Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Silly Season Or Cynical Season?

It's an election year, alright. Moves by congressional Republicans are beginning to make that very clear. Faced with ongoing scandals and an increasingly unpopular president, many have settled on what they consider to be a very canny strategy: distance themselves from the White House on a relatively minor issue, work with the White House on a major issue, but always appear to be on the side of greater national security. The strategy is Rovean and might very well have been conceived by the master himself.

The NY Times has two articles which delineate the strategy quite clearly. The first lays out the House Republican's plan on the Dubai Ports World kerfuffle.

Defying President Bush, House Republican leaders said Tuesday that they would take immediate steps to scuttle a deal giving a Dubai company control of some major seaport operations without awaiting the outcome of a 45-day review of potential security risks.

Representative Jerry Lewis, the California Republican who is chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he would use a committee hearing on Wednesday to add a provision preventing the deal from moving forward.

Mr. Lewis said he would add the provision to an essential emergency spending measure that provides money for the war in Iraq and for Hurricane Katrina recovery. "It is my intention to lay the foundation to block the deal," he said.

...The House effort marked a remarkable public breach with the White House after years of working in tandem or quietly settling any differences behind closed doors. It demonstrated that the administration's effort to dampen opposition by negotiating a new security review and emphasizing Dubai's strategic value as an asset was failing.

...The decision by House Republicans to act was infused with election year political calculations. Republican members have been bombarded with protests from constituents alarmed at the proposal, and the agreement for a 45-day review has done little to slow the outpouring.
[Emphasis added]

While I happen to believe that foreign governments should not have any control over vital US infrastructure, and I am sure many Americans agree with this proposition, I am also reasonably certain that House Republicans are relieved to have found an issue on which they can loudly slap the hand of the Emperor without appearing weak on security. I suspect that their brothers and sisters in the Senate will be happy to go along on this move.

On another major issue, however, the Senate Republicans have made it clear that they will be happy to go along with the White House, and this is where the second NY Times article comes in.

Moving to tamp down Democratic calls for an investigation of the administration's domestic eavesdropping program, Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday that they had reached agreement with the White House on proposed bills to impose new oversight but allow wiretapping without warrants for up to 45 days.

The agreement, hashed out in weeks of negotiations between Vice President Dick Cheney and Republicans critical of the program, dashes Democratic hopes of starting a full committee investigation because the proposal won the support of Senators Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine. The two, both Republicans, had threatened to support a fuller inquiry if the White House did not disclose more about the program to Congress.

...Democrats called the deal an abdication of the special bipartisan committee's role as a watchdog, saying the Republicans had in effect blessed the program before learning how it worked or what it entailed.

"The committee is, to put it bluntly, basically under the control of the White House," said Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who is vice chairman of the panel.

...The proposed bill would allow the president to authorize wiretapping without seeking a warrant for up to 45 days if the communication under surveillance involved someone suspected of being a member of or a collaborator with a specified list of terrorist groups and if at least one party to the conversation was outside the United States.
[Emphasis added]

As far as the Republican Senators are concerned, security means only being secure from terrorist bombs, not being secure in one's home and in one's speech. They are perfectly willing to reward a criminal who admitted his criminal wrongdoing, i.e. illegal wiretapping, by forgiving his past behavior and imposing laughably lax restrictions which make his future behavior only slightly illegal as long as it makes them look strong on security issues in an election year.

And the truly sad thing about all of this is that this cynical strategy may very well work.


Anonymous sister of ye said...

I wouldn't hold my breath on the Rethug reps stopping the DPW deal. Sens. Snowe and Hagel talked big on the NSA scandal, too, then knuckled under on the vote.

I don't get here often, but when I do I find the posts interesting. Good work!

Too many good blogs, so little time.....

6:06 AM  

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