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On FOX News, censure resolution hurts Democrats

Reported by Chrish - March 15, 2006

John Gibson had a segment today 3/14/06 on The Big Story about Senator Russ Feingold's motion to censure GW Bush for his admitted illegal warrantless wiretapping activities (what Gibson obligingly labeled the NSA secret surveillance program). Bob Beckel, soft-core Democratic strategist, and Frank Donatelli, Republican strategist, were guests who were asked to debate which party would be most hurt by Feingold's resolution.

The chyron under most of the segment: How will censure resolution affect the Democratic party?

Donatelli starts off by saying that "this issue", meaning international wiretapping of suspected terrorists, benefits Bush because most people approve of these tactics. This interchanging of issues has been going on since the story first broke and I have yet to see a FOX host correct a guest and try to clarify the difference between legal and necessary wiretapping and illegal, warrantless spying on Americans at home. People who are paying attention know the difference and approve of the former but not the latter.

Beckel said that, contrary to Gibson's comment that the censure actually generated a little sympathy for Bush, he believes Feingold's action may accomplish what Democrats have been trying to do for months now, which is get a hearing on the (real) issue. They can't get a hearing in the Intelligence Committee because it's controlled by Republicans, so if this is what it takes, let's have it.

When Gibson asked why Democrats were not coming out in support of the censure, Beckel repeated the Republican talking point that when it comes to national security, Democrats don't come out well in a debate like this. He said "That doesn't mean you shouldn't have the debate. You all trust George Bush to do this right; I don't."

Stating it like it's a foregone conclusion, Gibson framed the next question against Dems: If Democrats are going to come out badly in this debate, why do they want it? He went first to Donatelli, who said he agreed with Beckel, that the debate is needed, BUT he thinks it should be a discussion of how to change existing laws to accomodate Bush and allow it to continue.

Beckel, asked the same question, remarks that Feingold is running for president and he is staking out the large number of voters on the left who think Bush broke the law when it comes to wiretapping American citizens. Gibson incredulously states that there are 30 house members that have signed onto John Conyers call for impeachment, and Feingold says this is openers, only the start. Beckel demurs, saying he (Bush) isn't going to be impeached, he's not going to be censured, this is a political statement but it should be made because this issue has been squashed by Republicans who don't want Bush to have to face the public on it.

Donatelli says he welcomes the debate, but there are two schools of thought among Republicans on "this issue" (the decoy issue): those that think Bush has the inherent authority, and those who think a little statute to give him the authority he has thus far taken illegally should be constructed. He says the dirty little secret about Democrats and Feingold in particular is that "they" don't believe that Bush should have "this authority" under any circumstances and that's just wrong.

Beckel challenges him them, asking then why won't Republicans allow a hearing on this? Donatelli says that Senator Graham is working on a "narrowly tailored statute" that would give Bush the authority. What I'd like to hear someone bring up is, will the statute be retroactive? Will there even be acknowledgment that up to now it has been done outside the laws?

Just as it was getting interesting and Beckel was getting in Donatelli's face, figuratively speaking, Gibson cut them both off with loud overtalking and ended the segment.

Comment: Democrats need to be more clear in laying out "the issue". Come out in favor of wiretapping AQ suspects and others from overseas but insist that Bush get warrants when eavesdropping on Americans at home.
The pro-administration guests go with the "NSA secret surveillance program" frame, with the host's endorsement, and the two guests are effectively talking about two very different issues. They need to name names (Quakers, PETA) and let people know that the government is abusing their authority, illegally spying on Americans without necessary warrants. Even conservative Judge Napolitano is against it.

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