Lately, I've been loving Preznit Bush's comedy routine. I mean his recent act of popping out of his coop every single day, like a newly hatched Chicken Little, to deliver a daily dose of fear-mongering over the so-called Protect America Act. Every day, the nation indifferently shrugged him off, but the next morning, there he was again, telling reporters that Democrats in Congress must stop whatever they're doing and renew the Spying On American Citizens Act -- sorry, the Protect America Act -- or else the terrorists will kill us all!!
Last week, the Texas Master of Disaster was fed up with being treated like the lame duck he is, so he showed the media who's boss by calling a press conference, dammit. He started the meeting by telling everyone that America isn't in a recession, pretty much because he says so -- which called up the ancient story of King Canute ordering the ocean's tide to stop, but I digress. Soon enough, Bush dropped his pretense of actually caring how ordinary Americans are faring in his Brave New Recession and jumped back on his terror/war hobbyhorse. He slammed those damned America-hatin' Democrats who, by not giving in to him on domestic surveillance, are making life in the United States "dangerous" and leaving us wide open to attacks from al-Qaeda's vast hordes of terrorists.
As always, Bush's arguments and accusations were riddled with distortions, nonsense and pure B.S., and, as always, media explanations of what's really going on were few and far between. Let me give it a shot.
Here's what happened: Bush wanted the misnamed Protect America Act to include retroactive immunity for telecommunication companies that helped the administration spy on Americans illegally (i.e., without a warrant). Congress was on the verge of passing the PAA -- but without immunity for the telecoms' betrayal of public trust -- when House Republicans and the Bush White House derailed the bill. In other words, Congress was willing to give Bush everything he wanted in the bill -- including infringing on Americans' right to privacy -- except for letting the telecommunication industry slide. And so, peeved at not being treated like a king, Bush renewed his tired terror-mongering in order to get what he wants.
The question begs to be asked: If, as Bush said, "no renewal of the ... Protect America Act is dangerous for the security of the country," why did he and House Republicans keep Congress from passing the immunity-less PAA? Not that the Preznit's other arguments made sense, either. He claimed that the warrantless wiretapping for which the telecoms are in hot water "was legal," and yet, "You can't expect the telecoms to participate if they feel like they're going to be sued." Adding to the absurdity was the administration's announcement, a few days before Dubya's press conference, that the telecoms had already agreed to continue cooperating with the government's requests for information "while negotiations with Congress continue." Still, Attorney General Mukasey said, the government "missed intelligence information" in the meantime, because of Congress' insistence on holding telecoms accountable for possible lawbreaking. Mukasey's statement, however, is yet another lie, since, as was pointed out by the chairmen of the House and Senate's intelligence and judiciary committees last week, "the government's orders under [PAA] will last until at least August. These orders could cover every known terrorist group and foreign target." So why are the Bushies trying to scare the hell out of everyone? For one, it's a cheap way to once again tell American voters that Democrats are "soft on national security." For another, it distracts those same voters from the fact that Bush & Co. still haven't found Osama bin Laden, not to mention it keeps their minds off the economy, infrastructure, veterans' health care, and America's ruined reputation, all of which are a big fat mess due to administration policies. For yet another, as reported last week by Roll Call, GOP leaders are mad that the telecoms are now giving more money to Democrats than Republicans; maybe they wanted to remind the moneybags who their friends are.
Another possible reason is that, as we've pointed out before, Bush and his enablers are probably genuinely scared to death (the terrorists win!), and the only ideas they have for combating terrorism smack of a police state. There's no doubt that when it comes to "homeland security," the administration has gone off the deep end: More proof of Bush & Co. absurdity and incompetence came last week when the American Civil Liberties Union estimated the government's no-fly list of "suspected terrorists" now totals more than 900,000 people and will grow beyond 1 million by summer. As the ACLU's Barry Steinhardt, director of the group's Technology and Liberty Program, said, "If there were a million terrorists in this country, our cities would be in ruins ... incompetence by our security apparatus threatens our rights without offering any real security."
Which, when you think about it, pretty much sums up the Bush administration's entire response to the 9/11 attacks.