Senate Roll Call Vote on S. 1927
Protect America Act of 2007
A bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to provide additional procedures for authorizing certain acquisitions of foreign intelligence information and for other purposes.
Source: The Hill
This graphic may be republished with attribute.
The Dark Wraith trusts that concerned citizens will remember how the Senators of the United States voted on the Protect America Act of 2007.
Election Race Dialogue: Critique One
It isn't time to panic. Remember the old saying: It's always darkest just before it's pitch black.My patience has evidently worn thin. The economy is in grave peril. Even former Bush Administration official Douglas Holtz-Eakin is saying we face a looming fiscal crisis largely the result of an inattentive White House obsessed with throwing uncontrolled largess at the Pentagon with no thought of fiscal control over the balance between tax revenues and federal expenditures.
In about three years, these will be the Good Ol' Days. Actually, it'll be about four, and the Democrat who's President will get blamed for the mess that was created by this irresponsible Bush Administration because few people have the basic math and forensic skills to understand how the current Administrationeven as it was running nose-bleed budget deficits financed by Chinese Communist mercantilistswas backing into the out years major obligations that would have required years of pre-planning and responsible tax policies the Bush incompetents' paymasters would never have allowed.
So what we have is this:
Maybe we'll have a sunny-side-up John Edwards talking about "hope" as all Hell breaks loose.
Maybe we'll have Barack Obama talking about his humble, filthy rich upbringing to see us through.
Maybe we'll have Hillary Clinton in her award-winning role as the Neo-Con in Pumps giving us another round of jackboots-solve-everything.
Or maybe we'll have Al Gore saying, "It's global warming that'll flood us all back to Waterworld if everyone doesn't start living simple like I spend millions of dollars, myself, doing."
Then again, if a Republican gets elected, he'll find a way to blame the Democrats, the secular humanists, the evolutionists, the gays, the feminists, and disco for the mess his predecessor and intellectual equal created.
The Democrats in Congress have shown no ability to stop the President's taxation policies and spending priorities, much less put an end to his utter contempt for the constitutional right of Congress to demand sworn testimony from his advisers. The runaway freight train of economic crisis is still on course, and the 110th Congress cannot even force low-level White House officials to testify fully, truthfully, and under oath about side streams of political fights.
That is a grim sign for any hope of averting full-blown domestic economic catastrophe; and yet, not only are the Democrats in Congress content to let this Administration burn itself out, the Democratic candidates for President are offering nothing that could even come close to a comprehensive solution to what's coming. Populist rhetoric about soaking the rich for taxes is all well and fine, but even the most draconian steepening of the progressive tax rate structure would do little good, if any, at this point. We cannot reel back the clock to the beginning of this disaster and have any hope that now rectifying bad tax policy instituted over the past five-plus years will materially fix much of anything. It won't. That's like shooting a man and then, five years later, extracting the bullets, expecting him to get up and dance a jig: if he's still alive, he's already adapted to the bullets in him, and pulling them out isn't going to repair five years of damage they've done rattling around in his body. Serious talkthe kind that involves numbers, projections, and unmitigated honestyabout a return to fiscal responsibility would be nice, but the Democratic Presidential candidates cannot muster even that. Instead, we hear things like John Edwards' assertion, parsed in the Washington Post, that, "[I]t is more important to invest in universal health care and lifting people out of poverty than to reduce the budget deficit."
We are in the last throes of a Presidency run by men and women who believed they could defy the financial equivalent of the law of gravity, and here we have a man wanting to be President who similarly believes that wishing really, really hard will make the freight train bearing down on us decide of its basically good nature that people with wonderfully humane ideas don't deserve to get pancaked like so many fiscally reckless worms. Irresponsibility is no more charming and no less catastrophic when educated, liberal Democrats answer its siren song than when willfully ignorant, Right-wing Republicans do so.
What little hope there is of solving the multi-pronged pitchfork of economic disaster will not come from more out-of-control spending unless concomitant and multiplicative budget cuts are made; and that's going to hurt like Hell. No, we're not going to somehow free up hundreds of billions of dollars by ending the American-Iraqi War, and that's because we're not going to end the American-Iraqi War, not for a long time, in part because even the congressional Democrats don't want to end it; and even when we finally find a decent exit from that bloody abomination, we'll be spending billions and billions of dollars mopping up the floors of the Middle East and Asia Minor for years afterward. Pretending that epilogue is optional is like pretending we're going to become international isolationists in the world of the 21st Century where we have global predatory competitors like China, Russia, the European Union, and a bevy of little wannabes laying out their plans to command resource centers, shipping routes, and economic/military alliance structures. If we don't lean forward into that gameand do so in ways that completely eluded the butch-takes-all methods of Neo-Conservatismwe're going to find ourselves not just in a deep, long-lasting economic drought, but instead in a virtually bottomless, near-permanent economic desert of continental strangulation.
Comity on the campaign trail is for the weak, and none of the candidates should be surprised as the level of acrimony rises. Unfortunately, instead of forcing one another to face hard questions about domestic issues, and instead of eating each other alive for prescribing fantasy blends of continued fiscal recklessness, the candidates virtually hold hands and sing Kumbaya on health care, tax policy, and anti-poverty programs. The only time the gloves are coming off is when the likes of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama pound each other over foreign policy: who's the more naïve? who's more worldly? who's more butch when it comes to bombing terrorists? Without so much as a meaningful hint of recognition of how deep, complicated, and multi-faceted the mess is that the neo-cons have created, Clinton and Obama engage at the level of subtlety and nuanced understanding in a fight over the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Nukes, for Heaven's sake.
In comments to another article at BlondeSense about the opium trade in Afghanistan, a subject I addressed in a June 26 article here at The Dark Wraith Forums, I crafted a portal to include the Democrats in a broadbased condemnation of the debacle that has been American foreign policy over the past six-and-a-half years:
...Here we have yet another fine mess this Administration has created because 1) it attacked a tactically and strategically worthless pile of dirt, and 2) in so doing, it turned that tactically and strategically useless pile of dirt into a quagmire soaked in the blood-stained hubris of American neo-conservative stupidity yet again walking the Earth on stilts.And to clarify and extend my choice of Barack Obama as the exemplary Democratic target of my criticism, I followed on with this comment:
But, wait, there's more: unlike Iraq, which is producing a regional conflagration-in-the-making, Afghanistan is proving itself to be more than just the land of undefeatable foes and tribal men for whom pederasty is ancient cultural custom: Afghanistan, with this drug trade, is turning into a global problem far beyond the borders of its miserable landscape.
And while the fine but perhaps naïve Barack Obama might believe there's a place for the use of nuclear weapons in modern warfare, and while it might seem that Afghanistan qualifies as the most desirable place on Earth to plant one and let God try Creation 2.0 in the crater we make with a multi-megaton stool-softener, I would encourage readers to contemplate this: who, exactly, is it that benefits from opium trade on this scale and in a war zone?
Naw, we're surely not going to do anything to put an end to what's already, just since our invasion, turned from the Land Where Toilet Bowls and Bathroom Tissue Are Unknown into the Smack Capitol of the World.
We'll just pass more laws in this country throwing our own dealers and users in the slammer forever. That's what we'll do, by golly, and that'll take care of the problem while our soldiers continue to die in a Hell-hole that's not even the country harboring and feeding the branch of al-Qa'ida we need to stay at war with for a few more decades.
Jeez, if we really did neutralize al-Qa'ida (the wacko globe-trotting wing in, oh, say, Pakistan) we wouldn't need to pass all the laws letting creepy weirdo Feds snoop in on everything American citizens do.
And if we didn't need to pass all those privacy-wrecking laws, what good would the Democrats be, anymore?
Other than his wealth, which is enough for me to view his Presidential aspirations with a jaundiced eye, I have fewer attack points on Mr. Obama than I do on most of the other Democratic candidates. That does not mean I will eventually endorse him; I probably won't. [I set forth my personal condition for endorsing a candidate for President in my article, "The Clear and Compelling Case for a Truth Commission."]Criticizing Mr. Obama or any other candidate who might actually beor, at least, eventually becomea fine President is to the end of attempting to focus a particular and, in this case, almost trivial argument to get it over with. A person who aspires to be President should not allow the issue of tactical nuclear weapons usage to be a place where some opponent can put him on the ropes and beat him into looking like a dissembling twit, and that's exactly what Hillary Clinton did to Barack Obama with the nuclear weapons issue. She's found one of his glass jaws, and she's going to hit it again and again unless he resolutely deals with the issue and then moves on.
The side-swipe at Mr. Obama was a hyperbolic reference to his vacillation on the matter of using nuclear weapons: first, he seemed to rule them out; then, when Herr Hillary called him "naïve" for doing so, he suddenly turned mealy-mouthed and claimed that there had "been no discussion of nuclear weapons," which means he was whimpering that he couldn't have ruled out their use because they hadn't been included in the political dialogue in which he was engaging.
That's the kind of talk that worries me. A President cannot be weak-kneed when it comes to the use of force: he or she needs to have a decision path; if it's complicated, then say so. Don't simplify matters and then, when some opportunist hops your bones, cry about how you hadn't been given a chance to engage in qualifiers on your original statement...
I offered Mr. Obama this response to the question, "Would you rule out the use of nuclear weapons?"
"What do you mean, 'Would I rule out the use of nuclear weapons?'Having responded in that way, Mr. Obama could then move on. He'll have all the breathing room he needs, and he will have conveyed to his opponents attacking his foreign and military policy credentials that they will end up getting their own noses bloodied playing the "He Don't Like Nukes" game.
"Perhaps some of my opponents are ready at the earliest convenient opportunity to solve the difficult military problems of our time with a nuke strike here or there, but I consider the American nuclear inventory a level of engagement whereby we've conceded defeat using every one of the tens and tens of thousands of other weapons in our arsenal.
"Do I think al-Qa'ida, the Taliban, and some of the insurgent groups in Iraq qualify for that kind of concession from the greatest superpower the world has ever known? I certainly do not, and I would hope that my fellow Democratic candidates don't either; but when they start talking about tactical nuclear strikes on the sovereign soil of our alliesweak-kneed, disappointing, and problematic as those allies areI think those candidates have already expressed their views about the use of diplomacy and conventional military force, both in action and in reserve, to resolve the complex problems we're going to be facing on a continuing, permanent basis.
"So, in answer to your question, yes, I would authorize the use nuclear weapons; and when I did, it would be when my best, brightest, and most trusted advisers had convinced me that all reasonable hope in the remainder of our vast diplomatic and military inventory had failed the greatest superpower the world has ever, in all of history, known."
That means the debate among the candidates, who still want to damage each other, might have to turn to carving out genuine differences in domestic policy; and to dispense real pain upon each other, they might actually have to level head-ringing blows about the fiscal irresponsibility of their opponents' domestic policy prescriptions. That's when the race might get interesting.
John Edwards could be asked, "When you say your domestic spending programs take priority over bringing down the Bush era budget deficits, do you have even the slightest clue about the staggering budget commitments the United States Treasury is already facing in the out years? Where's all that money going to come from? The Chinese and the Arabs? They were the bankers for the neo-cons; do you plan to keep that tab running?"
Hillary Clinton could be asked, "Concerning the severely higher taxes and harsh spending cuts the United States government is going to effect to control the massive budget commitments that threaten to overwhelm us in just a few years, are you going to be ready to propose painful tax increases, not just on the middle class, but also on the powerfully wealthy people who are right now funding your campaign because they think you're really nothing but a low-taxes, Reagan-type conservative just pretending to be a liberal?"
And if Al Gore flits into the race on his red carpet, he could be asked, "Considering you have said that global warming is 'THE most important issue of our time', where then does that put catastrophic domestic economic collapse in three or four years on your list of priorities, sir?"
A smart Democratic candidate has what in military terms is called a "target-rich" environment with fellow candidates. A smart Democratic candidate who really wants to win must be willing to turn those targets into victims of their own greatest points of political and intellectual weakness.
The candidate willing to engage the race for the White House in that way will not only benefit politically, but will also do the nation the great favor of forcing the Electorate to grasp the gravity of the situation we as a nation face because of the utterly unconscionable recklessness of the Republicans who controlled the United States government long after they had run out of ideas and legitimacy.
The Dark Wraith will continue to disrespect and lecture the Democrats in the weeks and months ahead.
The President's Optimal Strategy in the Matter of Alberto Gonzales
So, given that Gonzales might very well be on the verge of impeachment, which would rip away Bush's last and best hope of protecting himself and all his cronies from finally being brought before the bar of justice, does Mr. Bush have what in game theory is called an "optimal strategy"?
Indeed, he does, and it requires only two moves, both entirely legal and within his power.
- Step 1: As soon as Congress adjourns for its summer recess, President Bush should privately ask for and receive Mr. Gonzales's resignation. Publicly, the President can praise Gonzales for his great service to the country and to the cause of justice, and he can take the opportunity to condemn the Democrats for engaging in the politics of personal destruction to smear a fine public servant.
- Step 2: Mr. Bush should then immediately make a recess appointment of one of his closest, most loyal allies as Interim Attorney General, asserting that he must make the immediate appointment to ensure continuity of federal law enforcement leadership in the on-going war against terrorists who want to attack the United States.
That's all there is to it.
The scenario had been posited previous to this article; but in the particular post at The Last Hurrah, the claim was made that the Democrats should "[k]eep a skeleton crew in DC and schedule a vote once a week." This is not only unrealistic; it is infeasible. The Democrats could keep 30 of their Senators parked on the floor of the Senate chambers, and it would do no good; the Senate would still be in recess. In fact, the Democrats could keep all of their Senators in Washington–in the event, surrendering their opportunity to at least touch base in person with their voting constituents–and the Senate would still be in recess. Once the gavel falls to adjournment for the recess, the Democrats can do nothing. More importantly, unless there is a national emergency, the decision to have that gavel to adjournment fall is already set in virtual stone, and the Democrats would have no parliamentary maneuver that would not be frustrated by the Republican minority in the chamber.
Congress has no power in its normal course to rescind or review recess appointments, and Mr. Bush has used them before to entirely frustrate the ability of Congress to carry out its constitutional role of providing advice and certifying consent in such matters. Mr. Bush used a recess appointment to name the widely disliked, allegedly sometimes-violent and incompetently overbearing John Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; and he used it more recently to install Sam Fox, a funder of the dirty tricks group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that attacked 2004 Democratic Presidential nominee John Kerry, as U.S. Ambassador to Belgium. A recess appointment cannot be rescinded by Congress, although review of some details may be a subject of formal inquiry, as occurred in the aftermath of the Fox appointment, wherein three Senators sought opinion from the General Accounting Office, which subsequently dismissed their contention while appearing, curiously enough, to agree with their main point.
Should the President use his power to make recess appointments to replace Alberto Gonzales, he will effectively achieve at least three desired results. First, given that the Democrats have used the Attorney General's repeated dissembling and obfuscation about the firings of eight or nine U.S. Attorneys, removing Mr. Gonzales from the line of fire will eviscerate the Democrats' focus of politically useful outrage and leave them with the core issue of the firings, themselves, a matter that is likely too complicated to hold the attention of the American public.
Second, by immediately appointing an Interim Attorney General, Mr. Bush will prevent the potentially dangerous, seasoned prosecutor Craig Morford from taking the helm at the Justice Department, where he could appoint special prosecutors and bring to bear the vast resources of federal law enforcement on an Administration whose potentially wrongful acts are so vast that only such a massive apparatus as could be commanded by DoJ would have any hope whatsoever of dealing with the alleged wrongdoing in all of its varied, complex, and nuanced aspects.
Finally, by making a recess appointment of an Interim Attorney General, Mr. Bush will have all the time he needs to find a loyalist to nominate as permanent Attorney General. In fact, because a recess appointment at this late hour of the Bush Administration by statute would not expire before the November 2008 Presidential Election, Mr. Bush would not have to even bother with nominating a permanent replacement who would surely be hammered for political points by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and who would probably be forced to promise investigations the President simply cannot afford to allow.
If Mr. Bush does, indeed, execute his optimal strategy in the two-step move set forth in this article, the political game is over for the Democrats since it would be only within the Department of Justice, itself, that they would have any hope whatsoever of finally bringing the rule of law to bear upon the Bush Administration before its leaders and all those below them can quietly leave office and let history, worthless to the masses and toothless as it is, be their sole judge and executioner.
The Dark Wraith awaits the President's next move in the game of American Politics in the 21st Century.