Sunday, January 1, 2006

Molly Ivins At It Again

**Editor's Note: I love Molly Ivins of the Star-Telegram, always have. And this time around she hit the nail on the head & threw in a great quote from the late Senator Frank Church.

Undermining Our Country To Save It
By Molly Ivins
Creators Syndicate

AUSTIN - The first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

Thirty-five years ago, Richard Milhous Nixon, who was crazy as a bullbat, and J. Edgar Hoover, who wore women's underwear, decided that some Americans had unacceptable political opinions. So they set our government to spying on its own citizens, basically those who were deemed insufficiently like Crazy Richard Milhous.

For those of you who have forgotten just what a stonewall paranoid Nixon was, the poor man used to stalk around the White House demanding that his political enemies be killed. Many still believe there was a certain Richard III grandeur to Nixon's collapse because he was also a man of notable talents.

There is neither grandeur nor tragedy in watching this president, the Testy Kid, violate his oath to uphold the laws and Constitution.

The Testy Kid wants to do what he wants to do when he wants to do it because he is the president, and he considers that sufficient justification for whatever he wants. He even finds lawyers like John Yoo who tell him that whatever he wants to do is legal.

The creepy part is the overlap. Damned if they aren't still here, after all these years, the old Nixon hands -- Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, the whole gang whose yearning for authoritarian government rose like a stink over the Nixon years. Imperial executive. Bring back those special White House guard uniforms. Cheney, like some malignancy that cannot be cured, back at the same old stand, pushing the same old agenda.

Of course, they tell us we have to be spied on for our own safety, so they can catch the terrorists who threaten us all.

Thirty-five years ago, they nabbed a film star named Jean Seberg and a bunch of people running a free breakfast program for poor kids in Chicago. This time, they're onto the Quakers. We are not safer.

We would be safer, as the 9-11 Commission has so recently reminded us, if some obvious and necessary precautions were taken at both nuclear and chemical plants -- but that is not happening because those industries contribute to Republican candidates. Republicans do not ask their contributors to spend a lot of money on obvious and necessary steps to protect public safety. They wiretap instead.

You will be unsurprised to learn that, first, they lied. They didn't do it. Well, OK, they did it, but not very much at all. Well, OK, more than that. A lot more than that. OK, millions of private e-mail and telephone calls every hour, and all medical and financial records.
You may recall that in 2002 it was revealed that the Pentagon had started a giant data-mining program called Total Information Awareness (TIA), intended to search through vast databases "to increase information coverage by an order of magnitude."

From credit cards to vet reports, Big Brother would be watching us. This dandy program was under the control of Adm. John Poindexter, convicted of five felonies during Iran-contra, all overturned on a technicality. This administration really knows where to go for good help -- it ought to bring back Brownie.

Everybody decided that TIA was a terrible idea, and the program was theoretically shut down. As often happens with this administration, it turned out that they just changed the name and made the program less visible. Data-mining was a popular buzzword at the time, and the administration was obviously hot to have it. Bush established a secret program under which the National Security Agency could bypass the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court and begin eavesdropping on Americans without warrants.

As many have patiently pointed out, the entire program was unnecessary because the FISA court is both prompt and accommodating. There is virtually no possible scenario that would make it difficult or impossible to get a FISA warrant -- it has granted 19,000 warrants and rejected only a handful.

I don't like to play scary games where we all stay awake late at night, telling each other scary stories -- but there's a reason we have never given our government this kind of power. As the late Sen. Frank Church said, "That capability could at any time be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capacity to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide." And if a dictator took over, the NSA "could enable it to impose total tyranny."

Then we always get that dreadful goody-two-shoes response, "Well, If you aren't doing anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about, do you?"

Folks, we know this program is being and will be misused. We know it from the past record and current reporting. The program has already targeted vegans and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- and if those aren't outposts of al Qaeda, what is? Could this be more pathetic?

This could scarcely be clearer. Either the president of the United States is going to have to understand and admit that he has done something very wrong, or he will have to be impeached. The first time this happened, the institutional response was magnificent. The courts, the press, the Congress all functioned superbly.

Anyone think we're up to that again? Then whom do we blame when we lose the republic?


Nick Speth said...

Believe it or not, I've always like Ivins too. In fact, I think the New York Times should hire her full-time and dump ditzy columnist Maureen Dowd.

Bubblehead said...

Another Idaho blogger here. I was not as impressed with Ivins' confusion about various "facts" -- she confused the NSA wiretaps with FBI tracking, and bought into the "Homeland Security agents questioned the college student" hoax the week before. If Dems want to make any inroads, they'll need to start holding their spokespeople to a higher standard; otherwise, they'll just end up looking silly.

Tara A. Rowe said...

The Nixon comparison is a comparison I could only dream of making.

"Holding their spokespeople to a higher standard"? The Republicans aren't holding their leadership to a higher standard; the Democrats not holding little ole Molly Ivins of the Star-Telegram is a small issue.

Bubblehead said...

Dems should be realizing that their strategy of trying to win by exclusively appealing to their base with fact-free emotional rants hasn't proven successful against Bush in the past; I'm saying that they should consider trying something else. There are good arguments to be made against warrantless wiretapping like this that don't require one to make things up, like Ivins did. While diatribes like this might appeal to the "anti-Chimpy McHalliburton" crowd, I don't see them convincing any swing voters that Dems might need to actually win some elections.
And yes, as the challengers, Dems will be held to a higher standard. It's not fair, but looking at the history of American politics, it's nonetheless true.

Nick Speth said...

Now, Bubblehead has a point about this particular column, and indeed a lot of Ivins's stuff. However, the fact is even if she's wrong she writes in a manner that would pass an ninth grade writing class, the same can't be said for Ms. Dowd. Her columns read like a nine-year-old girl's journal. That's why I said the grey lady should pick up Ivins.

Now to the actual points bubblehead makes. You're making a typical conservative mistake (one I'm guilty of occasionally) and that's grouping liberal media in with the Democratic party. Molly Ivins isn't a spokesperson for the DNC anymore than I am for the GOP (I'd have been fired long ago).

Plus we're not even close to an election year, and Bush isn't up for reelection. This is the time that Dems need to "fire up the base" because it's fundraising and organizing time. So if official DNC people were saying that, it might make for sound strategy.


Tara's right. Despite my current state of being fed up with the administration, I do associate myself more readily with the GOP, and we need to figure out a way to protect ourselves, and not give up our rights too.

Tara A. Rowe said...

The problem with the conservative argument on just about everything that attacks the DNC is the grouping of non-mainstream individuals and philosophies with the party itself.

Nick Speth said...

True enough, but part of that falls with the Democratic Party themselves. I don't think they spend even close to the amount of energy distancing themselves from the left-wing kooks as the Republicans do from the right-wing kooks.

Of course in Idaho (home of some of the kookiest of right-wing kooks) you might feel differently.