Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Why Take a Stand on This?

I had more to blog about, but it has slipped my mind.

But my question (which others have certainly asked): why is (hopefully future speaker) Pelosi taking a stand on the Jefferson case? So long as the FBI had the warrants necessary to seize the papers they seized (which is, nowadays, alas a big if ... if whatever warrant the FBI had did not cover all the papers they seized, then Pelosi is right to complain about the FBI's seizures of otherwise privaleged communications between Jefferson and his constituants -- but the emphasis she should take is on "illegal, unwarranted -- in all senses of the word -- searches and seizures" not on "separation of powers"), I fail to see how Congresscritters should have any immunities different than any other professionals who handle privaleged communications that do end up getting seized persuant to warrants.

What's really bad here is that by going to bat for Jefferson, but not for cases where Bush & CO really have overreached the bounds of the Constitution and propriety, Pelosi is sending the message to voters that we Dems care more about corrupt Congresscritters and protecting our own than about protecting civil rights in general and gives new ammunition to those who frame liberal stances on civil rights as "protecting criminals' rights over victims' rights". Moreover, by standing with the Republicans and their framing of the issue of one of "separation of powers", she is tacitly agreeing to the Republican framing of separation of powers -- that Congress and the Executive branch get to operate as their own separate fiefdoms unchecked by the others. Now if Scalia, et al's, support of "original intent" were more than just so much chin music they would be up in arms about this Republican distortion of the Framers' clearly stated intent of why they wanted a division of labor among multiple branches of government: "separation of powers" pointedly does not mean that Congress has some special degree of immunity (even if it is still partial) to law enforcement actions against it -- it means that the Executive Branch is supposed to compete with Congress for power so that neither side can get too much of it (which indicates also a tacit understanding my the Framers of something Framer worshiping market enthusiasts today just don't get -- that competition can actually create scarcity!). The Executive should be trying to "get" Congresscritters and Congress should be doing the same with the Executive. If Pelosi is supporting Jefferson 'cause she is afraid that Bush & CO will use their powers to squelch Congressional investigations of them ... well, she's barking up the wrong tree.

The Constitutional Option here is not for Pelosi to make Dems. look like criminal-coddling (yes, I know ... Jefferson's not convicted yet, but to your average 'murkin, people are guilty until proven innocent ... unless they are Duke Lacrosse players ... so when will David Brooks comment on that aspect of the case: that maybe conservatives should be a little more, er, conservative, i.e. cautious, about prejudging people as guilty?) lovers of corruption while assenting to the wrong-headed Republican interpretation of the idea of "separation of powers" -- the option is for Pelosi to urge concerned Democrats and Republicans to make a tit-for-tat strike: Bush admin investigates a Congresscritter ... Congresscritters investigate Bush & CO. That is what the Founders (doesn't that term sound so "Twilight Zone"?) would have wanted, eh?

If Pelosi can start taking the lead here, rather than following Denny-boy ... if Pelosi can start framing "separation of powers" correctly rather than assenting to the Republican framing ... if Pelosi can be seen as one who is willing to root out corruption, even in her own party, rather than helping to protect the corrupt -- that would do so much for Dem. prospects later this year, nu?

AFAIC, Pelosi better shape up fast if she wants to be Speaker ...

if whatever warrant the FBI had did not cover all the papers they seized, then Pelosi is right to complain about the FBI's seizures

contitutional law prof. jonathan turley says fbi inproperly DID seize more than what was called for in the warrant.

as atrios points out: "Nancy Pelosi, the longest-serving member of the House Intelligence Committee"...

her experience tells her she should be alarmed by the executive branch's overreach. and appropriately so.

what you are arguing about is politics of perception. pelosi is seeing deeper than that.

here is prof. turley's argument on the case.

turley testified in the house hearing on the issue yesterday as well. the reagan era official who recently came out opposing NSA snooping also joined turley in arguing this was overreach.
there is a joke in here somewhere about thomas jefferson and constitution crisis caused by the bribe taking jefferson (who i think should step down). i'm just not smart enough to formulate it.
Jello --

thank you for the clarification.

In which case Pelosi should have, from the very get go, said it was about a seizure that went beyond what was allowed in the warrant ... she never should have even given the appearance of agreeing to the Republican framing of the issue as one of "separation of powers".

Of course, in politics perception is important: if Dems want to get into a position where they have the power to effect change, they need to play the political game better. And like it or not, most people in this country don't like to see people going to bat for those who are "guilty". As un-American as this attitude is (it goes against the rule of "innocent until proven guilty" which is a key principle of our system of laws), as un-Christian as this attitude is (wasn't part of the message of Jesus that all our guilty so we should be willing to go to bat even for the guilty?), the majority of Americans, the majority of whom are supposedly Christian really hate the sinner and love the sin. Even if the seizure was without warrant, speaking out in this case and not others will be perceived by the electorate as yet another example of how the only people damaged by unwarranted searches and seizures are the guilty and not the innocent.

Maybe the problem is how the media is reporting what Pelosi is saying -- but that is what that is. If Pelosi wants to continue playing in the big leagues for our team, she needs to do a better job of playing the game. Whatever alarm she may have about Executive Power, as right as her alarm may be, it will be for naught unless she can play the game better.
Pelosi should go after the Bush junta's crimes, she knows she should. But a lot of the activities of the leadership in the congress and Senate have to take into account not how it will play, but how the media we've got will play it. Coming out against this is fairly safe because the Republicans have given them cover. They won't have any cover if they go after Bush era crime. Look at what they've tried to do to Conyers.

The problem starts with the Republican mouthpiece press that we have. And there's no getting around that.

As for Jefferson himself, it's multiply bad if he did it because he is not only breaking the law. He's providing cover for Republicans who have broken similar and more important law, providing an incident for their media to blow out of all proportion, allowing them to turn their coverage of congress into a racially charged C.O.P.S. episode and probably several other things I havnn't thought of.

If he's guilty, throw him out.
But a lot of the activities of the leadership in the congress and Senate have to take into account not how it will play, but how the media we've got will play it. Coming out against this is fairly safe because the Republicans have given them cover. - olvlzl

Yep ... the media spin is important here. Don't you wish they'd use their powers for good and not evil? Of course, if they were to do so, they would have every Republican in the nation whining so loudly they couldn't sleep at night.

Your notion of cover is interesting: I guess my problem is that Pelosi went too far into that cover, and that doesn't play well in the public discourse either. Pelosi should have taken advantage of the cover given to her and then attacked the seizure from the Democratic point of view rather than hiding behind the Republican framing of the issue which benefits Bush & CO when the shoe is on the other foot (if what the FBI did to Jefferson was wrong 'cause of "separation of powers" than Congressional investigation of Bush & CO is similarly wrong, eh?). It isn't just Pelosi -- whenever Dems. do finally get cover to do something, too many of them still manage to shoot the party in the foot. It's really an amazing sight to behold: but why do we always manage to shoot ourselves in the foot?

And I agree with you on the problem of Jefferson providing cover for Republicans -- that is one reason why I want Pelosi to repudiate him!
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