Thursday, December 22, 2005


Odd Democratic PATRIOT-ic Behavior

A temporary extension of the Patriot Act is a good thing. In theory, it would be nice if the legitimate civil liberties concerns that are, in fact, bipartisan, could be addressed apart from partisan sniping.

Yeah, right.

However, a Democrat must have to start wondering how the party got stuck with such politically inept congressional leaders. First, when the Senate managed to block a final vote on the PA re-authorization last week, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid led his Senate conference (including the apostate, Joe Lieberman) in a press appearance where he happily boasted that they had "killed" the Patriot Act.

A more savvy political leader might have said, "Out of concern for the infringement of constitutional rights, senators of both parties stood up to say that the Patriot Act should not be passed in its present form." Instead, the "killed" statement was the highlighted video clip when Reid went on Fox News Sunday. The president, as The Washington Post notes today, has, "At least twice...said that Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has bragged about 'killing the Patriot Act.'"

Ya think that little bit of Reid video won't be part of Republican campaigns next year? The GOP would be foolish not to use it.

Which makes the six-month extension inexplicable. The three-month extension Democrats wanted makes sense from their point of view: Changes would have to be negotiated and -- with the four Republican senators also balking at the Act as passed in the House -- quite likely accepted. If it still died, they might have time to make a case through the spring, summer and fall.

However, a six-month extension means that a new Patriot Act will have to be debated and passed in both chambers by July. Given what it is claimed that Bush and the Republicans did to them in 2002 with the Department of Homeland Security, why would Democrats agree to an extension that expires four months before Election Day 2006? What's to stop the GOP from insisting on the Patriot Act in its current form (or House-passed version) -- blaming a filibuster on the Democrats and making this a "soft on terrorism" political debate in the '06 midterms (as DHS was in '02)?

By then, the
NSA wiretaps story -- which invariably complicates the Patriot Act debate -- will likely be an old memory. Instead, the issue can be framed, "Which party is committed to keeping the country safe?" For two consecutive elections, Republicans have won that debate. From here, it looks like the Democrats are setting themselves up for a third fall.

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