Tuesday, March 14, 2006

It's official: the bald lies being used for defending warrantless domestic spying are standard-issue talking points

The Fix has a nice commentary on Feingold's move to defend our democracy and Frist's demagoguery in attacking him. Frist's talking points set up the same straw man we've heard from Dick Cheney, Scott McClellan, Karl Rove, and Sean Hannity: the Democrats don't want to wiretap Al Qaeda:

Somewhere in America today, a radical Islamic terrorist could very well be picking up their phone and receiving a call from their overseas counterpart. They will discuss plots to infiltrate U.S. cities and mount devastating attacks... If Russ Feingold had his way, U.S. authorities would do this with the intercepted phone call: hang up.

That is a whole lot easier to attack, and to explain in the first place, than trying to argue that "The Democrats want us to wiretap people suspected of links to Al Qaeda but to do so within the law, meaning we can immediately set up a wiretap on any phone call or person, as long as we apply for a warrant within 72 hours. And by the way, Bush explicitly said three times that this was still how it was being done, although he later admitted otherwise."

The "Democrats don't want to wiretap Al Qaeda" slur really makes me wonder two things: (1) who is going to be dumb enough to believe that Democrats actually don't want to wiretap Al Qaeda? and (2) who, if they actually read what Feingold said after listening to Frist, Cheney et al., is going to be dumb enough to believe the law did not permit anyone to wiretap Al Qaeda and the president had to break the law to protect America?

The answer to both, I suppose, is people who accept any announcement from Frist, Cheney, or Sean Hannity as authoritative, without ever investigating other sources or employing the rudiments of intelligent thought - in other words, many of the same people who still think Saddam Hussein was giving orders to the 9/11 hijackers.

But it's easy to see that the administration's Rovian talking points are intended to smother the rudiments of intelligent thought and instead serve as a somnolent mantra. For comparison, here is a passage from Frist's attack on Feingold:

So while the Democrats flock to the TV cameras to grandstand and play politics with national security, we'll continue to focus on the principle of prevention. And we'll continue to do whatever it takes to protect American lives.

An here's a passage from a political screed of a similar depth of thought:

All the ‘best people’ from the gentlemen's clubs, and all the frantic fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and bestial horror at the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoise to chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the crisis.

The latter of course is one of Orwell's paragons of the decay of thought as represented in the English language. Orwell might as well have been speaking of either one of these samples in his description of...

ugliness... staleness of imagery... lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house... every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one's brain.

So to criticize the administration can be condemned, without exposing onesself to the actual message, as to "grandstand and play politics with national security". Whatever the administration does is "whatever it takes to protect American lives." How can you not end all debate, and end any further rational thought on the matter, when to do otherwise would be to question "whatever it takes to protect American lives"? Notice the sinister confluence of meanings there: naturally we want to do everything we can to "protect American lives." But protecting American lives demands "whatever it takes". No possible action might lie outside of "whatever it takes" - even if what it takes is an ongoing violation of a criminal statute, or scoffing at the central elements of the Constitution. And so many Democrats are still trapped by the GOP's corruption of language - they pivot around the mere threat of being called "soft on defending the homeland", despite that those words have lost all objective meaning, from an administration that has acted as if homeland security were only a matter of conducting enough military adventures and abuse of detainees, and has done its best to resist spending money on securing our ports or borders, or the single most vital possible element of ensuring our security: tracking and decommissioning nuclear materials around the world.

The Fix has got it right that, besides whatever defense or threat to our democracy posed by either of these Senators, Frist and Feingold have both likely stoked the loyalty of many members of the solid base of their respective parties. The sad question is why solid Republicans would cheer for such a nakedly moronic affront to the Constitution and the rule of law. (Not all solid Republicans - see Bruce Fein, Bob Barr, George Will, David Kris, Bill Kristol, Bruce Bartlett, etc. and at least to some extent Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe, Chuck Hagel, Lindsay Graham, Christie Todd Whitman, etc...)

It seems like so long ago now that the Republican party was where I felt at home. Almost a party slogan was "I love my country but I fear my government." One wonders how the current followers of the administration can possibly include a single person in common with the Republican Party of Bill Clinton's first couple years in office.

Time and democracy are on Russ Feingold's side (and on the side of those conservatives like Bob Barr who still exercise their own capacities of independent thought and buck the herd mentality). Just as Feingold's initially "radical" positions on the Patriot Act and the invasion of Iraq have been redeemed by history and become accepted as mainstream, so also, to his credit, will the great majority in this country soon look back with admiration on Senator Feingold's lonely leadership on defending the rule of law.


Screaming Freedom said...

Some got it some don't.

What is the difference in this adminstration from the last?

Both spend and made governemnt bigger, and both took stabs at the constitution.

Kathleen Callon said...

If you want Senator Feingold to run for President in 2008, please, come over to http://russfeingoldpetition.blogspot.com/ and sign the petition.

Thanks for your time.