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.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Various matters

(updated below - with new RNC "Censure" ad and reply from Ramesh Ponnuru)

(updated again - with the link to the C&L post)

I never ended up posting at Crooks & Liars on Sunday, so I will post there today instead and will put the links to those posts here once they are up. For now, a few items of note:

(1) My first post at C&L (not yet up) concerns the quite predictable but significant controversy that has broken out over a new report, issued by two leading American academicians, which -- among other things -- contains “a searing attack on the role and power of Washington's pro-Israel lobby . . . , warning that its 'decisive' role in fomenting the Iraq war is now being repeated with the threat of action against Iran.”

For committing the crime of discussing these issues, these two professors are now the target of a character smear campaign that is, in equal parts, mindless and vicious, and it comes from usual suspects such as Glenn "Instapundit" Reyonlds, Powerline, and The New York Sun. These types of attacks -- whereby anyone is immediately labelled an anti-Semite and a bigot by virtue of even questioning the role and behavior of neoconservatives or criticizing American policy towards Israel -- has, by design, intimidated most people from commenting on these vital issues. But as I say in the post the link to which I will post here as soon as C&L posts it:

With our little adventure in Iraq becoming more disastrous and costly by the day, and with the all-too-familiar election year militarism heating up over Iran, this country has some very serious and consequential choices to make about our foreign policy. A substantive and frank discussion is exactly what we did not have leading up to the Iraq War, where war opponents were mocked and smeared and their arguments scorned but not answered. We should not allow the Instapundits and The New York Sun's of the world to drive our country -- again -- into foreign policy debacles through the use of character smear and cheap sloganeering in lieu of adult, meaningful and serious discussions about our foreign policy and the people who are seeking to shape it.

There is much in the conclusions of Mearsheimer and Waltwith with which one can reasonably, even vehemently, disagree. But one need not agree with them to recognize the importance of the issues they raise and of the equally important need to be able to discuss them without the smear tactics and personal attacks which, increasingly, have become the only tactic left to Bush followers.

(2) The finalists for the Wampum Koufax blog awards have been chosen, which you can see and vote for here. This blog was selected as a finalist for the Best New Blog category, Best Writing category, and Best single Post category (for Bush's Unchecked Executive Power v. the Founding Principles of the U.S.).

(3) Jennifer Nix -- who edited George Lakoff's best-selling book, was responsible for Markos' book being published through Chelsea Green, and who conceived of the idea for my book -- has written a guest post (below) expounding on her genuinely innovative and important approach for creating a new publishing system that will allow ideas to be delivered directly to Americans on pressing issues of the day without having to rely on the establishment media or anyone else. In a sense, what she has been building for some time is the blogosphere version of book publishing -- an intense, citizen-driven model for delivering ideas, arguments, analysis and evidence which the media simply cannot or will not convey.

(4) Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report has some thorough analysis on the U.S. News and World Report article reporting on the "discussions" within the Bush Administration to engage in warrantless physical searches of homes in America based on the same theories of lawlessness which led them to eavesdrop on the communications of Americans without warrants. This should surprise nobody.

As I have pointed out many times, there is absolutely nothing unique to surveillance about the Administration's theories of power. They do not have a theory of surveillance. They have a theory of Presidential power which posits that the President can do anything relating to national security -- including against American citizens on U.S. soil -- without any restraints, including those imposed by law. That theory justifies warrantless physical searches along with a whole variety of other war powers on U.S. soil every bit as much as it justifies warrantless eavesdropping. That we have not yet had a real debate about how sweeping and radical those powers are is, by itself, its own scandal.

(5) The panel for yesterday's debate on To the Point regarding Sen. Feingold's Censure Resolution ended up being: John Dean, National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru, Matt Yglesias and me. The 45-minute segment can be heard here, under "Impeachment, Censure and Political Reality." Beginning at about the 15:00 minute mark, the debate becomes interactive and a little heated, arising out of: (a) Ponnuru's reciting of the conventional wisdom (squarely contradicted by the Republicans' actions) that the GOP wants the NSA scandal to continue to receive attention because it benefits them politically, and (b) his flatly inaccurate characterization of Feingold's resolution. The more strained and shrill Bush supporters become on this issue, the clearer it becomes just how threatening this scandal is to them.

UPDATE: Ramesh Ponnuru is apparently taking writing lesson from his colleague Jonah Goldberg, who refers to Bush opponents in the LA Times as "moonbats." In a petulant little item in the Corner today, Ponnuru explains that I'm a "moonbat" and that he is replying to the item above on my "moonbat site."

On its face, the Feingold Resolution seeks to censure the President for breaking the law and for deceiving Americans about the program, not for "defending" the program as Ponnuru falsely claimed, both on the radio yesterday and again today in the Corner. Here is the full text (.pdf) of the Resolution. There are two components and two components only to the censure -- the illegal nature of Bush's program and his patterns of deceit when speaking about the program. Bush "defended" his program in multiple ways and the censure resolution -- contrary to Ponnuru's false claims -- does not seek to censure him for doing so. The Resolution seeks to censure him only for ordering an unlawful program and then deceiving Americans about the program.

I have documented before that the Administration is incapable of responding to this Resolution without purposely distorting what it actually says. Just today, Ponnuru's colleague, Byron York, reports on a new RNC ad called "Censure" which contains this passage:

But some Democrats are working against these efforts to secure our country, opposing the PATRIOT Act and terrorist surveillance program.

Their leader is Russ Feingold.

Now Feingold and other Democrats want to censure the President.

Publicly reprimanding President Bush for pursuing suspected members of al Qaeda. . . .

Is this how Democrats plan to win the War on Terror?

Is it even necessary at this point to explain why that is so intolerably misleading and just outright false? Is Russ Feingold, by any reasonable interpretation, seeking to censure the President "for pursuing suspected members of al Qaeda" rather than for violating the law? What does it say about our media that the RNC (and Ponnuru) think they can get away with such complete mischaracterizations of a very straightforward and clear issue?

UPDATE II: My post at C&L is now up here.

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