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.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bill Frist complains that "spotlight" is on Iraq

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist sat for an interview with bloggers Captain Ed and Powerline's John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson. Sen. Frist gave many notable answers, but the most notable, by far, was his complaint that Democrats are putting the "spotlight" on the war in Iraq (bracket in original):

JH: My impression is that the Democrats are doing anything rather than take a position on Iran. They’re lying in the weeds, hoping that things go badly.

BF: I think what they’re doing – it’s such a political problem – is that they’re taking the spotlight and doing whatever they can to focus that spotlight on Iraq, and trying to separate Iraq from the larger challenges that we have with the rise of the fundamentalist extremists, and that will be it. When they take that spotlight and put it on Iraq, it takes it off of Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah, plus other areas where terrorism [exists].

We have 140,000 troops in a country on the verge of all-out sectarian war, a country which happens to sit in the middle of the most strategically important and inflammable region on the planet. That's the result of a war in which we've lost 2,600 American lives, have had tens of thousands more wounded, killed tens of thousands of Iraqis, and spent hundreds of billions of dollars.

But Bill Frist is angry because Democrats are trying to put the "spotlight" on that war -- and that, as he says, is "such a political problem." It's been obvious for some time that Bush supporters are trying to ignore the disaster they created in Iraq, to just pretend it doesn't exist (and, just by the way, "violence across Iraq has spiked in recent days, with more than 200 people killed since Sunday in clashes, bombings or shootings"). They want to move on to new, more exciting, more politically exploitable issues -- like the U.K. terror plot or the new wars in Lebanon and Iran. But to hear it so explicitly -- to hear Frist petulantly complain about the "spotlight" being put on Iraq -- is pretty staggering.

Bill Frist was present just a little over two months ago at the 2006 President's Dinner when the Commander-in-Chief reminded us (as he and political allies have done many, many times before) that "Iraq is the central front on the war on terror." In fact, Frist himself told us just last year that "America’s security depends upon" what happens in Iraq and that "freedom for Iraq is essential for freedom at home." Where else should the spotlight be besides on the "central front on the war on terror?" Why would Bill Frist complain about the spotlight being there?

But if Frist wants less spotlight on Iraq, on what issues would he like to shine the spotlight? He tells Captain Ed and the Powerline guys:

What I will do when we come back, I will use two arms, I will spend a lot of time talking about security issues and other issues, one of which will be the Hamdan decision, which raises questions about the military tribunals and these illegal combatants, and we’ll resolve that. We’ll have an opportunity for debate.

The other arm will be in all likelihood a discussion of terrorist surveillance and what tools the government should have and legislatively put that on the table. Arlen Specter has an approach that I haven’t seen the final draft of which works with the administration more closely. We’ll use those two arms, those two platforms to address the sorts of issues on war and terrorism, regarding giving the enemy the playbook and threatening the security of the American people.

So Frist plans to have Congress' time between now and the election not spent on the dreary, unimportant nonsense of Iraq. No, Frist is part of the serious party that takes national security very seriously and understands the serious, grave war of civilizations America faces. So he intends to spend his time on what really matters -- convincing Americans that Democrats want to "giv[e] the enemy the playbook" (i.e., object that the President has been illegally eavesdropping on Americans without warrants instead of with warrants) and are therefore "threatening the security of the American people" (i.e., insisting that the President comply with the law).

And Frist says also says he will focus "debate" over the Hamdan decision, which means he intends to focus much time on the important matter of telling Americans that Democrats favor giving rights to terrorists (i.e., complying with what we call the "Gevena Conventions," violations of which are felonies under federal law). That's what Frist will have the Senate work on during this critical time.

Insisting that we pay less attention to the war in Iraq in order to engage in transparently manipulative political sideshows for domestic political gain is what those who are serious about The War on Terror do. Just ask the media pundits; they'll tell you. Only unserious people would want a "spotlight" to be on the actual war that we are fighting.

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