Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Saturday, December 11, 2004

NY Times Urges Bush Veto of Intelligence Reform

The editors of The New York Times have changed their minds. Having urged passage of the intelligence reform bill earlier this week, they now criticize the bill as a threat to our civil rights.

On Monday, the editorial in The New York Times joined in the Democrats’ effort to pressure President Bush and House Republicans to pass the intelligence reform bill. In the editors’ view, any further delay would have been an embarrassing political defeat for Bush and proof that House Republicans were unwilling to act in the nation’s best interests.

It seems surreal that after winning a majority of voters on the point that he is the strongest anti-terrorism leader, President Bush must fairly beg House Republicans not to embarrass him any further by bottling up the badly needed reform of the intelligence agencies. Yet this is the ludicrous scenario as Congress returns for a two-day session with the president's political clout on the line and the intelligence overhaul bill blocked from a floor vote by a few G.O.P. committee chairmen. Voters are entitled to wonder who really won in November. Mr. Bush with a pressing national agenda? Or a few House lions determined to pander to Pentagon power eddies and fire up anti-immigrant animosities? [Emphasis added.]

As urged by The New York Times, President Bush put on the pressure, and the House passed the bill on Tuesday. The Senate then passed it on Wednesday.

Today, The New York Times lambasted President Bush and the recently passed bill:

As much as the nation needed to overhaul its badly flawed intelligence system, it hardly needed more surveillance and detention powers to invite federal agencies to abuse civil rights even further in the name of tracking terrorism suspects. But, alas, the new powers, which make it easier for judges and law enforcement officers to deny bail and get surveillance warrants for such suspects, survived the horse-trading that created a powerful new national director of intelligence, as recommended by the independent 9/11 commission.

Based on the Bush administration's record of trampling on individual rights, Americans can have little faith that the new police powers will be used with proper discretion by the Justice Department. [Emphasis added.]

One might wonder if The New York Times belatedly discovered the threat to civil liberties, but Monday’s editorial indicated that the editors were aware of the bill’s provisions and still were adamant about the need for Bush to pressure House Republicans to pass it.

There has been more than enough compromising already by Senate and House negotiators. Some key civil liberties provisions were sacrificed to maintain the powers of the intelligence director. There is little doubt that the compromise bill would be passed if House leaders had the courage to submit it to an open floor vote with the nation watching.

The president shouldn't offer more concessions. Even G.O.P. lawmakers say he could seize victory by more bluntly confronting the House Republican conference. That level of leadership seems needed. But the focus must be kept on an up-or-down vote on the two-house compromise, or House Republicans will find new ways to shirk their responsibility. [Emphasis added.]

Newspaper opinion pages don’t need to be nonpartisan, but staggering from pillar to post on important issues in this manner is a disgraceful display of partisanship.

If it was a good idea for President Bush to pressure members of Congress to pass the bill on Monday, then it cannot have become a bad idea by Saturday.

The only rational explanation for this turnabout by The New York Times is that the editors desire to embarrass the president in particular and Republicans in general. (Either that, or The New York Times is now urging Bush to veto the legislation – having belatedly realized the dangerous nature of its provisions and being ashamed to come right out and say the word “veto.”)

If passage of the reform bill had been delayed until the next session of Congress, the editorial on Monday would have set the stage for blaming everything on Republicans who shirked their responsibility.

Since the bill passed, the editors now treat its provisions as a threat to civil liberties, especially with Bush in office – thereby setting the stage for continuing to state the leftist canard about Bush’s record on civil rights.

They probably think this sort of “heads I win, tails you lose” gamesmanship proves how intelligent they are, but the editors have abdicated their own responsibilities in order to play their game.

Citizens of a republic leave much of the detail work to their elected representatives, and ordinarily speak up only when they believe their representatives are about to take the wrong path.

To a great extent, citizens rely on the free press to inform them when matters under consideration by the legislature require their attention. When so informed, citizens may at least attempt to persuade their representatives not to make a dumb move.

The New York Times apparently doesn’t care whether citizens are informed in a timely fashion – unless, of course, the only time that matters to the editors is the date of the next election.


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