Tuesday’s Washington Post reports that House Democrats are close to granting all of President Bush’s demands for more domestic spying powers and telecommunications amnesty, in exchange for, well, nothing:
House and Senate Democratic leaders [say they are close to a bill giving the President] more domestic surveillance powers and grant[ing] phone companies some form of immunity for their role in the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program…
Unlike the Senate leadership, senior House Democrats have been fighting Bush’s demand that telecommunications companies receive blanket amnesty for warrantless surveillance. Even when Bush refused to sign an extension of the surveillance bill without amnesty, the Democrats held firm and let the measure expire, drawing attack ads and fear-mongering from the G.O.P. By surrendering now, Democrats would not only ratify the administration’s assault on the rule of law. They would also be practicing a self-destructive brand of political cannibalism that thins their ranks and enervates their base. Salon’s Glenn Greenwald explains it in crushing detail, which I think is worth quoting at length:
The signs are unmistakably clear that what was always inevitable — full compliance by the House Democratic leadership with Bush’s demands on warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty — is now imminent… There’s very little point anymore in writing about how the Congressional Democratic leadership is complicit in all of the worst Bush abuses, or about how craven they are. All of that is far too documented….But what is somewhat baffling in all of this is just how politically stupid and self-destructive their behavior is. If the plan all along was to give Bush everything he wanted, as it obviously was, why not just do it at the beginning? Instead, they picked a very dramatic fight that received substantial media attention. They exposed their freshmen and other swing-district members to attack ads. They caused their base and their allies to spend substantial energy and resources defending them from these attacks.