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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, March 18, 2006

Karl Rove's lips barely move when Eleanor Clift writes her columns

I was hoping not to post again today because I have a lot of work I'm trying to get done, but then I made the mistake of clicking on a link which read as follows:

Eleanor Clift: Dem Feingold Tosses GOP a Life Raft

It really never ceases to amaze how the most aggressive smear jobs on Democrats who take a stand against the Bush Administration almost always come from the allegedly liberal pundits or anonymous Democratic consultants. Clift's column is not worth spending much time on because it doesn't contain any arguments. What makes this column notable is how steadfastly loyal she is to GOP talking points as she mindlessly repeats every baseless slogan and accusation against Russ Feingold and his censure resolution. Her column begins by mouthing the words of every Bush follower in the blogosphere this week:

Republicans finally had something to celebrate this week when Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold called for censuring George W. Bush. Democrats must have a death wish. Just when the momentum was going against the president, Feingold pops up to toss the GOP a life raft.

Right from the mouth of Ken Mehlman and into Clift's pen. There is zero evidence that Feingold's censure resolution has helped Republicans and plenty of evidence that it has not -- beginning with the Republicans' conduct in trying to kill every branch of this scandal from the moment it emerged.

If the NSA scandal were such a great benefit politically to Republicans, they would be doing everything they could to sustain it and keep it in the spotlight, instead of what they've been doing: desperately trying to kill every investigation and sweep it under the rug. Sen. Frist attempted to force an immediate vote on the Resolution before it could even be read, let alone debated, because the last thing they want is for the spotlight to be on the fact that the President broke the law and the GOP-controlled Congress wants to do nothing about it. Is it too much to ask of Clift that she look past the first level of Beltway GOP-furnished conventional wisdom?

It’s brilliant strategy for him, a dark horse presidential candidate carving out a niche to the left of Hillary Clinton. The junior senator from New York is under attack for being too soft on Bush and the war, and most of the non-Hillarys are to her right. There is a vacuum in the heart of the party’s base that Feingold fills, but at what cost?

Russ Feingold is one of the very few national politicians of either party with a reputation for integrity. But people like Clift just whimsically and breezily accuse him of having cynical and base political motives when introducing this Resolution. It can't possibly be because he actually believes that the President's law-breaking is wrong and demands punishment. He can't possibly be sincere in his motives and beliefs. No - he's clearly just a craven political opportunist who did this as a "stunt" for his own political gain. That goes without saying.

The reality is that people like Clift can't believe that anyone acts in accordance with their principles because people like Clift have none, so they assume that that's the case for everyone else. They think that their cynicism and scorn towards principle are the hallmarks of sophistication and savvy when, in reality, it doesn't signify anything other than the fact that they are devoid of beliefs or principles.

Just as John Kerry’s belated effort to stop Judge Samuel Alito’s confirmation to the Supreme Court failed to rally his fellow Democrats, Feingold’s move toward censure has been received like a foul odor, sending Democrats scurrying for the exits. Only two of his colleagues, Iowa’s Tom Harkin and California’s Barbara Boxer, signed on as cosponsors. And for good reason. The broader public sees it as political extremism.

Eleanor Clift is writing in Newsweek that the "broader public" -- as though she knows anything about them -- "sees [the Feingold Resolution] as political extremism." That is a statement that is without an iota of support. She literally just made it up, because she heard Joe Klein saying it and the Democratic consultant geniuses she talks to whispered it in hear ear, so now she knows how the "broader public" thinks about this - even though polling data shows exactly the opposite.

This is the what passes as "analysis" in our national media - insular, baseless chitchat that gets passed back and forth between the same pompous, chronically-wrong pundits and consultants who could literally not be further removed from what the "broader public" thinks about anything.

Just when the Republicans looked like they were coming unhinged, the Democrats serve up a refresher course on why they can’t be trusted with the keys to the country.

Russ Feingold thinks that George Bush should not break the law. He thinks it's wrong that Bush broke the law and believes that Bush should be censured for having done so, as opposed to allowing the President to break the law without consequences.

Therefore, says the liberal pundit Eleanor Clift, this shows that Democrats "can't be trusted with the keys to the country." Who needs Karl Rove when you have her and Joe Klein?

Nor could it have come at a better time for a Republican Party still battered by bad news in the polls. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC survey, released earlier this week, shows that Bush’s job approval rating at its lowest ever—37 percent—as a majority of Americans lose confidence that the Iraq war will end successfully. The same poll shows a significant uptick in the country’s willingness to accept a Democratic Congress, with 50 percent of those questioned saying they would prefer the party to control Congress.

Could someone tell Eleanor Clift that this scandal didn't just emerge this week when Feingold introduced his Resolution? The controversy over George Bush's illegal eavesdropping has been in the spotlight since December 16 of last year. During that time, Bush's popularity has steadily eroded to an embarrassing 35%. The idea that the NSA scandal is a "life raft" that will save the Bush Presidency is incoherent, vacuous and empirically false. All it is, is conventional wisdom that arose among the scared Democratic consultant and punditry class at the very beginning -- when they counseled Democrats to just let the whole thing go away -- and no matter how many facts disprove it, they are incapable of doing anything but mouthing it over and over and over.

One thing that is conspicuously missing from Clift's vapid screed is what is always missing from people who oppose Feingold's censure resolution and/or who urge that Democrats not oppose Bush's law-breaking - namely, a discussion of the consequences for the country from doing nothing in the face of George Bush's admissions that his Administration has been violating the law and the disclosure that they have adopted radical theories which insist that the President has the power to do so, not just with regard to surveillance but all matters relating to national security. Do any of those things even matter to people who think like Clift?

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