The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dianne Feinstein -- Bush's key ally in the Senate -- to support telecom amnesty

Dianne Feinstein -- Bush's key ally in the Senate -- to support telecom amnesty



(updated below)



Two months ago, Dianne Feinstein used her position on the Senate
Intelligence Committee to enable passage of Bush's FISA amendments,
granting the President vast new warrantless surveillance powers.



Last month, Feinstein used her position on the Senate Judiciary
Committee to ensure confirmation of Bush's highly controversial
judicial nominee Leslie Southwick, by being the only Committee Democrat
to vote for the nomination (The Politico: "Sen. Dianne Feinstein had emerged as a linchpin in the controversial nomination").


This week, Feinstein used her position on the Senate Judiciary
Committee to enable confirmation of Bush's Attorney General nominee by
ensuring that the frightened Chuck Schumer didn't have to stand alone (Fox News:
"Schumer's and Feinstein's support for Mukasey virtually guarantees
that a majority of the committee will recommend his confirmation").


And now, Feinstein is using her position on the Senate Judiciary
Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee -- simultaneously -- to single-handedly ensure fulfillment of Bush's telecom amnesty demands, as her hometown newspaper, The San Francisco Chronicle, reports:

Feinstein backs legal immunity for telecom firms in wiretap cases


Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Thursday that she favors legal immunity for
telecommunications companies that allegedly shared millions of
customers' telephone and e-mail messages and records with the
government, a position that could lead to the dismissal of numerous
lawsuits pending in San Francisco.



In a statement at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is
considering legislation to extend the Bush administration's electronic
surveillance program, Feinstein said the companies should not be "held
hostage to costly litigation in what is essentially a complaint about
administration activities" . . .



Feinstein, D-Calif., plays a pivotal role on the Judiciary Committee, which has a 10-9 Democratic majority.
If she joins committee Republicans in voting next Thursday to protect
telecommunications companies from lawsuits for their roles in the
surveillance program, the proposal -- a top priority of President Bush
-- will become part of legislation that reaches the Senate floor.

There
is nothing worth critiquing in what Feinstein specifically said, since
she just recited the administration's standard pro-amnesty talking
points, leading with its most deceitful ones. As but one example,
Feinstein -- echoing John Aschroft's NYT Op-Ed
from this week -- said in her statement that "suits are unfair to the
companies, which are 'unable to defend themselves in court' because the
government has insisted that their activities be kept secret." That is
just false. As the Chronicle reported: "federal law allows such
defendants to present secret evidence in private to the judge, a
practice [EFF's Cindy Cohn] said has been carried out for decades
without any leaks."


Oddly (or not), the Chronicle article quotes Feinstein as
saying that telecoms "should not be 'held hostage to costly litigation
in what is essentially a complaint about administration activities'" --
the same exact phrase, verbatim, featured in Fred Hiatt's Editorial
two weeks ago urging telecom amnesty (Hiatt: "we do not believe that
these companies should be held hostage to costly litigation in what is
essentially a complaint about administration activities").



I wrote about Feinstein at length
a month ago here, including all the ways her administration-coddling
and courting of intelligence officials benefits her
defense-contractor-husband. But still, this recent behavior is really
amazing.



Feinstein is not merely voting reliably for the most extremist Bush
policies, though she is doing that. Far more than that, she has become,
time and again, the linchpin of Bush's ability to have his most radical
policies approved by the Senate.



Could the universe be any larger between what Feinstein's constituents want and what she is doing in the Senate? Here are the latest views of California voters of the President to whose agenda Feinstein is displaying such ferocious fidelity:

Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as President?


Approve -- 28%



Disapprove -- 70%

Among California Democrats, a grand total of 9% approve of Feinstein's beloved President; 90% disapprove.
Obviously, nothing could be less relevant to Feinstein than the views
of her constituents, but still, the disparity between what they believe
and what she is doing is just striking, even for the Beltway.


Let us close with the very emotional and undeniably moving scene that took place after Feinstein stood up for Bush's judicial nominee, Leslie Southwick of Mississippi:

She
even showed up at the press conference, where Sen. Arlen Specter
(R-Pa.) asked her to speak before the Mississippi senators who lined up
the votes for Southwick.

"This may be out of precedent," Specter said, "but if I may, with
the concurrence of the home-state senators, yield to the hero -- the
lady -- of the day, Sen. Feinstein."



"I don't know about this heroine business," Feinstein demurred.



Moments later, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) got choked up talking about her.


"She took a tough stand and showed a lot of courage," Lott said,
tears collecting in his eyes and his voice quivering. "It is emotional
for me because this is a good man, and he will make a great judge on
behalf of my state, which I feel has been maligned in this and other
instances."



He later accepted a congratulatory call from President Bush.

Fred Hiatt concurs wholeheartedly:
"It is reassuring when not one but two lawmakers show the moral
fortitude to defy party politics to take a stand on principle.
Democratic Sens. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein
(Calif.) showed such courage Friday when they announced their support
for attorney-general nominee Michael B. Mukasey."

Dianne Feinstein may be betraying the overwhelming majority of
her constituents. But as a result of her "heroic" work in the Senate, her husband sure is getting richer.
And she is beloved -- just beloved -- by Arlen Specter, Trent Lott,
Fred Hiatt and George W. Bush. And in Beltway World, that is far, far
more important.

UPDATE: Feinstein herself spent inordinate sums of money
from corporate donors in 2006 to ensure she was re-elected, so she is
not up for re-election until 2012 (when she'll be 80). Hopefully,
though, the ethics process relating to her highly questionable behavior in directing multi-billion-dollar defense contracts to her husband's companies will proceed in earnest.



While Feinstein is not up for re-election, there are many Bush-enabling Democrats who are. And as this rather good Washington Post article
this morning details, liberal blogs are doing what is, in my view, the
most important thing they can be doing -- targeting for defeat those
incumbent Democrats who deserve it by supporting and funding primary
challengers.



The article details the highly successful campaign by bloggers such as
Jane Hamsher, Matt Stoller, Duncan Black, Digby and others to
counteract fundraising efforts by Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic
establishment for any Democratic incumbents -- including those who
continuously support the Bush agenda -- by raising equal amounts (and,
in many cases, more) for the primary challengers. The article documents
how bloggers raised more than $100,000 over the last week for Donna
Edwards, the primary challenger to the pro-war, pro-Bush Democratic
Rep. Al Wynn (and you can aid their effort by donating to Edwards here).
That is exactly what is needed -- incumbent Democrats knowing that they
will be targeted and will face credible primary challenges for
following in Joe Lieberman and Dianne Feinstein's Bush-enabling
footsteps.




http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2007/11/10/feinstein/index.html


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