I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Praising the people who attack you

One of the staple tricks of Fox News is to pair an aggressive, unapologetic Bush lover with a Bush critic who is: (a) stereotypically annoying and shrill (the Susan Estrich model) and/or (b) mousy, apologetic and obsequious. In other words, they basically repeat the Sean Hannity-Alan Colmes model over and over when booking their guests. That way the pro-Bush mouthpiece can obliterate the anti-Bush sacrificial lamb while casting the appearance of some sort of fair debate.

Along those lines, when doing a little research on the NSA issue, I came across this transcript from the December 19, 2005 Hannity & Colmes Show, which focused on the NSA surveillance issue. To argue that the Administration did nothing wrong, they had screeching loudmouth Bush loyalist Victoria Toensing. To "argue" that the Bush Administration acted illegally, they had Andrew Fois, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Clinton Administration.

After Sean and Victoria spent a few minutes lamenting the al-Qaida loving treason committed by The New York Times and explaining how clear it was that Bush did nothing wrong here, Sean turned to Fois, and this is how their exchange began:

HANNITY: Andrew, the same point, this was not done in a bubble. Senator Rockefeller of the Intelligence Committee was aware of it. As I pointed out, the Foreign Intelligence Security Act court was aware of it. There's no evidence that any law was violated in any kind. It seems like, once again, the anti-Bush "New York Times" wants to create a conspiracy where there is none. Do you have any problem with what you're reading?

ANDREW FOIS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, Sean, yes, I have a big problem with it. I'm much more concerned about this than Victoria Toensing is, who I have a lot of respect for. And you're a great American, but I think you're misreading the "Times" article. Very few...

HANNITY: I read it fully, all seven pages.

What possesses people like Andrew Fois to go on national television and prostrate themselves before dishonest partisan shills like Sean Hannity and Victoria Toensig by showering them with lavish praise before he even gets to a single point? People like Hannity and Toensig make a living by depicting Bush critics as traitors and cowards and terrorist-loving subversives, and so many of the people who are the target of their attacks feel compelled to praise them before defending themselves. Do you ever hear Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh lauding Bush critics as "great Americans" for whom they have a lot of respect?

Making matters even worse, Fois ends the segment by completely mis-stating the position of Bush critics on the NSA scandal all in order to ingratiate himself with Sean and Victoria by trying to include them and get them to laugh at his stupid joke:

HANNITY: Guys, we've got to run. Andrew, last question: Yes or no, if Usama calls, do you think, by law, that we should have to hang up, yes or no?

FOIS: Not if it means trampling on the rights of Sean Hannity and Victoria Toensing, no.

HANNITY: Wow. So you say hang up on Usama bin Laden?

COLMES: Is there any evidence that that happened, Victoria?

HANNITY: Unbelievable.

COLMES: Any evidence that that ever happened?

HANNITY: Unbelievable.

So, according to Fois, the position of Bush critics is that the Government shouldn't listen in on telephone calls between Osama bin Laden and any American citizen. That, of course, is the caricature of the position of Bush critics -- the strawman -- which Fois, in his need to be the Good Friendly Fun Liberal, allowed himself to be saddled with.

Why are so many Bush opponents so desperate to be liked by the people who spend their time on national television convincing the country that they are subversive losers and traitors?


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