A few weeks ago, I was very proud of House Democrats. They had stood up to the president and refused to give the Telecom companies immunity for breaking federal surveillance laws. The president had wanted that immunity included in the new FISA bill and he wanted that immunity to be retroactive. It looked like we might finally discover just how widespread Bush's illegal spying on Americans had been.
But then a couple of days ago, everything fell apart and dozens of Democrats knuckled under once again. They voted with Republicans to give the President the telecom immunity that he wanted. Why did they do it? How could they have given in to a president with only a 23% approval rating? It seems unbelievable.
As near as I can figure, there seems to be three main reasons for the Democrats gutless behavior. And none of the three will stand up to scrutiny.
The first reason is that the Dems who knuckled under were afraid to look weak on defending our country with an election coming up. In other words, they were willing to vote for a bill they knew was bad so they could get re-elected. How pathetic is that?
But that vote did not make them look like strong defenders of this country. Instead, it made them look like the weak and spineless politicians that they really are. How can we believe they'd have the courage to stand up and defend our country, when they can't even stand up to the most unpopular president in history? Who could possibly believe they'd stand up to terrorists after watching them knuckle under to Bush?
This is exactly why people didn't want to vote Democratic in the past -- because many elected Democrats showed a stunning lack of political courage. Why would anyone want to vote for a politician who doesn't have the courage to vote his convictions?
The second reason given is to assure cooperation from the telecoms. They said they were afraid the telecom companies might not cooperate in the future if they weren't given immunity now. This is a totally bogus reason.
Isn't the new bill supposed to assure that a warrant would be obtained before spying would be done in the future? No telecom could refuse to cooperate with a duly issued warrant. If they did, they would be in serious legal trouble. The Dems who voted for immunity just let the telecoms con them!
The third reason is an appalling lack of leadership among Congressional Democrats. Both Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid refused to stake out a Democratic position on the FISA bill. This made it easy for the separate members to vote as they wished -- after all, there was no party position! How could the Democratic leadership not have a party position on one of the most important bills of the year?
It's not like they didn't know how rank-and-file Democrats felt about the illegal spying. It's been obvious for years that a huge majority of Democrats opposed the illegal spying and opposed granting immunity to the telecoms.
This has made it painfully clear that the Democrats need new Congressional leadership. Both Pelosi and Reid have demonstrated that they are not capable of exercising the responsibility they have been given. When the new Congress meets after the election, both of them should be replaced.