Monosyllabic Pedantry

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Old Politicians and New Media

Powerline blog has a great post. Paul Mirengoff is a blogger for them, and apparently also a top-notch lawyer. He got into a press conference where the usual morons in congress were running their usual "We give you talking points that you repeat without question because we're all democrats".

It's been described as a watershed moment in media. I can't do it justice, so I'll just post it, with some of my own colorful emphasis. By the way, CNN headline news made no mention of it before I left for work this morning. I guess there wasn't time, what with that big story about Brittney Spears carrying her baby without a carseat.

February 06, 2006
Scooped by my own partner

[Ted] Kennedy was rehearsing his current talking point that the administration has impaired our security by operating behind the back of Congress. His line was that if only the president had informed Congress about the program, Congress would have asked the right questions and the end product would have been a bullet proof surveillance program instead of one that (in Kennedy's view) is in trouble. I reminded Senator Kennedy that the administration had informed key members of the Intelligence Committee, and no one had raised any questions. Kennedy responded that the administration only told committee members it had picked. Before I could respond that the administration "picked" the leader and ranking member of the Senate and House committees as well Senate and House leaders from both parties, Kennedy was gone, replaced at the microphone by Senator Durbin.
Durbin presented the usual Democratic line, which assumes that the the intercept program violates FISA and proceeds from there. I pointed out that the Attorney General had just explained how FISA contains an exception for surveillance authorized by another act of Congress, and that (in Gonzales' view) the congressional authorization of force (AUMF), by authorizing all means necessary to prevent another attack, provides authorization independent of FISA for the administration to listen to al Qaeda calls into the U.S. Durbin allowed that I had accurately recited the Attorney General's argument.
I then asked why, if the Democrats disagree with the administration's understanding of what AUMF authorizes, they don't present clarifying legislation telling the administration that its interpretation is incorrect. This would enable the Senate to vote on whether it thinks listening to calls from al Qaeda to the U.S. is a necessary and proper measure to prevent another attack.
Apparently peeved at the thought of having to vote on that issue, Senator Durbin asked what organization I was with. I told him I was respresenting Power Line and Pajamas Media. Durbin said he wasn't familiar with this group, and then proceeded to address my question. His answer was (I quote from memory) that "this is not how things work" and that (if I understood him correctly) the issue is whether the president's actions are constitutional.
I attempted to follow-up by noting that if the administration is right about the interplay of FISA and AUMF, there is no serious constitutional question because the president is acting with the permission of Congress. Durbin made it clear, however, that questioning was over. His parting shot was that he would try to check out what I write for "Pajama Line." My parting shot, that Dan Rather knew something about the outfit, drew laughter. Afterwards, Debra Burlingame, sister of the captain of American Airlines flight 77 and a strong proponent of the NSA surveillance program, complimented me on my questioning.
If this is what reporters get to do regularly, I may have made a bad career choice.

Mark Tapscott adds:
Capitol Hill is buzzing with talk of a news conference earlier today in which Powerline's Paul Mirengoff was pushing some hard questions at Sen. Teddy Kennedy, D-MA, and Sen. Richard Durbin, D-IL, about the NSA's anti-terrorist international "eavesdropping" program.
Kennedy apparently got flustered with Mirengoff, so Durbin started fielding the questions and himself became increasingly flustered.


  • Well, I guess you have to give some props to any man with the balls to stand in front of a group of people and say he represents "Pajamas Media."

    But I'm reading this very interesting book--Libertarianism: A Primer--in which the author says "In conformaty with the rule of law, [the Constitution] gave the president the power to execute the laws and the judiciary the power to interpret and enforce them."

    Do you libertarians no longer believe that? (The book was copyrighted in 1997) Because that would seem to be the stance this administration is taking when they argue that, in Gonzales' view, "the congressional authorization of force (AUMF), by authorizing all means necessary to prevent another attack, provides authorization independent of FISA for the administration to listen to al Qaeda calls into the U.S."

    According to you libertarians, it's not Bush's place (or Gonzales's, as Bush's representative) to interpret what the laws mean. He's just supposed to enforce them.

    Is this no longer the case?

    By Blogger Aunt B, at 4:02 PM  

  • That's why things are still up in the air; the AUMF is worded like a free for all: the President can do anything to prevent another attack? A dictator could dissolve congress and declare a military dictatorship, all under the "authority" of AUMF. So where does one draw the line?
    The lefties claim Bush is a dictator, on the other hand it's pretty reasonable to want to monitor someone who's phone number is in a laptop found in an terrorist training camp.
    Gonzales is the attorney general. He's the legal counsel to the president.

    By Blogger Exador, at 7:41 PM  

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