January 9, 2006


How to Stay Out of Power: Why liberal democrats are playing too fast and too loose with issues of war and peace (JOE KLEIN, 1/09/06, TIME)

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat, engaged in a small but cheesy bit of deception last week. She released a letter, which quickly found its way to the front page of the New York Times, that she had written on Oct. 11, 2001, to then National Security Agency director General Michael V. Hayden. In it she expressed concern that Hayden, who had briefed the House Intelligence Committee about the steps he was taking to track down al-Qaeda terrorists after the 9/11 attacks, was not acting with "specific presidential authorization." Hayden wrote her back that he was acting under the powers granted to his agency in a 1981 Executive Order. In fact, a 2002 investigation by the Joint Intelligence Committees concluded that the NSA was not doing as much as it could have been doing under the law—and that the entire U.S. intelligence community operated in a hypercautious defensive crouch. "Hayden was taking reasonable steps," a former committee member told me. "Our biggest concern was what more he could be doing."

The Bush Administration had similar concerns. In the days after 9/11, it asked Hayden to push the edge of existing technology and come up with the best possible program to track the terrorists. The result was the now infamous NSA data-mining operation, which began months later, in early 2002. Vast amounts of phone and computer communications by al-Qaeda suspects overseas, including some messages to people in the U.S., could now be scooped up and quickly analyzed.

The release of Pelosi's letter last week and the subsequent Times story ("Agency First Acted on Its Own to Broaden Spying, Files Show") left the misleading impression that a) Hayden had launched the controversial data-mining operation on his own, and b) Pelosi had protested it. But clearly the program didn't exist when Pelosi wrote the letter. When I asked the Congresswoman about this, she said, "Some in the government have accused me of confusing apples and oranges. My response is, it's all fruit."

A dodgy response at best, but one invested with a larger truth. For too many liberals, all secret intelligence activities are "fruit," and bitter fruit at that.

Such is the state of the Democrats that they suffer more damage by keeping their "leaders" than the GOP does by losing theirs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 9, 2006 11:37 PM

How many people read TIME? Democrats won't suffer unless tv (ABC, NBC, CNN and CBS) repeat this type of information on a regular basis.

Posted by: AllenS at January 10, 2006 4:45 AM

AllenS: That issue of TIME will be in doctor's offices across the nation for the next five years...: )

Posted by: Bartman at January 10, 2006 9:04 AM

They could have gone with Martin Frost before, and there are mumblings about them going with Stanley Hoyer in the near future. But since both were/are to the (relative) right of Ms. Pelosi, they face a backlash among the MoveOn/DU/Koz donor wing of the party. But until a cross between Sam Rayburn and Howard Dean arrives on the scene, the House Democrats are best suited by locking Nancy and the rest of the leadership in a closet and hoping the Republicans implode before the November elections.

Posted by: John at January 10, 2006 9:54 AM

Pelosi raises lots of money in the biggest Democratic state. 'Nuff said.

They won't vote her out even if the GOP wins 5 more seats this November.

Short of Hillary purging the moonbat left, the Dems are stuck with Pelosi, Durbin, Schumer, Dean, and the rest. They have staked their territory - now they get to live in it.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 10, 2006 10:24 AM

The biggest problem the Democrats have is that they seize every little bit of bad news and try to run with it rather than spell out a clear, coherent alternative for the public to consider instead of the Bush program. Thus, they can make the occassional breakthrough, but they can't exploit it. People are looking for more leadership than a "gotcha."

Posted by: Chris Durnell at January 10, 2006 10:49 AM

And as long as the GOP shows a willingness to at least appear able to discipline and jettision the worst appearing offenders within their ranks, especially their leaders, they will have one up on the Dems in any sort of Battle of the Scandals the Dems try to gin up.

Heck, the GOP should take a page from the Dem playbook and blame the Dems for the current "climate of corruption" by claiming that constant Dem obstruction has made it impossible to clean house properly, despite it being ten years since they (the Dems) were forced out. It might even be partially true.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at January 10, 2006 11:13 AM


What would constitute a "clear coherent alternative" to Bush's program?

I can think of a few ideas, but they are all right of Bush, not left. There is no "clear coherent alternative" to the left of Bush.


Posted by: Bruno at January 10, 2006 1:51 PM

There is a clear, coherent argument to the left of Bush. It is just that appeasement, retreat, and the defeat of evil America are not plans that appeal to the majority of American voters.

Posted by: Mikey at January 10, 2006 3:19 PM