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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Why the Democrats Won't Win on Snoopgate

The questions raised by snoopgate are compelling.  But don't believe for a moment that liberals can use it to their (our) political advantage.  I expect that this will play out politically much as the crime issue did.  Conservatives will be tough and portray liberals as weak.  Eventually, Democrats will figure out that the only way to win is to be tough.

Put differently, "We Won't Snoop On Terrorists" isn't a winning campaign slogan.

Proof that the Democrats can't turn this into a political win: If Orin (and everyone else that I've seen) is right that the President's actions violate the law, then we have a real life impeachable offense here.  Yet I haven't heard a single Democrat mention the word.  All I've seen are weak statements from some Democrats that they didn't sign on to the President's program or that they expressed reservations.

UPDATE:  It turns out I spoke too soon.  In fact, some Democrats have raised the impeachment question.  That notwithstanding, I still maintain that this is a political loser for the Democrats.

Posted by Hillel Levin on December 20, 2005 at 01:07 PM in Hillel Levin | Permalink


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I was being neither subtle nor nuanced. I was being derisive and provocative. I think the notion of the President being impeached over this is ridiculous. It would be like me prosecuting my neighbor for trespassing because he came to my house when I was away and threw a burglar out. The law is not an ideal and certainly not a deity to be worshipped. It is only a mechanism for the function of a society. In any event, I do not believe any law was violated. Need I repeat my earlier comment? The Japanese are signaling "Tora, tora, tora" and our President is subject to impeachment for listenging in on them?

Posted by: nk | Dec 21, 2005 10:53:20 PM

How can this NOT be a winner for Democrats? Notwithstanding the Democratic leadership, or lack thereof, anyone who believes in the balance of powers, the rule of law, and that laws apply to all citizens, even the Executive, should be outraged at this. The President's hubris in ignoring judicial oversight is maddening.

There is simply no politics at play here, folks. Believe it or not, the Dems want to protect America as much as the Repubs do. We just want it accomplished lawfully.

Posted by: Peter WIlburn | Dec 21, 2005 12:40:50 PM

You shifted the focus to fighting terrorism (and away from obeying the law). I've already conceded that the Dems can't win here if they can't keep the focus on lawful behavior. Your point is a distraction, not a contribution to the question at hand. Unless, of course, you were trying -- implicitly -- to make the point that it will be hard to keep the focus on lawful behavior in the face of focus-shifting rhetoric such as yours. But I'm not sure whether to give you credit for making such a subtle and nuanced contribution.

Posted by: Jason | Dec 21, 2005 12:35:34 PM

Liberals will gain because independents will be afraid. Independents often vote not because they favor the person they are voting for, but because they want to see political balance and feel one side is out of control. When the President goes on national TV and says that he doesn't have to follow the law, the fear of the President can override fear of terrorism.

Posted by: ohwilleke | Dec 20, 2005 8:56:54 PM

Missing the point...
Bush BROKE THE LAW by repetively ordering wiretaps on American
without going to a Judicial magistrate for a warrant. Warrants take
less than 48 hours - and can be skipped as long as they are obtained
within 72 hours after the wiretap. No president has this authority;
only dictators.

Damned straight the Dems need to stand and fight on this. Have you
no sense of democracy left?

Posted by: Kim | Dec 20, 2005 8:07:32 PM

Hee, hee. Sure. Tell the American people that Abu Musad Zarkawi is in the Empire State Building or the Sears Tower or the Super Bowl guiding in the suicide airplane on his cell phone and we should impeach the President for authorizing the NSA to listen in on his conversation. Or maybe a North Korean agent placing a beacon for a guided missile? Or even two street gang members seting the time for a drive-by shooting? Yup. You have a real winner here.

Posted by: nk | Dec 20, 2005 6:04:42 PM

I don't think it's a political loser if the focus is on the law and the apparent lawlessness of the administration. If the Dems can successfully portray Bush as putting himself above the law -- as, in fact, breaking the law -- and if the impeachment buzz gains traction, then this really can be huge for the Dems.

But they (we) would have to keep it all narrowly focused on the law and lawful behavior -- you're right, I think, to say that it's a loser if the debate becomes too much about "how to fight terrorism."

Posted by: Jason | Dec 20, 2005 5:33:01 PM

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