Hagel: The Mock Maverick Rides Againby Kyle Michaelis
I was not particularly surprised to learn that Tuesday's vote by the Senate Intelligence Committee on whether to hold hearings investigating the Bush Administration's domestic spying activities ended on a straight party-line vote. Clearly a loss for the American people and those interested in seeking the truth, President Bush's 8-7 victory should make any fair-minded Republican hang his head in shame.
Particularly shameful in this matter is the conduct of Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, whose choice to do Bill Frist's bidding rather than sticking to his guns and actually demanding accountability from the Administration reveals but once again the world of difference between "Talk Show" Hagel's rhetoric and the voting record of the real thing. Yes, Hagel talks the talk of an independent-minded straight-shooter, but - when it comes to walking the walk - this guy may as well be a quadriplegic.
Whitewashing Hagel's vote and his complicity in tightening the blindfold over the eyes of the American people, the Omaha World-Herald truncates the New York Times:
Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday that they had reached agreement with the White House on proposed bills to impose new oversight on domestic surveillance. The agreement would allow wiretapping without warrants for up to 45 days.
The agreement dashed Democratic hopes of starting a full committee investigation because the proposal won the support of Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe of Maine. The two Republicans had threatened to support a broader inquiry if the White House did not disclose more.
The proposed legislation would create a seven-member "terrorist surveillance subcommittee" and require the administration to give it full access to the details of the program's operations.
The measure would require the administration to seek a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court whenever possible. If the administration elects not to do so after 45 days, the attorney general has to certify that the surveillance is necessary to protect the country and explain to the subcommittee why the administration has not sought a warrant.
All seems straight-forward enough. What the World-Herald leaves out, in its editorial discretion, is the larger story and context provided by the New York Times:
The plan by Senate Republicans to step up oversight of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program would also give legislative sanction for the first time to long-term eavesdropping on Americans without a court warrant, legal experts said on Wednesday.
Civil liberties advocates called the proposed oversight inadequate and the licensing of eavesdropping without warrants unnecessary and unwise. But the Republican senators who drafted the proposal said it represented a hard-wrung compromise with the White House, which strongly opposed any Congressional interference in the eavesdropping program....
The negotiations that produced a deal on the eavesdropping program left Senate Democrats fuming on the sidelines, adding to the partisan squabbling on the Intelligence Committee that longtime observers of Congress say is unprecedented....
On Tuesday, [Sen. John] Rockefeller said he believed that the committee's Republicans were "under the control" of the White House....
"Aside from the civil liberties dimension, there's an invitation here to the president to go on indefinitely with warrantless surveillance," said William C. Banks, a law professor at Syracuse University.
Caroline Fredrickson, head of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington legislative office, said it was "profoundly disappointing to see lawmakers willing to lower the bar to allow the president vast powers to spy on Americans"....
Republicans were miffed that Mr. Rockefeller, the committee's ranking Democrat, had portrayed them as caving in to White House pressure.
On Tuesday, Senator Chuck Hagel...called that notion "laughable." Mr. Hagel said he and Senators DeWine and Snowe were "three of the most independent Republicans" in the Senate and added, "I have never been accused of buckling to White House pressure."
Well, Chuck, "never" might have been too strong a word, especially since right here, right now, you do stand accused of buckling to White House pressure. How do I justify such an accusation? Why, by proving it, of course.
From the Lincoln Journal-Star (12/21/2005):
Sen. Chuck Hagel said Wednesday that Americans can be protected against terrorism without violating the law or ignoring civil rights.
Hagel is one of two Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who have called for an investigation into President Bush’s decision to order domestic intelligence surveillance without court approval.
“No president is ever above the law,” Hagel said in a telephone conference call from Washington. “We are a nation of laws. You cannot avoid or dismiss a law.”
At issue, Hagel said, is whether the decision to order such surveillance violates a 1978 law requiring approval by a secret U.S. foreign intelligence surveillance court. Bush has claimed legal and constitutional authority to act....
Asked about Vice President Dick Cheney’s warning that Bush’s critics could pay a heavy political price, Hagel said: “My oath is to the Constitution, not to a vice president, a president or a political party.”
What's changed since then to shift Hagel's allegiance to the President? Is it simply that the cameras are no longer rolling - this story was milked for all he could squeeze from it? Or, did Cheney's threat of "a heavy political price" become a whole lot more persuasive when it became clear getting shot in the face was a possibility?
Either way, that's some fine buckling to White House pressure, Chuck - you liar. Called for hearings in December. Voted against them in March. It doesn't get much clearer than that - on this issue, on the sad state of the Republican Party, and in capturing the essence of Hagel's self-serving hypocrisy.