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March 18, 2006

Is Bush above the law?

Is the President of the United States above the law? Apparently Senator Joe Lieberman thinks so. When asked about whether Bush should be censored for breaking federal law by ordering the NSA to spy on Americans without warrants or any judicial oversight whatsoever, Lieberman said:

I've said before that I disagree with the Bush administration's legal judgment on this one. I don't believe that they have operated within the law as it exists. But this is a critically important program -- the prevention of terrorist acts here in the United States. And I don't know a person here in the Senate who is against this program. If this place was operating as it should, we'd all be figuring out how to sit down around a table and bring it within the law. And I hope that's what will happen. But I'll look at it and let you know how I feel after that.

So Lieberman agrees Bush broke the law, but all he cares about is rewriting the law to make Bush's actions legal.

Go Joe.

Lieberman's comments on this were the most outrageous I heard, but sadly, he's not alone. Yet, a majority of Americans support the censure. Is there only one spine in the Democratic party?

See Also: Sleepy Kid: “Watching the Democrats stumbling around in search of a ”message“ is the only thing more agonizing than watching the Republicans destroy this country.”

Posted March 18, 2006 09:54 AM | general politics

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Its sad that the only one who seems to have the courage of his convictions is the lone Senator from the MidWest. On Wisconsin!

Posted by: Jasmine at March 18, 2006 09:58 AM

Yep. Another Democrat with no spine. I'm quite sad to say that these days, it doesn't surprise me.

I sure wish was king president. I could break the law with impunity and have Congress just rewrite it for me!

Posted by: Dave! at March 18, 2006 10:33 AM

What evidence do you have that most Americans support a censure over this issue? All of the polls over this issue point toward allowing Bush to continue the wiretapping of known terrorists.

Posted by: Josh Morgan at March 18, 2006 11:37 PM

Josh: The statement above that "a majority of Americans support the censure" is a link to the evidence. The American Resarch Group recently polled on the issue of censure, not domestic spying. It may be true that most Americans support wiretapping of known terrorists; they also support censuring Bush for breaking the law. And my understanding of the NSA's activities is that they are not wiretapping known terrorists; rather, they are data-mining, which means they are illegally listening to phone calls and emails of Americans inside the U.S. My understanding is also that the response to this fact differs according to how the question is asked.

But the overall point here is that a majority of Americans agree that Bush is not and ought not be above the law, and I agree with that majority. Do you?

Posted by: ambimb at March 19, 2006 08:42 AM

I think your reasoning is rather loose. What we can agree on is that the answer to the question differs when it is asked in different ways.

Here is what I believe: Wiretapping known terrorists making calls into the United States is vital to the national security. Due to the amount of these calls and the quickness of the conversations, getting a warrant for each phone call would take too long. Even if it were done after the fact, there are so many of these calls, it would bog down FISA. There must be another solution that comports with the FISA statutes but also allows us to deal with what we face.

I think saying Bush is above the law is a little extreme. He is doing what he can to protect America. I think the 911 families wish we would have done such a thing before their loved ones were murdered.

If there is any hard proof out there that someone other than possible terrorists are being wiretapped, I would love to see it. If it gets to that point then I would agree with you the program should be stopped.

Posted by: Josh at March 19, 2006 10:35 AM

Elementary numeracy--or even reading one's sources--behooves a law student, Ambimb. From your own linked source:

Now, the American Research Group doesn't have the national reputation of some larger polling outfits. And a plurality isn't a majority, and this is a slim one at that: ARG says Americans favor censure by 46 percent to 44 percent, with a 3-point margin of error.

Emphasis added. So even giving you the greatest possible benefit of the doubt, you're puffing your claim. Indeed, even a plurality of adults is within the margin of error.

Posted by: A. Rickey at March 21, 2006 01:24 AM

Actually, come to think of it, you're more confident than not only your statistics, but your own source. Again from the Salon article:

We'll wait for more polling before pronouncing final judgment on what Americans think.

Posted by: A. Rickey at March 21, 2006 01:28 AM

Anthony: I knew someone would point out the "majority" thing. I should have said "plurality" and I apologize for that. That doesn't change the point. You've already made clear that this domestic spying doesn't trouble you and I guess we'll just have to disagree about that. Would you also say you're in the minority on holding the President accountable for breaking the law? I mean, you can disagree on the value or wisdom of a policy, but there's something much larger at stake when Congress *admits* the President broke the law but refuses to rebuke him for it -- don't you think?

Josh: I don't have at hand any evidence that the NSA spying has ended up wiretapping someone other than possible terrorists, but I'm pretty sure it exists. If that evidence is not out there yet I would say that's because the Administration and its Republican congress has done everything possible to make sure we know as little about this program as possible. They only want us to know the talking points you recited. As for that, it's not like much that these people have said about national security and terrorism has proven to be credible over the last 3-4 years. Don't you think a little more skepticism is in order?

Posted by: ambimb at March 21, 2006 08:42 AM

Would you also say you're in the minority on holding the President accountable for breaking the law?

I'm willing to say I'm in the minority of a single ARG poll with no majority, and whose plurality opinion is within the margin of error of my position. I'm not quite sure what the tragedy and shame of that is supposed to be, Ambimb, especially since different polls show different figures. If we go by Newsweek rather than ARG, are you going to fold up your own tent? One hopes not: ones convictions should be worth more than the margin of error in a poll.

This is a very stupid point on which you're hanging your hat, Ambimb.

I mean, you can disagree on the value or wisdom of a policy, but there's something much larger at stake when Congress *admits* the President broke the law but refuses to rebuke him for it -- don't you think?

The obvious rebuttal would be Bill Clinton, but let us leave that aside. The realistic question is whether the president's activities should be illegal. If the program is in fact a good idea and is keeping the country safe, then it would be a . . . shall we say petty? . . . Congress that would say, "Yes, yes, we know that what you did was wise, but you didn't get our approval, so we're going to censure you." Petty, and probably politically suicidal.

The fact is, we don't know what the program does nor how well it works. Censure is about the least prudent path that the Democrats could take, and the riskiest electoral strategy they could pursue. But that said, I'm all in favor of them pushing it!

Posted by: A. Rickey at March 21, 2006 11:56 AM

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