- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 22, 2005

Having it both ways

“Ever since 9/11, the media and congressional critics have waged a relentless battle against President Bush for not doing enough to prevent the terrorist attacks. Now these same critics have begun a campaign against the Bush administration for doing too much to prevent the next attack,” Ronald Kessler writes in the Wall Street Journal.

“The latest example is the New York Times revelation that after 9/11, Mr. Bush authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to intercept communications with an overseas nexus to uncover information about possible al Qaeda attacks. The fact that Mr. Bush bypassed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which lays out procedures for intercepting communications in terrorist cases, raises legitimate concerns.

“But it should be of more concern that al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations are trying to obtain nuclear and biological weapons that could wipe out major cities, kill millions of people and devastate the American economy,” said Mr. Kessler, author of books on the FBI and CIA.

“Against that kind of threat, the FISA procedures are simply too slow. Even under the law’s emergency provisions, once the FBI learns about the need to intercept a phone conversation or e-mail conversation, it takes at least a day — often longer — to obtain all the necessary approvals, including the signature of the attorney general.

“But a delay of even an hour may have grave consequences. If NSA learns, for example, that Osama bin Laden or one of his henchmen is using a satellite phone, the agency must listen in immediately; the opportunity might not present itself again. A delay of five minutes could mean a critical piece of information is missed, or a terrorist may stop using that phone and use another phone. That is exactly what happened after an Aug. 17, 1998, Washington Post article quoted a former CIA official saying that he was ‘aware of intercepted electronic communications among bin Laden associates in the aftermath of the embassy bombings [in Africa] in which they take credit for the attacks and exchange warm congratulations.’”

Caught in a bubble

“To a remarkable degree, America’s liberal elites have constructed for themselves a comfortable, supportive, and self esteem-enhancing environment,” Thomas Lifson writes at www.realclearpolitics.com.

“The most prestigious and widest-reaching media outlets reinforce their views, rock stars and [filmmakers] provide lyrics and stories making their points, college professors tell them they are right, and the biggest foundations like Ford fund studies to prove them correct,” said Mr. Lifson, editor and publisher of the American Thinker.

“It has been a disaster for them.

“American liberals are able to live their lives untroubled by what they regard as serious contrary opinion. The capture of the media, academic, and institutional high ground enables them to dismiss their conservative opponents as ill-informed, crude, bigoted, and evil. The memes are by now familiar. Rush Limbaugh and the other radio talkers ‘preach hate.’ Evangelicals are ‘religious fanatics’ comparable to the Islamo-fascists in their desire to impose ‘theocracy.’ Catholics observant of the teachings of their church are ‘hypocrites’ and their priests possible ‘pedophiles.’ Jewish conservatives are members of the ‘neocon’ cult, a suspicious lot schooled in the esoteric works of Leo Strauss.”

Mr. Lifson added: “The liberal bubble is a seductive delusion, one to which many liberals are addicted. Repeated failures to persuade the public to vote into power those politicians who agree with their political principles will not persuade many to venture outside the glossy confines. As result, expect the liberal spiral downward to increasingly resemble a vortex, leading to oblivion.”

Special election

“April’s special-election open primary in California’s 50th District, and the likely June runoff, give Democrats a terrific opportunity to demonstrate that an electoral wave is building, and that a return to power in one or both houses of Congress is possible in November,” political analyst Stuart Rothenberg writes in Roll Call.

“If Democrat Francine Busby wins the special election (or even comes close), the national media will rightly see the results as evidence that a combination of corruption and poor presidential poll numbers are expanding the playing field and putting dozens of additional House districts into play,” Mr. Rothenberg said.

“But virtually every opportunity also entails risk. The Democrats could find that the election to fill the open seat of former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.), who resigned amid a bribery scandal, produces disappointing defeat rather than glorious victory. If that happens, Democrats have a problem, since defeat would raise questions about the effectiveness of the party’s message.”

Nightmare scenario

“There are several reasons for the Bush administration to fear — indeed, to dread — the possibility of a Democratic takeover of the Senate in 2006,” ByronYork writes in National Review.

“Chairman Leahy of the Judiciary Committee is one. Chairman Rockefeller of the Intelligence Committee is another. But perhaps the most consequential, at least in terms of national security, would be Chairman Levin of the Armed Services Committee. Just mention the prospect of Sen. Carl Levin, Democrat from Michigan, overseeing the Pentagon — and therefore much of the War on Terror — and it’s enough to send a chill down administration spines,” Mr. York said.

“Certainly, there are several Democrats who strongly opposed the administration’s national security policies. But much of that opposition is rhetorical. Levin, on the other hand, works hard to actually block some of those policies.”

Dean’s gambit

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has asked the DNC’s general counsel to draft a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the Justice Department’s legal opinions on using the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on telephone conversations among suspected terrorists.

In an e-mail message to the DNC’s vast party-activist list, Mr. Dean calls President Bush’s NSA order “illegal” and compares his action to Richard Nixon’s Watergate abuses.

“We have seen this kind of arrogance of power before. Richard Nixon once said in an interview that ‘if the president does it, it can’t be illegal.’ He found out that wasn’t true. This administration needs a reminder.”

At the bottom of his message, Mr. Dean reminds recipients of his message that contributions to the DNC “are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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