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.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Helpful Democrats run to Bush's rescue

Numerous Republicans have strongly objected to the president's nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden to be CIA Director, so it's a good thing there are Democrats around like the always-accommodating Dianne Feinstein to help the President out:

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California -- who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee -- said she has no objections to Hayden's nomination. "I think the most important thing is that the individual be a competent, qualified, intelligent professional, and Mike Hayden is all of those things."

She said that while she supports a civilian leader of the CIA, "I don't know a civilian that's really as well-connected and competent in the present stage of intelligence in America, and I think that's relevant."

Republicans like Sen. Arlen Specter have said that the nomination of Hayden, who oversaw the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program, presents an excellent opportunity to finally get to the bottom of how the administration has been secretly eavesdropping on Americans:

"There is no doubt there's an enormous threat from terrorism, but the president does not have a blank check," Specter said on "Fox News Sunday." "Now, with General Hayden up for confirmation, this will give us an opportunity to try to find out."

But fortunately for the President, Democratic Rep. Jane Harman is having none of it, as the CNN reports:

Rep. Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, warned against making the wiretapping the focus of hearings.

"His confirmation should not be about whether you're for or against the NSA program," said Harman, D-California. "It should be about whether he's the best man to transform the CIA into the premier clandestine service for the 21st century.

After The New York Times disclosed the warrantless NSA program, Harman ran around for a few weeks -- or rather, was paraded around on FOX News for a few weeks -- in order to say over and over, like some hynoptic mantra, that the program was "legal and necessary." That enabled her to be the lucky beneficiary of posts like this one from Michelle Malkin disciple A.J. Strata, who said that Harman was a Democrat he could vote for becasue she "exemplifies credibility and seriousness about national security."

Yesterday, Harman helpfully warned that the mere fact that Hayden oversaw, and became one of the principal defenders of, the administration's illegal eavesdropping on American citizens is completely irrelevant to whether he should be come Director of the CIA. In fact, Harman can barely think of an issue more irrelevant to Hayden's confirmation than the illegal eavesdropping program he implemented and continues to defend.

Some Democrats have said they object to Hayden's appointment -- both on grounds that it would give excess control over intelligence to the military and because of his ties to the illegal NSA program. But Feinstein and Harman now disagree, thus ensuring that Democrats, as usual, have a muddled, conflicting message -- a speciality of both Feinstein and Harman.

So, to recap: the extremely unpopular Bush nominates as CIA Director (a) an active military general who (b) is a close ally of Dick Cheney, (c) is the person most responsible for, and associated with, the illegal NSA program, and (d) has caused a serious break between Bush and his most reliable Congressional allies. And the first instinct of Democrats like Feinstein and Harman is to prevent any Democratic message unity on this issue and to jump to the defense of the President by defending his pick and insisting that the NSA scandal not even be talked about.

The only thing Feinstein and Harman gain from this is that they get to be patted on their heads as the "reasonable, serious Democrats" for the week - complete with a nice, guaranteed FOX News appearance -- until next week, that is, when they will once again be the subversive, anti-American, liberal Friends of the Terrorists. But it's nice that they're so pleased with the President's choice. I'm sure he appreciates their support at this difficult time for him.

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