Thursday, December 29, 2005

What impeachment looks like

Bob Barr (who filed the papers against Clinton) explains:

This example of presidential phrase parsing was followed quickly by the president's press secretary, Scott McLellan, dead-panning to reporters that when Bush said a couple of years ago that he would never allow the NSA to monitor Americans without a court order, what he really meant was something different than what he actually said. If McLellan's last name had been McCurry, and the topic an illicit relationship with a White House intern rather than illegal spying on American citizens, I could have easily been listening to a White House news conference at the height of the Clinton impeachment scandal.

On foreign policy, domestic issues, relationships with Congress, and even their selection of White House Christmas cards and china patterns, presidents are as different as night and day. But when caught with a hand in the cookie jar and their survival called into question, administrations circle the wagons, fall back on time-worn but often effective defense mechanisms, and seamlessly morph into one another.

First, we get a president bobbing and weaving like Muhammad Ali. He knows he can't really tell the truth and he knows he can't rely only on lies. The resulting dilemma leads him to veer from unintelligible muttering to attempts to distract, and then to chest-beating bravado and attacks on his accusers.


A critical component of White House Scandal Defense 101 is rallying the partisan base. This keeps approval ratings in territory where the wheels don't start falling off. The way to achieve this goal is you go negative and you don't let up. If you're always attacking your accusers, the debate becomes one of Democrat vs. Republican, rather than right vs. wrong. Anyone who questions the legality of the decision to wiretap thousands of Americans unlawfully is attacked, as either an enabler of terrorists or a bitter partisan trying to distract a president at war.

On that last point, I give you proteinwisdom (via j.d.).

What matters is not what Congressional leaders call for, but what Bush did in the past. It isn't about Congress.

The fact is, it isn't about party. Bob Barr is no partisan Democrat, neither is Sam Brownback, nor is Norm Ornstein, nor - for that matter - are the editors of Barron's, but all of them think this program was wrong.

Are Democrats up in arms? Of course. That's what an opposition party does, it poses vocal opposition. But for God's sake, make your own decision about whether this is bad. The fact that Democrats oppose illegal surveillance of American citizens doesn't place any obligation on conservatives to defend that behavior. Attacks on our civil liberties are attacks on all of our liberties, that isn't partisan.

It's childish to turn a serious issue like this into a partisan spat.