Politics as (un)usual: Now discussing the Dubai Ports World Deal

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by KnightWriter, Dec 21, 2005.

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  1. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
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    Excerpted from this Howard Fineman column:

    WASHINGTON - In the first weeks and months after 9/11, I am told by a very good source, there was a lot of wishing out loud in the White House Situation Room about expanding the National Security Agency?s ability to instantly monitor phone calls and e-mails between American callers and possible terror suspects abroad. ?We talked a lot about how useful that would be,? said this source, who was ?in the room? in the critical period after the attacks.

    Well, as the world now knows, the NSA ? at the prompting of Vice President Cheney and on official (secret) orders from President Bush ? was doing just that. And yet, as I understand it, many of the people in the White House?s own Situation Room ? including leaders of the national security adviser?s top staff and officials of the FBI ? had no idea that it was happening.

    Which presents the disturbing image of the White House as a series of nesting dolls, with Cheney-Bush at the tiny secret center, sifting information that most of the rest of the people around them didn?t even know existed. And that image, in turn, will dominate and define the year 2006 ? and, I predict, make it the angriest, most divisive season of political theater since the days of Richard Nixon.

    We are entering a dark time in which the central argument advanced by each party is going to involve accusing the other party of committing what amounts to treason. Democrats will accuse the Bush administration of destroying the Constitution; Republicans will accuse the Dems of destroying our security.


    I suspect most people agree that the question of domestic spying and its justification (among other things related to it) will continue to exist and possibly grow in 2006. Could he possibly be forced to fend off calls either for impeachment or his presence before congressional hearings on the matter?

    It's unlikely, but if the Democrats were to recapture one or both houses of Congress in 2006, that would change the political calculus a great deal. To me, that would almost guarantee that we would see congressional hearings on the Iraq war, the war on terror and everything related to it.

    Looking at the larger picture, just what does Bush and his administration realistically face next year?

    We're in dark political times already, but as Fineman said, I think it's about to get considerably darker. There seems to be heavy ammunition for both sides to use, and a captive audience on at least some of the issues.

    Thoughts?
  2. DARTH-SHREDDER Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 6, 2005
    star 5
    I never saw Bush as a "deliberately sneaky" kind of guy. The Iraq war wasn't like this kind of "deliberately sneaky." This is a Nixon kind of sneaky. Flat-out lying. If Bush really has been doing this, then my opinion of him has dropped even more...which I never thought was possible.

    Anyway, grounds for impeachment = [face_dancing].
  3. Darth Mischievous Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 12, 1999
    star 6
    I suspect most people agree that the question of domestic spying and its justification (among other things related to it) will continue to exist and possibly grow in 2006.


    Such is nothing new, really. Although it was quite convienient for the NYT - which sat on the story for a year - to bring it up right as the Patriot Act was up for renewal.

    Bush won't get impeached, it's politics as usual by the Dems saying that. It's disgusting to me that politics has gotten this vitriolic, where if the opposite party is in power, there will be every possible venue tried to either discredit the man or hope to have him impeached. The GOP was no better in the 1990s with the debacle.

    It will end up being the typical Executive Branch v. Legislative Branch power struggle, although since Watergate, the Executive Branch has been weakend significantly.

    if the Democrats were to recapture one or both houses of Congress in 2006,


    Very unlikely.

    that would change the political calculus a great deal.


    Certainly so. We would see increased taxes, decreased defense spending and less of a proactive approach on the War on Terror.

    To me, that would almost guarantee that we would see congressional hearings on the Iraq war, the war on terror and everything related to it.


    As many mistakes that Bush has made, terrorism is his and the GOP's strong point.

    The Dems are considered en masse - save for a few notable exceptions - as weak on defense, and their continuing posturing for political advantage is disingenuous and transparent.

    Looking at the larger picture, just what does Bush and his administration realistically face next year?


    Believe it or not, in my view, I think his ratings will improve once again. If Iraq stabilizes as well, then his agenda will be justified. That remains to be seen. 2006 will be a critical year to see if that can begin to happen in earnest after the Iraqi government takes full control.

    I'm very concerned about the promises of the Feds concerning the Gulf Coast region. It's absurd to me that Congress is worried more about that Alaska nonsense than they are about what's going on down here.

    We're in dark political times already


    Not really. There have been far, far, far worse political times in American history than now.

    But, if you're on the left of ideological thought like Fineman, it must seem like very dark times, indeed.
  4. DARTH-SHREDDER Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 6, 2005
    star 5
    It's disgusting to me that politics has gotten this vitriolic, where if the opposite party is in power, there will be every possible venue tried to either discredit the man or hope to have him impeached.

    It's not that I want him to be impeached because he's not in my party, but because he's just such an incompetent president who IMO, isn't "fit for command."

    As many mistakes that Bush has made, terrorism is his and the GOP's strong point.

    Not exactly. The head(s) of the 9/11 commission where on Meet the Press (or some other show) and basically said "God help us if we have another attack." He said the Bush administration wasn't following any of what they recomended to protect us from terrorism.

    But, if you're on the left of ideological thought like Fineman, it must seem like very dark times, indeed.

    Indeed. :(
  5. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    As was brought up in the other thread, Fineman, for his own reasons, isn't actually forthcoming with all the facts in his column.

    First off, the required members of Congress were notified of this program from the beginning, including Rockefeller, the (D)vicechairman of the Senate Intelligence Committe, and Pelosi, the House minority leader, along with at least 4 other Conressmen that we know of.

    Rockefeller has produced some correspondence from 2 years ago that indicates his concerns, but ultimately, he still accepted the scope of the program as it existed. If both Congressional committee approved the program, I don't see what the grounds for impeachment would even be.

    However, politically, it seems easier for columnists like Fineman to paint the picture that the administration acted out of some rogue capacity, when this isn't accurate.

    The fact is that there are differences between perception related concerns, and the requirements of the law.
  6. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    Did the selected congressmen really have any choice? If they had disapproved, would they have been allowed to go public with their concerns, and would their disapproval have been meaningful?

    It seems like the Bush administration could have cherrypicked congressmen to inform about the program. More to the point, I don't see what choice those congressmen had.

    "I don't think this is a good idea, Mr. President.
    Too bad."

    In the end, would it really have been any different than that?
  7. Jediflyer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 5, 2001
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    Although it was quite convienient for the NYT - which sat on the story for a year - to bring it up right as the Patriot Act was up for renewal.

    What was happening a year ago? Oh yeah, a presidential election. The New York Times sat on a story that would have hurt Bush and quite possibly pushed Kerry over the edge (100,000 in Ohio, remember). The "convenience" is hardly in the direction you think it is.

    And Mr44, just what were those Senators supposed to do? They couldn't discuss it with their staff members and they couldn't discuss it with their fellow Senators. Saying they were in on it is being disingenuous.
  8. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    What was happening a year ago? Oh yeah, a presidential election. The New York Times sat on a story that would have hurt Bush and quite possibly pushed Kerry over the edge (100,000 in Ohio, remember). The "convenience" is hardly in the direction you think it is.

    If the DUI arrest was bad news for Bush just before the 2000 election (and it was), how bad would this story have been if it had been printed on or around October 30th or so? Not enough time for damage control, but just enough time to seriously rock the Bush campaign in key places.
  9. Quixotic-Sith Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 22, 2001
    star 6
    If both Congressional committee approved the program, I don't see what the grounds for impeachment would even be.


    At best, this assumes facts not in evidence. At worst, it's a gross mischaracterization of what has happened. The available evidence was that select members of Congress were notified, sometimes well *after* the program had been initiated, and they exercised neither advisory nor approval-giving authority. Further, it appears that they were constrained from sharing this information. When combined, this presents a clear flouting of judical and congressional oversight. I really wish I could remember the Georgetown law professor who was saying that this is impeachable.
  10. Darth Mischievous Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 12, 1999
    star 6
    I know the guy you're referring to, Quix.

    His name is Paul Rothstein.
  11. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
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    I would hardly say this represents a clear flouting of anything, least of all oversight.

    The way Congressional committees operate, especially the inteliigence ones, is that they do provide that precise oversight. Traditionally, the Senate one controls the budget, while the House one guides overall policy.

    Members of both committees were notified, and it looks like they 1) approved the funds to continue the program, and 2)didn't recommend changes to the requirements of the law, so I don't see what legal requirements were violated that would possibly result in impeachment.

    Even so, the administration could certainly point to the fact that several high ranking Congressional leaders knew of, if not approved, the very same program. How would those Congressional members be able to vote in an impeachment hearing? Would they bear witness against themselves?

    Would it come out that they are only outraged now because the program was revealed to the public?

    This isn't a case like Iran-Contra, where Congress expressly forbid a specific operation, and the executive created a program to skirt the law. In this case, the proper notifications were made according to the standards of a classified operation.

    Congress alone has the ability to legislate changes to the disclosure requirements, but it seems rather hypocritical of some to judge a program they authorized in the first place only because it stopped being secret.


  12. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8

    Even so, the administration could certainly point to the fact that several high ranking Congressional leaders knew of, if not approved, the very same program. How would those Congressional members be able to vote in an impeachment hearing? Would they bear witness against themselves?


    Again I ask: What choice did they have other than to remain silent? If they disapproved, so what? I don't see how it could amount to anything.
  13. Jediflyer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 5, 2001
    star 5

    Members of both committees were notified, and it looks like they 1) approved the funds to continue the program, and 2)didn't recommend changes to the requirements of the law, so I don't see what legal requirements were violated that would possibly result in impeachment.



    Only two members of both the judiciary committee and the intelligence committee (in the Senate) were notified from what I have heard, and they couldn't tell anyone else. How exactly do you vote against something you can't talk about?

    And they did not approve of the law as seen here and here.

    Even so, the administration could certainly point to the fact that several high ranking Congressional leaders knew of, if not approved, the very same program. How would those Congressional members be able to vote in an impeachment hearing? Would they bear witness against themselves?

    Like I said, only a select few knew about it and their hands were tied as far as stopping it.

  14. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
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    Again I ask: What choice did they have other than to remain silent? If they disapproved, so what? I don't see how it could amount to anything.

    No, you're missing the point. That's precisely why there is a congressional notification requirement for classified operations.

    When the chairman and vicechairman of the Senate intelligence committee were told of the program years ago, and if it was illegal, they could have cut off the funds for the operation, and prohibited all government resources to be used in relation to this. In that regard, they are hardly powerless.

    They could have also passed a law forbidding this specific operation from taking place. This would have all happened behind closed doors, and no one would have been any wiser. After this, if the administration continued the operation, the law would have been violated.

    However, both Congressional committees approved the continuation of the operation as long as they continued to be informed of it. It looks like the administration continued that notification every six months. Some, like Rockefeller, raised concerns that were either answered, or he set aside, because he still gave his approval.

    It was Congress who authorized the exceptions, and Congress allowed those execeptions to remain in place. Only now, that the operation is public, does there seem to be any outrage.

    Again, there is a clear difference between political-perception issues, and the requirements of the law.
  15. Jediflyer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 5, 2001
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    Mr44, I suggest you check out this article to get some perspective on how much "Congress" really could have done.

  16. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
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    Yeah, I've seen it and it still doesn't change the basic premise.

    As much fun it is to paint Bush as some all powerful dictator, we still have a divided government, with each piece having its own role. Ther fact is, that Congress holds a lot of power in this area, and Rockefeller specifically was in a position to do something about it.

    So what is the alternative? That the 2 highest ranking democrats in Congress had reservations about something, yet they were so afraid of Bush, that they felt powerless to do anything? Even if they suffered in silence while they were giving their approval, how does the legality now fall on the executive?

    That 1)doesn't seem realistic, and 2)if accurate, it certainly doesn't seem like the voters are getting their money's worth.
  17. Darth Mischievous Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 12, 1999
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    I find Mr44's assessment to be the most appropriate.
  18. Jediflyer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 5, 2001
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    Ther fact is, that Congress holds a lot of power in this area, and Rockefeller specifically was in a position to do something about it.

    What, exactly, could he have done?
  19. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
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    Any one of a number of things according to his position:

    they could have cut off the funds for the operation, and prohibited all government resources to be used in relation to this. In that regard, they are hardly powerless.

    They could have also passed a law forbidding this specific operation from taking place. This would have all happened behind closed doors, and no one would have been any wiser. After this, if the administration continued the operation, the law would have been violated.


    In addition, contained in the very link you supplied is this statement, from the Chairman of the Senate committee:

    In a written statement on Tuesday, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, said Rockefeller?s action, "appears to be politically advantageous." Roberts accused Rockefeller of "feigning helplessness" and said "a United States Senator has significant tools with which to wield power and influence over the executive branch."

    Roberts listed options he said Rockefeller could have pursued, including discussing his concerns with Roberts and raising objections with the Vice President during various briefings. "Forgive me if I find this to be inconsistent and a bit disingenuous," Roberts concluded in his statement.
  20. Jediflyer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 5, 2001
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    I do not believe he could have cut off funds from this project, as it was not one approved by Congress in the first place. Secondly, he could not have passed a law, even behind closed doors, because he couldn't tell his fellow senators.

    He could have definitely brought it up during the briefings, but we have no way to know he didn't.

  21. Mr44 VIP

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    May 21, 2002
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    But it was approved by Congress, when they authorized the NSA to be put under the DOD, and then approved the budget for its operations.

    You are correct that Congress probably didn't approve this specific operation at its inception, but how many specific operations does Congress personally approve on a daily basis?

    However, the administration did provide the proper notification according to the requirements. Once he was informed, Rockefeller most certainly could have moved to prevent funds from being allocated to it, or motioned to suspend all operations related to it. That's the entire point of the notification requirement.

    Let me ask you, since it looks like Rockefeller was one who continued to approve this for years, even though he had reservations, had this not been made public, do you think he would still be authorizing it?

    Why are his concerns now tied to the fact that this was made public?
  22. Jediflyer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 5, 2001
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    First, his concerns predate this being made public by two years. It is only know that he is able to talk about them.

    Second, he never approved this program.

    Third, do you really expect him to cut funding to the NSA?

  23. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Third, do you really expect him to cut funding to the NSA?

    Not the entire NSA, this specific operation. That's his job as part of the intelligence committee. Again, according to his position, he could have initiated all sorts of actions behind closed doors. Nothing had to be made public.

    Instead, since this was revealed, his political defense seems to boil down to "I was so fearful of taking action for so many years, I just went along with the crowd." Are we to understand that fear paralyzed him so much, he was unable to make a basic decision? I'd prefer my elected officals to be made of sterner stuff, no matter what party they belong to.

    Nice attmept to try not to alienate one's base, but it just doesn't seem realistic.

    More realistic is the possibility that this operation was no different than any number of other classified operations that the government undertakes, and that Congress authorizes, but that the public isn't privy to.

    Again, I'd bet good money that if this was never made public, Rockefeller would still be authorizing it.
  24. Jediflyer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 5, 2001
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    Again, I'd bet good money that if this was never made public, Rockefeller would still be authorizing it.


    He never did authorize it. Bush did by Executive Order.

    And please explain how he could have cut funding to this "program" without excavating the entire program. I very much doubt funding is allotted in that kind of detail for these kind of operations.



  25. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
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    Again, you're right, he never authorized it at its inception, Bush did so by executive order.

    But Congress gave the executive that power.

    Rockefeller authorized this specific operation by continuing to allow it after being informed under the notification requirements, again, which were set by Congress.

    The funding is examined at that detail, that's the entire point of the committees. For example, under the Boland Bill in 1982, Congress prohibited the US from funding Nicaraguan rebels relating to a specific operation that was being undertaken at the time. In other words, the bill directly targeted elements within the CIA. Congress specified that operation while leaving the rest of the CIA intact. It's not an all or nothing thing.

    It was a compromise that grew out of the intelligence committee. Up until Congress specifically prohibited it, there was nothing illegal under US law about that operation, no matter what one's own personal opinion was about it.

    The NSA is slightly different due to differences in charters, but Congress still controls the allocation and direction.

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