Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 08, 2006

Specter Punked

Uncle$cam yesterday linked to a piece about Specter giving in to the White House on oversight over the NSA domestic spying programs.

Arlen Specter said that after discussions with the Bush administration and Senate Intelligence Committee colleagues who had been more fully briefed on the National Security Agency program, he was "prepared to defer on a temporary basis" requiring representatives from AT&T, Verizon Communications and BellSouth to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he leads.

One wondered how Specter, who has a but at least existent backbone, could give in on this issue.

Now it turns out that Cheney punked him.

Cheney had convinced all other Republican committee members to take his side without even talking to the committee chairman. Specter explains this in an open letter to Cheney. Via NYT:

Mr. Specter, who had been considering issuing subpoenas to compel telephone company executives to testify, learned of Mr. Cheney's actions only when he went into a closed meeting of the committee's Republicans on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after encountering the vice president at a weekly luncheon of all Senate Republicans.
"I was surprised, to say the least, that you sought to influence, really determine, the action of the committee without calling me first, or at least calling me at some point," Mr. Specter wrote. "This was especially perplexing since we both attended the Republican senators caucus lunch yesterday and I walked directly in front of you on at least two occasions en route from the buffet to my table."

Without any support from his Republican colleagues, Specter had no chance to push his way through the committee.

So again, what was the point of having a Congress and committees at all? Cheney makes the laws as he sees fit by signing statements. Cheney suppresses legislative oversight by congress through backroom pressure. Cheney avoids any legal oversight by involving a state secrets privilege whenever things get uncomfortable.

Under Cheney's realm the only difference to a dictatorship that is left is a bit of kabuki for the media.

But then, you are still allowed to elect your local dog catcher ...

Posted by b on June 8, 2006 at 06:08 AM | Permalink


Father of beheaded man feels no relief over Zarqawi

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Michael Berg, whose son Nick was beheaded in Iraq in 2004, said on Thursday he felt no sense of relief at the killing of the al Qaeda in Iraq leader blamed for his son's death.

Asked what would give him satisfaction, Berg, an anti-war activist and candidate for U.S. Congress, said: "The end of the war and getting rid of George Bush."

Posted by: dan of steele | Jun 8, 2006 8:12:01 AM | 1

American Enantiodromia plunges Icarus to the cold hard ground.

It seems one must look (read: see) with the eyes of an MC Escher; an impossible chessboard. A POLARISATION method of the grand shellgame. "Suicidally beautiful."


Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jun 8, 2006 8:28:00 AM | 2

Where does Cheney get his power over these people? I don't understand the situation. The GOP leaders must be protecting the Party from another big possible scandal is all that I can surmise. Pretty disgusting. But the Dems are so quiet in all this crap. Why?

Posted by: Rick Happ | Jun 8, 2006 8:37:44 AM | 3

And Specter bringing Gonzales in now to answer questions about the telecom companies is a sure sign of Cheney's work. How do they get away with this time and time again?

Posted by: Rick Happ | Jun 8, 2006 8:59:24 AM | 4

I think that most politicians are extremely corrupt. Through years of illegal secret surveillance, Cheney has the goods on each of them and he has the method to out/jail them them if any get out of line.
And their limosine perks are worth more to them than the Constitutional separation of powers -- or the bill of rights for that matter. The odd behavior of Senators toward executive branch infractions indicates that even the Senators know that they are irrelevant public parasites.

It makes me wonder about the mass retirements of moderates from the Senate several years back. At the time they decried the political polarization of the chamber, but I wonder if it was something else.

Posted by: gylangirl | Jun 8, 2006 10:08:23 AM | 5

They're Not an Administration

They're management. Cheney isn't the VP. He's the Bernardo Provenzano, of the family, i.e. --the Capo di tutti capi-- boss of mafia Bosses. Where lil Bush is the underboss the Babbo.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jun 8, 2006 10:25:57 AM | 6

Uncle $cam,
I think your right, mafia bosses, that is the only way to explain it, especially considering the Corporate Media compliance.

You make a good point about the retiring Senators... perhaps Amy of Democracy Now could do an interview of some of these Senators and see if they have anything to say now. BTW, I found it interesting that Pres. Jimmy Carter is no longer a member of the Democratic Party - he said that on Larry King Live or Hardball (can't remember where) a few months ago.

Posted by: Rick Happ | Jun 8, 2006 10:49:12 AM | 7

@Rick Happ

"Where does Cheney get his power over these people? I don't understand the situation. The GOP leaders must be protecting the Party from another big possible scandal is all that I can surmise. Pretty disgusting. But the Dems are so quiet in all this crap. Why?"

The Dems that CheneyCo can't blackmail for support can be bought outright. If there are any that still fall outside of that Venn diagram, well, they can always be Wellstoned (Odd... in hindsight, only a few short years ago I thought Perot was a nut for making almost an identical observation about GOP "strategery".)

I wouldn't look to them to come running to anyone's rescue... but I guess everyone had already worked that out for themselves.

Posted by: Monolycus | Jun 8, 2006 10:53:27 AM | 8

@ Rick Happ,

Are you sure itr was the Dem Party? I heard he quit the Southern Baptists.

Posted by: gylangirl | Jun 8, 2006 11:04:28 AM | 9


I am fairly sure I heard Carter say it on Larry King Live.

Posted by: Rick Happ | Jun 8, 2006 11:40:52 AM | 10


I am looking thru transcripts now on Larry King Live and can't find it so maybe I was mistaken. I'll try and do some more research.

Posted by: Rick Happ | Jun 8, 2006 11:52:20 AM | 11

Specter's letter (PDF) - I'd say he is quite pissed ...

Cheney will esp. not like this one:

There is no doubt that the NSA program violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which sets forth the exclusive procedure for domestic wiretaps which requires the approval of the FISA Court. It may be that the President has inherent authority under Article II to trump that statute but the President does not have a blank check and the determination on whether the President has such Article II power calls for a balancing test which requires knowing what the surveillance program constitutes.

Posted by: b | Jun 8, 2006 12:34:38 PM | 12


I feel like I'm in the twilight zone... I read the whole Larry King Live transcript, did google searches also, and there is no mention of Jimmy Carter not being a current member of the Dem Party. My memory is usually pretty good.
Sorry for the misinformation. Carter's son Jack is running for Nevada US senator (Democrat). He was on the show also.

Posted by: Rick Happ | Jun 8, 2006 12:34:52 PM | 13

This part is good too:

We press this issue in the context of repeated stances by the Administration on expansion of Article II power, frequently at the expense of Congress's Article I authority. There are the Presidential signing statements where the President seeks to cherry-pick which parts of the statute he will follow. There has been the refusal of the Department of Justice to provide the necessary clearances to permit its Office of Professional Responsibility to determine the propriety of the legal advice given by the Department of Justice on the electronic surveillance program. There is the recent Executive Branch search and seizure of Congressman Jefferson's office. There are recent and repeated assertions by the Department of Justice that it has the authority to criminally prosecute newspapers and reporters under highly questionable criminal statutes.

Posted by: b | Jun 8, 2006 12:35:46 PM | 14

but after laying out all of that in a public document, what should we make of spector's final sentence:

I am available to work this out with the Administration without the necessity of a constitutional confrontation between Congress and the President.

is he just feeling slighted b/c of all that went on behind his back? or will he actually move beyond trying to accomdate dicktator cheney?

Posted by: b real | Jun 8, 2006 12:52:48 PM | 15

This letter by Specter is serious stuff. Maybe the Zarqawi kill news is another purposeful diversion. I hope to watch Keith Obermann tonight and see if anything is made of this.

Posted by: Rick Happ | Jun 8, 2006 1:15:15 PM | 16

yeah, Arlen (Warren Comission) Spector...right, he'll do the right thing, right? Get it? Right.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jun 8, 2006 1:26:31 PM | 17

More likely it is the Democrats who disowned Carter because of his stance on Israel and the Wall (amongst other things.) Or some commentator said that had happened.

Posted by: Noisette | Jun 8, 2006 3:27:01 PM | 18

I think the "personally slighted because he wasn't consulted" and the "not interested in a constitutional showdown" says it all. The Senator is irrelevant, Cheney knows it, and now Spector knows it too.

What would a constitutional showdown actually look like? And who would win the showdown? And how would we know it?

Posted by: gylangirl | Jun 8, 2006 4:44:20 PM | 19

@ Rick Happ,

When the Southern Baptist President Jimmy Carter, who didn't let alcohol be served in the White House and got rid of Hail to the Chief and admitted 'lusting in his heart' etc, finally resigned from the Southern Baptist Convention, it was a huuuge story. Perhaps that is what you were recalling.

Posted by: gylangirl | Jun 8, 2006 4:50:16 PM | 20

I even remember calling a friend about it on the phone right after I heard it. The guy I called does private intelligence and security work and is in the mideast right now so I might email him and see if he remembers it. Oh well - makes me wonder if they took it out of the transcript!

I know some dems were pissed when Carter invited Michael Moore to sit with him at the convention!

Posted by: Rick Happ | Jun 8, 2006 9:30:08 PM | 21

Specter's letter makes serious charges even if it is just a smokescreen to be used to play the public like fools. Specter, if he was honest, would not be irrelevant and could be a hero and stop the illegal spying by calling for this crime to be stopped. Instead, he called it a "political problem" when pressured further on CNN. But,Specter is part of the club, where Cheney is the boss, like a mafia boss, as Uncle $cam puts it. I feel like a fool for even hoping things would be different this time.

Posted by: Rick Happ | Jun 9, 2006 2:23:57 AM | 22

Greenwald on Specters now completed submission to Cheney

A bill proposed yesterday by Arlen Specter to resolve the NSA scandal -- literally his fifth or sixth proposed bill on this subject in the last few months -- would drag the Congress to a new low of debasement. According to The Washington Post, Specter has introduced a bill "that would give President Bush the option of seeking a warrant from a special court for an electronic surveillance program such as the one being conducted by the National Security Agency." This proposal is the very opposite of everything Specter has saying for the last several months:

Specter's approach modifies his earlier position that the NSA eavesdropping program, which targets international telephone calls and e-mails in which one party is suspected of links to terrorists, must be subject to supervision by the secret court set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

A law which makes it "an option" -- rather than a requirement -- for the Government to obtain a warrant before eavesdropping is about as meaningless of a law as can be imagined.

But that complete change of heart by Specter is not even nearly the most corrupt part of his proposed bill. For pure corruption and constitutional abdication, nothing could match this:

Another part of the Specter bill would grant blanket amnesty to anyone who authorized warrantless surveillance under presidential authority, a provision that seems to ensure that no one would be held criminally liable if the current program is found illegal under present law.

Posted by: b | Jun 10, 2006 1:35:20 AM | 23

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