February 3, 2006

Joe Klein: Constitution-Loathing "Liberal"?

"People like me who favor this program don't yet know enough about it [Bush Domestic Surveillance program] yet," he says, "Those opposed to it know even less- and certainly less than I do." -Joe Klein."

Joe Klein has been getting a lot of attention of late for his rip of Dems' criticism of Bush's NSA domestic surveillance program. It makes you wonder if Klein understands how untruthfully and how shamelessly the Bush Administration will do anything it can get away with. He certainly seems to know nothing about the Constitution, or to value it in any event. But his contempt for the Constitution and the law did not start with the FISA Scandal. And apparently he assumes we are as lazy and clueless as he is. But we are not. I hope this post will help to prove that. In April 2005, writing on the Schiavo Affair, Klein found a way to criticize Democrats for it while at the same time demonstrating his disdain for the Constitution and the law. I wrote then:

In his column this week, Klein takes the opportunity of the Schiavo travesty, and the DeLay Scandal and the Pope's passing, to find, yet again, somehow to find fault with Democrats. Don't get me wrong, I am sure this "tough love" is all with the good of the Party and the country in mind. I don't have a problem with that. My problem is that Klein's analysis and advice is so poor. The question is why? Klein is not a stupid man - in fact he can be very astute at times. But not about Democrats of late. Some examples from his column:

There has been a fair amount of covert gloating in the liberal community over the congressional Republican flameout. Senator Bill Frist's ridiculous videotape diagnosis of the stricken woman, DeLay's toxic effusions, the President's unseemly dash to Washington to sign the Schiavo legislation all found their just rewards in the polls that revealed an overwhelming public disgust with the political shenanigans. But Democrats would be wise to stow their satisfaction and give careful consideration to what thoughtful conservatives are saying about the role of the judiciary in our public life because the issue is about to get a lot more contentious.

. . . But Klein gets worse:

The Democrats' relative silence on all this has been prudent, but telling. Their implicit position has been to err toward law. "The notion that Florida failed to do its job in the Schiavo case is wrong," said Congressman Barney Frank, one of the few Democrats willing to speak about the case. "Procedurally, there was a great deal of due process." Frank was right, but it was a curiously sterile pronouncement, bereft of the Congressman's usual raucous humanity. It exemplified the Democratic Party's recent overdependence on legal process, a culture of law that has supplanted legislative consideration of vexing social issues. This is democracy once removed.

This is so stupid that Klein should be taken to the woodshed for this. I mean, the one thing we DO know is that the PUBLIC did not give a rat's ass what Dem or GOP politicians actually thought about the Schiavo case - the public agreed it was a private matter. The one thing that grabbed everyone's attention was however - the disdain for the CULTURE of LAW exhibited by the GOP - and now by Klein.At that time I also wrote a line that is appropos to his current disdain for the FISA law:

It is time Joe, that you understand that the Founding Fathers had a pretty good f--king idea on forming a government, and it called for 3 separate and equal branches.

You see, like Newsweek, Klein appears blissfully ignorant of the Constitution:

The liberal reaction is also an understandable consequence of the Bush Administration's tendency to play fast and loose on issues of war and peace-rushing to war after overhyping the intelligence on Saddam Hussein's nuclear-weapons program, appearing to tolerate torture, keeping secret prisons in foreign countries and denying prisoners basic rights. At the very least, the Administration should have acted, with alacrity, to update the federal intelligence laws to include the powerful new technologies developed by the NSA. But these concerns pale before the importance of the program. It would have been a scandal if the NSA had not been using these tools to track down the bad guys.

Of course, the reporting has been the opposite on the effectiveness of the program but let's leave that aside. Let's consider this statement from Klein:

the Administration should have acted, with alacrity, to update the federal intelligence laws

Joe, the President does NOT make the law, Justice Alito's belief to the contrary notwithstanding. And in fact, if you paid a little attention to those bloggers you gleefully disdain, you would know that, as Glenn Greenwals reported, when Senator Michael DeWine tried to amend the FISA law, the Bush Adminstration opposed DeWine's proposal:

In June, 2002, Senator DeWine introduced legislation to lower the evidentiary showing required for obtaining FISA warrants targeted at non-U.S. persons from "probable cause" to "reasonable suspicion," and in response, the DoJ attorney who supervises the process for obtaining of FISA warrants, James A. Baker, submitted a Statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee, in which he indicated that the Administration was not prepared to support those changes because they were unnecessary and possibly unconstitutional.

What of that Joe? And what of the Bush Administration lies about working through FISA for all of its intelligence work? Again from Glenn Greenwald:

In his testimony before the Committee, the DoJ's James Baker sought to assure the Committee that expanded eavesdropping would not pose any threats to civil liberties by stating the following:

So you would be, you know, connecting electronic surveillance and potentially physical search of those targets and that raises all the same kinds of civil liberties questions that FISA does to begin with. But nevertheless, you would have had--before you get to that point, you would have had a finding by a neutral and detached magistrate, and indeed in this case a sitting federal judge, district court judge, that all of the requirements of the statute are met and that there's probable cause to believe that this individual is engaged in international terrorism activities, or activities in preparation therefor.

At the time, wasn't Mr. Baker's statement to the Committee false because he assured them that eavesdropping could only occur when you have "a sitting federal judge, district court judge" certify "that all of the requirements of the statute are met?"What of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft's false testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in June 2004 that I reported on here?

Part of the safeguards of the Patriot Act, in addition to every activity of the FISA community basically being pre-authorized by a federal judge and the fact that we have that kind of screening by the federal courts in advance, we are required twice a year to report to the Congress and the Intelligence Committees.

What of that false testimony Joe? What of Alberto Gonzales' false testimony at his confirmation hearings? And of course, George Bush lied to the American People about it. Does Joe Klein NOT know the Bush Administration lies about everything? Not really. At the 2004 Republican Convention, Joe Klein said this about Zell Miller's speech there and the GOP Convention in general:

KLEIN: You know, I have been doing this for a fair number of years, and I don't think I've ever seen anything as angry or as ugly as Miller's speech. . . . The difference between this speech and Pat Buchanan's speech in '92 is that Pat Buchanan was making a diffuse attack on -- you know, on cultural liberals. Zell Miller was making a very particular and very personal attack on a nominee for president of the United States. I have never -- and not only that, it was -- it was wildly inaccurate, and he said that Kerry would let Paris decide when America goes to war. Now, you know, that's just a wild distortion of what we're facing here and it occurred to me as I was listening to this, I said to myself, fat lot of good Kerry's nuancing the war in Iraq has been doing. In this room here tonight, Kerry was a peacenik. . . . [W]hat we're seeing is a very -- probably the starkest difference in campaign strategy between two parties that I've ever seen. What you clearly have here is the Republicans appealing to their base, being over the top angry. What you really, what you saw with the Democrats a month ago was them being under the top, you know, benign and positive and that's because they believe their focus groups. . . . [T]he Kerry campaign touted today's [Kerry] speech as a new direction, that he was going to be tough as nails, tougher than he ever was and he might have been a little bit tougher, but it still wasn't a very tough speech. It was a concise speech. He made his argument, but it wasn't nearly as pitiless and angry as these guys were. . . . So you have angry inaccuracies by the basketful here tonight and I don't know how it's going to play.

In November 2004, we saw how it played. What did Klein learn from this? Apparently nothing. Or alternatively, he was willing to forget what he knows. Klein was very critical of Democratic reaction to President Bush's 2005 State of the Union speech.Steve Soto wrote:

Joe Klein (now of Time) has become a whore for the GOP. His latest piece blasts Democrats for voicing their displeasure during Bush’s SOTU, without remembering that the GOP did the same thing numerous times while Clinton was president. Furthermore, Klein thinks that Bush’s privatization scheme is "conservative" and that it isn't true that Bush’s plan would reduce Social Security benefits by 40%. Obviously Joe doesn't read the CBO, Paul Krugman, or the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities at all. He also thinks it is wrong not to be a little cynical about the everyday Iraqi woman who Bush had as a prop in his SOTU as someone who was glad we "liberated" her country, without Klein doing some fact checking to find out she is the interim Iraqi government’s ambassador to Egypt and not exactly a woman off the street. Finally Klein thinks the Democrats should come on over and meet Bush half way on privatization, when 1) Bush can't even sell his own party on it; 2) Bush can’t even demonstrate how it would deal with the solvency problem; 3) Bush can't come clean on how much it will add in new debt; and 4) Klein himself is too lazy to find out there are alternatives that are much less disruptive and more solvent than what Bush has proposed. And of course Klein writes about Bush as if he has a track record of working well with Democrats who have reached out to him.

This column on the FISA scandal is more of the same from him. Joe Klein does not have the knowledge and industriousness to do some real reporting. He relies on stenography and his patented "Dems are lame" script. His disdain for bloggers stems from the fact that they are on to his game.

---guest blogged by Armando (of DKos)

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