Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Fear is the new kryptonite

"Yet the bill that passed the Senate on Friday and the House on Saturday attracted mostly Republican support. In all, only 41 House Democrats voted for it and its inclusion of new powers to force the cooperation of telecommunications firms and to tap into e-mail correspondence and telephone conversations without court approval; 181 House Democrats voted against it.

Democratic leaders said they did win agreement that the authority would be in effect for only six months, at which point it would be revisited, though the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, immediately called the law "unacceptable" and vowed to change it sooner. Vice President Dick Cheney urged Congress to make the law permanent.

The arguments behind the expanded wiretapping power - that failure to grant it would result in attacks here - were reminiscent of those Republicans aimed at Democrats during the 2002 congressional election, a contest that brought a Republican victory, and arguably helped Bush a year later to win Democratic votes authorizing the use of force against Iraq.

And Democratic memories are still fresh with attacks Bush used in 2004 against Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, a presidential rival he portrayed as "weak on terror." That Bush would succeed this month - and on a program as controversial as the eavesdropping carried out by the National Security Agency - was somewhat surprising, given that the White House has seen its credibility on war and terrorism perceptibly erode this year.

In recounting the weekend showdown Monday, Democrats said they believed they had an agreement with McConnell on a narrow set of provisions that could address gaps in the surveillance law. But they said McConnell had pushed for broader presidential authority than they were ready to grant. "We acceded to them and said, 'If this is the bar, we'll do it,' " said Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. But, he said, "then they would come back and say, 'That's not enough.' "

When Bush has no other card to play, he whips out the fear card. The Dems fall hard like Superman being exposed to kryptonite.

This is no way to run a country.

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