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In what has become a recurring feature from the editorial board of the New York Times, once again the paper has used its lead editorial as a space to blast away at those Senate Democrats who are affirmatively (or at best, naïvely) willing to trade away our constitutional rights out of fear of seeming weak.  Of course, the joke's on them, because by caving in to the illogical demands of the Bush Administration, it is those Dems who seem weak.

Today's editorial, "The FISA Follies, Redux", doesn't say anything most Kossacks don't already know backward and forward, but is worth a read nonetheless (excerpts and some commentary follow below).

Over the past few months, I've noted some of the other occasions when the NYT has published an editorial critical of our party's leadership that could just as easily have been posted on the front page here at Daily Kos.  For example, "With Democrats Like These . . ." back in October, or "Abdicate and Capitulate" in November (there have been others, as well, but these are ones I'd diaried).

Now that we're waist deep in the FISA debate once again, the Times has seen fit to call out various Democratic senators who are acting as enablers for an administration that has shown an almost constant disregard for the Constitution of the United States.  Maybe the paper is striving to become as deeply resented in certain Senate circles as it clearly already is in the Office of the Vice President.

The piece begins,

The Senate (reportedly still under Democratic control) seems determined to help President Bush violate Americans’ civil liberties and undermine the constitutional separation of powers. Majority Leader Harry Reid is supporting White House-backed legislation that would expand the administration’s ability to spy on Americans without court supervision and ensure that the country never learns the full extent of Mr. Bush’s illegal wiretapping program.

Hmm . . . aiding and abetting a power grab by folks who are generally so power-hungry they would make Nixon blush (and he's been dead for almost fourteen years now, so that would be a pretty neat trick).

The House has passed a reasonable new bill — fixing FISA without further endangering civil liberties. But Mr. Bush wants to weaken FISA as much as he can. And the Senate leadership has been only too happy to oblige.

With the help of Republican senators and the misguided chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller, the White House got a bill that, once again, reduces court supervision of wiretapping. It also adds immunity for telecommunications companies that cooperated with the illegal spying.

Mr. Bush says without amnesty, the government won’t get cooperation in the future. We don’t buy it. The real aim is to make sure the full story of the illegal wiretapping never comes out in court.

Mr. Reid — who is still falling for the White House’s soft-on-terrorism bullying — set up deliberations in a way that ensured that a better Judiciary Committee version of the bill would die a procedural death and that the Intelligence Committee bill would pass.

The Judiciary bill died this week, with the help of other bullyable Democratic senators like Mr. Rockefeller, Claire McCaskill, Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson. The Republicans repaid them by announcing they would block any further attempts to reach a compromise.

Haven't these senators learned yet that the Republican mode of governance is to make unreasonable demands, and then, in the face of even the meekest opposition, accuse their opponents of everything short of treason (and sometimes, even that's on the table).  Meanwhile, calls for any minimal oversight or adherence to the rule of law are met with irrational claims that these mere legal niceties wouldn't be respected by our enemies and would place American lives at immediate risk.  How -- or why -- is never explained, and apparently for these weak-kneed Dems, it doesn't need to be.

It is now up to the House to protect Americans’ rights. Mr. Bush has already started issuing the ritual claims that if his bill is not passed instantly, Osama bin Laden will be telephoning his agents in the United States and no one will know. Let us be clear, Mr. Bush has always had the authority to order emergency wiretaps — and get court approval after the fact. That has never been the problem with FISA.
   --  --  --
Lawmakers and the rest of the nation should bear this in mind: Mr. Bush’s version of this law does not make intelligence-gathering more robust. Opponents like Senators Christopher Dodd and Patrick Leahy want to spy on Al Qaeda, too. They’re just not willing to do it in a way that undermines the very democracy that the spies, Congress and the president are supposed to be protecting.

FISA worked.  Yes, it needed some tweaking to deal with changes in communications technology, but those were easily addressed and required no such massive expansion of executive powers, and certainly no need for telecom immunity.  No fact-based explanation has ever been provided for these, for the obvious reason that there isn't -- and cannot -- be one.  This is obvious to pretty much everyone aside from the lockstep GOP and Senate Democrats who know who they are.

In the legal world, this kind of behavior is called aiding and abetting.  In conjunction with run-of-the-mill crimes, it's bad enough.  When it serves to undermine our individual rights and hack away at the Constitution, it's reprehensible.

Originally posted to The Maven on Sat Jan 26, 2008 at 11:11 AM PST.

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