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Emptywheel at The Next Hurrah (and soon to be at Firedoglake!) picks up on an important letter in the Governemnt's response last Friday to the Electronic Freedom Foundation's FOIA request.

Back in July and August 2007, when the House and Senate intelligence committees were negotiating fervently with DNI Mike McConnell to write legislation for FISA update, the Bush Administration was engaged in parallel, back-channel lobbying and negotiations with the Blue Dog Democrats.  And because owning the Blue Dogs ensured that the Administration could get any Bill it wanted, all of the assurances, promises and deal-making between the Administration and "Official" Senate Leadership was a meaningless pony show.

On August 5, 2007, the Bush Administration-Blue Dog Protect America Act (PAA) became law.

Linked below is the letter Jane Harman and Bud Cramer sent on behalf of the Blue Dogs to DNI Michael McConnell thanking him for meeting with them on August 31, 2007 to discuss the FISA revision.

PDF WARNING

In the letter, the Blue Dogs voice their commitment to passing FISA Reform emergently before the recess, and list the goals they support for the legislation.  Interestingly, the Blue Dogs supported a 180 day sunset provision, which became one of the only concessions in PAA the Bush Administration yielded to ensure passage.  Although as a group the Blue Dogs did not acknowledge their role in supporting PAA, 31 of the 47 Blue Dogs voted for PAA, which passed the House at 10:20p.m. on August 4, 2007 and was signed into law the next day.

Foreshadowing the current debate raging over permanent FISA legislation, the Blue Dog letter announces support for addressing amnesty for TelCos for past illegality in warrantless surveillance:

"We also agree that it is important to address the issue of retroactive liability for our private sector partners."

Thanks to the EFF FOIA request, we now know the strategy employed by the Bush Administration to ramrod PAA through congress back in August 2007:

  1.  Pretend to negotiate with Democratic leadership.
  1.  Directly and secretly lobby and negotiate with Blue Dogs.
  1.  Make deals with Blue Dogs to get what you want, completely cutting out Democratic leadership and undermining traditional avenues of Bill-making in Congress.


There is no Democratic Majority

As long as there are Democrats like the Blue Dogs who are willing to ignore the will of the American voters, disrespect party loyalty and leadership, and kowtow to the Bush Administration, there is no effective Democratic Majority in Congress.  PAA was a vivid illustration of this fact, and the ongoing FISA and TelCo Amnesty debates continue to underscore the point.

Although Blue Dog Jane Harman voted against PAA, The Washington Post revealed her ongoing back-channel negotiations with Republicans to compromise on FISA:

And as Democratic leaders push their own legislation to rein in the wiretapping program, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) has been quietly exploring avenues of compromise with Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee. Centrist Democrats hope those talks can dovetail with the Senate intelligence committee's own bipartisan measure on surveillance of suspected terrorists.

In an interview given on the eve of his departure in August 2007, Karl Rove predicted that the debate over warrantless wiretapping would fracture the Democratic Party and render it ineffective in 2008 elections.  As long as there are Democrats eager to abandon principles of Civil Liberties and embrace Republican positions, Karl Rove is right.


Conclusion

Republican Strategy will continue to exploit Democratic weakness.  In this case the weakness sowing Democratic disunity appears to be an inability of some to say no to the Administration's assault on Civil Liberties and the Constitution.

Despite all of the hearings on FISA reform, despite the wheeling and dealing with Feingold and Whitehouse and Leahy and others interested in ensuring Civil Liberty protections in a new FISA bill, we will approach the February 2008 PAA expiration without a suitable bill.  During this entire time, however, the Bush Administration will be quietly lobbying and negotiating with Harman and Blue Dogs and other Legislators susceptible to manipulation, in late January, we will be presented with "an emergency".
With Blue Dog support, the existing PAA or a similar bill lacking Civil Liberty protections will be reauthorized, probably (as a concession to get the Blue Dogs on board) with another 6 month sunset provision.
This ensures that this issue will thrive until August-September 2008, just in time for this "critical terrorism-related legislation" to become a campaign issue for the election.

Republicans believe "terrorism" is their trump card to wedge into what should be a Democratic Landslide in 2008.  We must put pressure on Jane Harman and other Blue Dogs to stand up and join a Majority Democratic Party to faithfully represent Americans and defend the Constitution and our Country.

Originally posted to drational on Tue Dec 04, 2007 at 07:11 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  More Rubbish? (17+ / 0-)

    Pelosi must not bring any more Administration Bills to floor vote as she did for PAA.

    Stand together and win.

  •  Harman? Does this REALLY surprise anyone? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Hornito

    She essentially said she was complicit a few weeks ago in that POS diary she wrote.

    You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war. - Albert Einstein

    by emmissar on Tue Dec 04, 2007 at 07:33:05 AM PST

  •  We're dogfood. n/t (0+ / 0-)

    Democratic Candidate for US Senate (Wisconsin 2012)
    Court certified Marijuana Expert

    by ben masel on Tue Dec 04, 2007 at 07:35:37 AM PST

  •  Wasn't Harman passed over for a committee chair? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DBunn

    And wasn't the rumor put out that she was passed over because of a "personality" conflict with Pelosi (meowww..catfight!)?

    Methinks this kind of crap was the real reason for the "conflict".

    Republicans: Appealing to the worst in people for the worst of reasons....since 1980

    by Azdak on Tue Dec 04, 2007 at 07:56:49 AM PST

  •  Harman, Feinstein, and all the rest of... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    emmissar

    the Blue Dogs, are nothing more than traitors. With so many neocons in their ranks, one would be hard-pressed to find a single one who is not supportive of the MIC, corporations, and fascism.

    Primary them all, for the good of the nation. Harman especially, who likes to party with the likes of AIPAC, Negroponte, Chertoff, and other neocon fascists. What a worthless, traitorous piece of crap she is.  

    NO MORE DYNASTIES! No more triangulation! No more lies! No more war! No more corporatists! ELECT PROGRESSIVES NOW!

    by Hornito on Tue Dec 04, 2007 at 08:08:50 AM PST

  •  The pResident's Remakrs At This Morning's Presser (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DBunn, drational

    ...appear to feed right into the narrative you've laid out:
    (rush transcript by me, any errors mine)

    "The Democrats in Congress in the House and Senate need to work out their differences before they come to the White House. You can imagine what it's like to try and deal with an important piece of legislation, and the Democrats in the House have one opinion and the Democrats in the Senate have another opinion
    . FISA is a good example
    . And in order for us to be able to reach accord, they've gotta come with one voice. One position. ...Hopefully as we come down the stretch here, that they're capable of coming forward with 'here's what we believe.'"
    --Underminer-In-Chief, 12/4/07

    With friends like Harman...

  •  Divide and conquer (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DBunn, drational

    has always been a successful strategy of the right because it works so well against a party that has a big tent (and should because lock step thinking is, in my view, anti democratic).

    But it also works because dems have traditionally been ONE ISSUE groups....and tend to not come together after the primaries.  It's the issue that most impressed me in the book "Crashing the Gate".   Dems divide into small groups and dammit if "their issue" is not #1 with the candidate, they go home and refuse to vote or vote third party.

    One only has to spend a few days here on dkos to see how that works.

    It does not matter if ALL our candidates are against the war, for improving the economy, for civil rights, for separation of church and state, against the Bush policies.....according to (too) many here, so and so is NOT enough anti war, NOT enough to the left, NOT enough for gay rights, NOT  environmentalist enough or not enough for this that or the other and IF THEY ARE THAT PERSON IS THE CANDIDATE, I WILL NOT VOTE!.

    For years, in my opinion, the country has been headed to the right; it's been since the 1950's really.  Whether by choice, by ignorance or by the fact that as citizens in general, people are not activists until there is a crisis that personally effect them.
    And so how do we get our government back?

    IMO, it's not going to happen by the left splintering unless they get the candidate they want.  The left is much more diverse than the right when it comes to wants, needs and issues.  If we cannot come together and understand that process will require us to move center before we move left, we are fools.
    There is a reason why there are blue dogs......
    as well as "new democrats" in the senate (centrist is how the new democrats of Bill Clinton and John Edwards were described: The Senate New Democrats were founded in 2000 by Senators Evan Bayh (Indiana), John Breaux (Louisiana), John Edwards (North Carolina), Bob Graham (Florida), Bob Kerrey (Nebraska), Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Joe Lieberman (Connecticut), Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas), and Chuck Robb (Virginia).  
    The bottom line was that we could NOT elect LIBERAL democrats in many of those places.  

    Do I like it?  HELL NO!
    How do you change people who vote?  My experience is that it is a slow process.  Many here will trash me for this view.  I am and always have been a liberal democrat and my votes have meant nothing since the Reagan years.  Except for Bill Clinton, up until 2006, no one I voted for won anything in my area, state or federal.  Finally last year we voted in a democratic governor here. Ooops....we were able to vote in a conservative democratic senator in Ken Salazar.  

    I walk the pavements.  I knock on doors and I talk to people and they fear drastic change.  I talk to friends and relatives in an eastern state and they are still uninformed, albeit less resistant to change than here.

    Anyway, I do not see how we can change the course of the country without broad support of the entire party.  And if people here are representative of the possibility of coming together....oh man, that's depressing.

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