Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Democrats still look to use wiretaps to attack Bush

Even though 64% of the country is in favor of them. Go right ahead... shoot yourself in the foot.

Democrats on Capitol Hill are drafting a strategy to attack the Bush administration and Republicans as having little regard for the privacy of Americans.

"We will initiate at the beginning of this year one of the most serious debates and discussions on Capitol Hill in our history about individual rights and liberties," Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin said just before Christmas.

The topic will be a major focus of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of federal Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. as privacy rights -- the political code phrase for abortion rights -- already has become a major issue, Mr. Durbin said.

Democratic leaders then plan to keep the issue alive as they continue their opposition to key parts of the USA Patriot Act, which is set to expire in early February unless extended.

But the real payoff, Democrats say, will be the hearings into President Bush's authorization of warrantless spying on terror suspects. Already, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, said he wants to hold hearings on the matter.

"Senator Specter has promised a hearing on the questions that have been raised about eavesdropping and spying on Americans," Mr. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said. "At the same period of time, we will be debating those same issues in the context of the Patriot Act and the war on terrorism."

Democratic aides say privately that while it remains a high goal to win control over the House or Senate in the November elections, they think the issue will resonate with voters.

Centrist Democrats, however, warn that such a strategy could backfire.

"I think when you suggest that civil liberties are just as much at risk today as the country is from terrorism, you've gone too far if you leave that impression," Michael O'Hanlon, a national security analyst at the Brookings Institution who advises Democrats on defense issues, told The Washington Times last week.

"I get nervous when I see the Democrats playing this [civil liberties] issue out too far," he said.

But Democrats, such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have been full speed ahead on the new strategy. The California Democrat has been critical of Mr. Bush's eavesdropping policy, portions of the Patriot Act and the war in Iraq.

Like Mr. O'Hanlon, Republicans are doubtful the issue will take hold.

"Nancy Pelosi and [Senate Minority Leader] Harry Reid never miss an opportunity to drive the train right off the tracks and remind voters why their reluctance to trust Capitol Hill Democrats on the important issues is justifiable."

Pelosi and Reid are like the lemming horde leaders, looking to take the whole party straight off the cliff. True, there's a lot going on in the next couple months (Alito confirmation, Patriot Act renewal, privacy hearing), but let them take their best shot... I'll bet they go 0 for 3 and still don't miss a beat.