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Top Dog Martin Frost: "(Bush) is not a dictator."

Reported by Chrish - December 30, 2005

The "debate" continued yesterday on The Big Story 12/2/05, with guests former Rep. Martin Frost (D-TX) and former Governor Jim Gilmore (R-VA). David Asman was filling in for John Gibson, turning what at first glance might appear to be a fair and balanced "debate" into a lop-sided defense of Bush's illegal NSA spying authorizations. Frost did a great job staying focused on the main issue, i.e. that Bush broke the laws of this country in ordering surveillance of Americans at home without proper judicial consent. In fact, I'm awarding him "Best in Show" honors for his performance today.

The segment was titled "The Politics of the War on terror" in an effort to a.) diminish criticisms and outrage and portray it as political posturing, and b.) to strike fear into the chronically fearful - terror, terror, terror. Wasn't that a movie in the early 70s?

Anyway, Asman began the segment by diminishing and politicizing the issue: "Congressman, are Democrats getting too worked up over this issue?"

Frost wasted no time in laying it all out: "David, I want to make two points and I'll make them as quickly as I can. First, I think I and some other Democrats are the conservatives in this argument. (snorting/chuckling in the background) We are strict constructionists. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution says American citizens can't be searched without a warrant. Secondly, Congress passed a statute dealing with national security, saying that in times of national security, you can get a quickie warrant from a special court. And if that's not good enough, if you have an emergency, you can conduct the search and then go back within 72 hours to that court and explain it. (Bush) has chosen to ignore the fourth amendment to the Constitution and ignore the statute by Congress. We're standing for the rule of law. I think Democrats are doing the right thing on this."

Gilmore had his own talking points: "I've got a couple of points. The first thing is, the politics are risky for the Democrats. If there's another attack, they could suffer some backlash. I think we have to remember, if we're going to have a defense system based upon threat and not just vulnerability we have to have information, which means the American people expect (Bush) to do what's necessary to get information from Al Queda operatives to make sure that we're well defended. Now quickly the second point is I don't think we need to surrender the Democrats the whole civil liberties and civil freedoms issue. I think that the initiative opportunity here is to find a way to do both of these things, to make sure that the rule of law is satisfied, that American freedoms are protected, and the security concerns that (Bush) is addressing are also taken care of. "

Asman asked Frost to address Gilmore's points, not the other way around, attempting to steer the "debate" to safer ground. Didn't work.

Asman asked, essentially, what if there was another terrorist attack, all these stories would disappear and people would be concerned that rather than too much government intrusion, there was not enough.

Frost replied that Congress passed a statute allowing the president to eavesdrop on Americans by getting a warrant from the special court. He can even do it for 72 without a warrant as long as he goes to the court after - what more power does any president need? He has all the power he needs right now. He's chosen to ignore the statute of Congress,and to ignore the Constitution (Asman (and perhaps the governor) are overtalking at this point)

Asman tells them both to hold on and asks in what way did Bush ignore? - Didn't he go for Congessional oversight, didn't he inform some members of Congressmen (sic)?

Frost replied that "that has nothing to do with whether he is violating the Constitution of the United States and violating a statute passed by Congress. He's not a dictator." Asman tells the governor to go ahead even though Frost is still talking.

Gilmore says that's a powerful point (what is?), because he thinks many Democratic leaders were informed at the time that this was going on. "I think (Bush) thinks he has some authority, but look, I am not going to undermine the civil freedoms of the American people . I think we need to look at this and make sure the civil freedoms of the country are protected while doing our job. "

Everyone talks at once. Asman asks Frost whose, specifically, civil rights are being violated. Frost replies "American citizens" but Asman is still talking, throwing out an anecdotal smokescreen about a column, written by a Kennedy, about a college student who made some claim that later turned out to be made up - got that, viewers?

Frost replied, emphatically "(Bush) has said that he has the right to wiretap American citizens without a warrant. Any American citizen can have his rights violated by this president when he follows that kind of policy. " Asman reiterates his demand for a specific example, and Frost says, "well who knows, because he didn't go to the court! He may have been wiretapping his political enemies in the name of national security! That's why he didn't go to the special court."

Gilmore is riled and says now Frost has gone too far. The FACT, he tells us, is that the wiretapping was done on foreign Al Queda calls coming into the United States ("to American citizens", Frost interjects) to American citizens to be sure, Gilmore accedes, but it is important to know they are foreign calls coming into this country from potential terrorists.

While Frost continues to say that we don't know because no warrants were issued who is being wiretapped, Gilmore insists that' it's terrorists and that's the application being used right now." Gilmore goes on to say the Democratic ledership was informed, and Frost reiterates that doesn't change the fact that Bush violated the Constitution and a statute passed by Congress, it has nothing to do with whether anybody has been informed.

Gilmore says that's not right, "the fact is (Bush) believes he has executive branch authority." He is in favor of Congress taking the initiative to make sure "we" can in fact protect this country by getting the information necessary so we can pass it down to state and local people and do the right thing ...

Frost overtalks, "He ought to follow the law and use the court that was set up just for this purpose."

Gilmore adds, "...and follow the law" and Asman thanks them both.

Comment: Asman was working for the administration, trying to put Frost on the spot demanding meaningless details and muddying the much larger issue of Bush's actions. Frost did an excellent job of staying on message and not letting the important issue get buried in ancdotes, fear, and what-ifs.

It appears that the "solution" Republican-style is more legislation and we can assume it will give the president even broader powers than the FISA statute. Democrats and real conservatives need to stand up to this and just say no.

That Gilmore said twice that Bush believes or thinks he has the powers to do that says to me that they're setting him up - again - for plausible deniability.

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