at the hands of the Terrorists.  That, of course, is the same fear-mongering tactic the Bush administration constantly used to extract whatever civil-liberties-destroying legislation it demanded, and now Democratic Congressional leaders along with the White House (and an assist from the anonymity-granting New York Times) are using exactly the same playbook.


UPDATE II:  This is amazing:  in 2005, Russ Feingold led a filibuster, supported by most Democrats and 4 Republicans, to block extension of the Patriot Act in order to ensure that reforms were added (he was ultimately unsuccessful).  Just look at the fear-mongering claims the GOP spewed about that, and more so, look at what Harry Reid was saying back then as he opportunistically pretended -- like so many Democrats -- to care about such matters because doing so was a means of bashing Bush for partisan gain (h/t rpenner):

Senate Democrats yesterday began filibustering a proposal to extend the USA Patriot Act, raising the probability that key provisions of the anti-terrorism law will expire in two weeks. . . .

Republicans warned that allowing the current provisions to expire could have devastating consequences and said Democrats would be punished in next year’s elections for letting it lapse.

"The Patriot Act expires on December 31, but the terrorists' threat does not," Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, said . . . .

"We killed the Patriot Act," boasted Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, to cheers from a crowd at a political rally after the vote. . . .

Republicans privately marveled that Democrats would open themselves up to being blamed for the Patriot Act’s demise.

“For our colleagues to allow it to expire is to play with fire,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican. “It is to take the chance that terrorists will not act in that interim, in that period where the act falls and we’re relegated to using the authorities that we had before September 11th" . . .

Mr. Bush issued a statement crediting the Patriot Act with protecting "American liberty" and saving "American lives" since its passage after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"These senators need to understand that the Patriot Act expires in 15 days, but the terrorist threat to America will not expire on that schedule," Mr. Bush said. "The terrorists want to attack America again and kill the innocent and inflict even greater damage than they did on September 11th -- and the Congress has a responsibility not to take away this vital tool … to protect the American people."

"'We killed the Patriot Act,' boasted Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, to cheers from a crowd at a political rally after the vote."  To say that Harry Reid and the Democrats have now fully adopted Bush and the GOP's fear-mongering tactics -- on exactly the same topic -- is to understate the case.  And to say that Harry Reid -- who previously demanded that the Park51 Community Center be moved and that Guantanamo detainees not be tried in the U.S. -- is a duplicitous, soul-less, craven, worthless politician is also to understate the case.


UPDATE III:  Mike Riggs argues, persuasively, that when I wrote that the White House is echoing Reid's fear-mongering talking points, I "have the order of influence wrong" because, he writes, "these talking points are coming from the White House, not the other way around."  Marcy Wheeler provides ample documentation to support his point.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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