Third Party & Independents Archives

Immature Dissent On Display

Georgetown University Law Center recently hosted a speech by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in which he defended the controversial NSA wiretapping of American citizen’s phone calls with Al Qaeda members. The actual speech and the panel debate that followed were considered and informative. They gave an encouraging impression of Georgetown’s commitment to discussing difficult issues in a mature, thoughtful manner. In stark contrast, the student protest during the Gonzales speech was an immature intellectual spasm that did nothing more than embarrass the Georgetown Law student body on a national stage.

It may seem cliché that as the president of the Georgetown Law Center Federalist Society, I would respond negatively to a protest by liberal students against George W. Bush’s Attorney General. On the other hand, I do not support much of the Bush administration’s conduct in the war on terror. For the last year and a half I have worked for Georgetown Professor Neal Katyal on the Hamdan case, challenging Bush’s use of military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. I also probably agree with the protestors that the Bush administration’s actions in this warrant-less wiretapping are a violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act- and maybe the Fourth Amendment.

My agreement with the protestors’ underlying policy position only increases my dismay at their conduct. By standing with their backs to Alberto Gonzales, by holding up a sign with a misquoted Benjamin Franklin statement (which CNN.com decorously labeled a “paraphrase”), by stomping out like petulant children with their black hoods on - the students embarrassed themselves, their cause, and the Law Center. Rather than showing Georgetown Law as a school where different opinions are respected - they made it seem like a place where people have made up their minds and will turn their backs on anyone who dares disagree.

Merely disagreeing with the administration does not give good reason to act disrespectfully. The school invited Judge Gonzales as a guest to our campus and he addressed us on one of the most pressing issues of the day. Many students do not agree with what he had to say- that is unexceptional. The school regularly brings left-leaning speakers to campus with whom I strongly disagree. When those speakers come, I listen respectfully and then challenge them on the facts and on the law. That is the mature and rational approach that we have been taught in Georgetown Law classrooms. We have not been taught to turn our backs and walk out of speeches simply because we do not like the message.

One question really bothered me after I saw the protest- what reasons could lead otherwise intelligent people to act in this manner? My best guess is that there is a romantic/symbolic connection to the protests of the past- when brave dissidents fought against racism and a system that did not allow their voices to be heard. These modern protestors adopted the 1960s civil disobedience paradigm without understanding the predicates that made those protests necessary. They do not understand that the reason that people turn to civil disobedience is precisely because they cannot get the same respect that Gonzales willingly offered by coming to Georgetown and by having his speech rebutted by a panel that challenged and dissected his position after he spoke.

Consider what occurred here- the Attorney General of the United States came to a predominantly liberal/hostile law school to put the administration’s argument in front of the people- just as he should in a free, democratic country. As he spoke, he knew that the next voice would be perhaps the most articulate and powerful advocate of civil liberties in the United States today, Professor David Cole. This is how the system is supposed to work.

Professor Cole, perhaps out of loyalty-but also, I hope, a little out of embarrassment for the students- praised the protestors: “I am proud of the very civil, civil disobedience that was shown here today.” Unfortunately, there was nothing in these students’ conduct that should have made him proud. Cole sat on the stage, listened respectfully, responded carefully and convinced some listeners that his position was the correct one. The protestors convinced no one of their rightness of their cause. Their masked, martyr-like appearance, with their dramatic (if misquoted) poster contrasted poorly with the carefully parsing of the FISA statute and the arguments about the extent of the President’s Article II powers that the panel discussed after the walk out.

The protestors styled themselves as heirs of dissidents of the past- but no one wanted to drag them away, no one considered turning water hoses on them, no one tried to run over them with tanks- no one cared about their empty gesture. They were turning their backs and walking out of exactly the kind of event that all those protestors of the past were demanding- an open dialogue where the powerful had to come to them- a dialogue where they could voice their reasoned disagreement with the authorities’ conduct in front of their fellow citizens.

Of course, the protesting students were well within their rights to act as they did. It is their constitutional right to use their symbolic speech to disrespect the Attorney General, to embarrass Georgetown Law Center and to marginalize their own opinions. As a person who probably agrees with them on this issue and as a Georgetown Law student, I wish they had not done it. Not only did they trivialize their point of view, but they showed themselves as closed-minded, disrespectful and immature. It was not the image of Georgetown Law students I wanted broadcast on a national stage.

Posted by Misha Tseytlin at January 26, 2006 2:25 AM
Comments
Comment #116880

Watch O’Reilly much?

Posted by: Stephen VanDyke at January 26, 2006 5:59 AM
Comment #116927

Too bad they didn’t bring their pies.

…And people wonder why audiences are screened. Bush should let more of these protesters you speak of into his public meetings. It can only help him, to show those on the ‘other side’.

Posted by: bugcrazy at January 26, 2006 8:10 AM
Comment #116930

Misha,

What gets me is how it even misses the Democrats stance on it. The point that the democrats have made is that it has to go though proper channels, that being FISA courts. Fisa is both secretive and can be done after the fact in as far as I know ALL cases. There is no public docket as the Bushies claim there is it just means that intel agencies can go over what was done—that’s all.

What these protesters were protesting is a bit of a mystery, wiretapping has been done in the US for more than a quarter century with the most high tech gizmos arriving in the 1980’s.

They were protesting wiretapping? Dems are just pissed that the means of checks and balances were given roughshod and not followed as needed—which could in the future mean spying on your political opponents, that’s the real worry. So the guidelines have to be followed for the sake of both Democrats and Republicans to have party operations. I don’t think we are asking anything unreasonable here that doesn’t bolster democracy in general.

Posted by: Freddy at January 26, 2006 8:13 AM
Comment #116938
Dems are just pissed that the means of checks and balances were given roughshod and not followed as needed—which could in the future mean spying on your political opponents, that’s the real worry.

Exactly. It wouldn’t have been difficult to go through the right channels, so why didn’t Bush even bother?

Why does Bush need so much privacy and refuse to share all kinds of documents that should be public like with Katrina, while denying the right of anyone else to any kind of privacy?

Posted by: Max at January 26, 2006 8:35 AM
Comment #116949
“the students embarrassed themselves, their cause, and the Law Center. ” Posted by Misha Tseytlin at January 26, 2006 02:25 AM


Shunning “aims to exclude and shame a member who commits acts seen as harmful to the group”. It in no way diminishes the protest nor does it embarass anyone other than the “protestee” or someone who aspires to the respect of, or inclusion by, the “protestee”. It is not an “empty gesture,” because in its’ silence it speaks volumes. The vaccuous arguments from the Bush administration for their violation of the rights that so many Americans have fought and died for deserve no respect. The shunning shows that there is no substance even worth listening to.

I would suggest you are the one embarassed since you fundamentally aspire to what should be a respected position, US AG, and feel that such an absolute rejection of Gonzalez looks badly on you, as the visible form of so-called conservatism at Georgetown.

Posted by: Dave at January 26, 2006 9:37 AM
Comment #116950
“the students embarrassed themselves, their cause, and the Law Center. ” Posted by Misha Tseytlin at January 26, 2006 02:25 AM


Shunning “aims to exclude and shame a member who commits acts seen as harmful to the group”. It in no way diminishes the protest nor does it embarass anyone other than the “protestee” or someone who aspires to the respect of, or inclusion by, the “protestee”. It is not an “empty gesture,” because in its’ silence it speaks volumes. The vaccuous arguments from the Bush administration for their violation of the rights that so many Americans have fought and died for deserve no respect. The shunning shows that there is no substance even worth listening to.

I would suggest you are the one embarassed since you fundamentally aspire to what should be a respected position, US AG, and feel that such an absolute rejection of Gonzalez looks badly on you, as the visible form of so-called conservatism at Georgetown.

Posted by: Dave at January 26, 2006 9:40 AM
Comment #116953

Some folks sing their message, some folks preach their message, some folks argue their message, some folks demonstrate their message, and some protest other’s messages as a means of getting their own out, and some folks have no message, at all, only unthought, unchallenged, unanalyzed reiterations of other’s messages.

It’s possible, if they hadn’t demonstrated, Gonazalez’s speech and students responses would not be a topic for discussion here now.

BTW, the AG’s defense that congressional leaders were informed, was no defense in law at all. Where did he get his law degree, anyway. I don’t have one, but, could readily see that telling others you are going to break the law does not make your actions legal.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 26, 2006 10:08 AM
Comment #116977


Misha,

First, make no mistake, AG Gonzales did not appear at Georgetown for an “actual speech and panel debate,” nor did Georgetown, by allowing Gonzales to speak, display its “commitment to discussing difficult issues in a mature, thoughtful manner.” Gonzales did not take part in any panel debate, nor did he take part in any discussion—either in a mature, thoughtful manner or otherwise.

Gonzales’ appearance was part of a public relations campaign put on by the Bush Administration in response to criticisms of the NSA program. Gonzales did not set out to present persuasive legal arguments in defense of the program (as would be appropriate at a law school), but instead began by talking about 9-11.

If you’ve disparaged the students’ intentions without talking to them, I suggest you talk to them to discern their particular motivations for protesting. I, like Professor Cole, am proud of the students who protested. They were not just turning their backs on Gonzales, but were perhaps voicing criticism of the fact that the Law Center was being used as a backdrop for a political P.R. campaign.

I think you give the Law Center too much credit when you speculate that it “invited Judge [sic] Gonzales as a guest to our campus.” It’s much more likely that someone in the Bush Administration called the Law Center, and the Law Center allowed him to come and speak.

One of the “left-leaning” speakers who’ve been invited to speak at the law school might be Bryan Stevenson, who spoke here a couple of years ago. The difference between that speech and the Gonzales affair? Stevenson took questions from students after he spoke, as opposed to being rushed out by security before any panel discussion or Q&A session could take place.

It is the case that Democratic Senators and others have held what essentially were P.R. speeches at the Law Center, but since I’ve been here they’ve always been sponsored not by the Law Center, but by student groups.

Let me offer you an alternative possibility to the ‘missing-the-60’s’ scenario you present, as to “what reasons could lead otherwise intelligent people to act in this manner.” Perhaps the students were horrified at a lawyer who has attempted to justify torture; perhaps the students were disappointed in a law school that would allow itself to be used in this manner; perhaps the students felt compelled to express condemnation for an Administration bent on acting illegally against both American citizens and others in the name of the “War on Terror.” There are a number of possible reasons that the students may have decided to protest, I seriously doubt that a pining for the days of fire hoses was among them.

Lastly, the students did anything but “trivialize their point.” In fact, their protest was a resounding success. National news coverage of the P.R. event almost without exception noted the protest. The Administration hoped that Georgetown students, like their Dean, would submissively allow the school to be used as a backdrop for a political P.R. event. Better luck next time.

-Dave Lane

Posted by: David Lane at January 26, 2006 10:46 AM
Comment #116983

David- the school just recently had Leahy do a PR announcement bashing Alito from the same spot where the AG spoke. You can say he was brought here by “another group” but the Dean was standing right there next to him. not all that, but unlike the AG’s respectful address, Leahy went on to blast the Federalist Society (supposedly one of the most respected groups on campus- at least from what the administration tells me) as an extremist group, whose association wtih Alito should cause everyone to oppose him.

the AG did not respond in the panel, but he came to give a speech taht he knew would be rebutted right after- so everyone who saw him, would see David Cole and Marty Lederman debate two conservatives on the issues that the AG was speaking about.

As for whether we “invited” him or he asked to come- you are probably correct that it was his request. But he was still our guest- as Leahy was our guest. Notice that no one in the federalist society came and disrepected Leahy, despite the fact that he was directly attackign our organization.

This conduct is par for the course on our campus. Last year I put together a partial birth abortion panel, in which I got the Progressive Alliance for Life and Law Students for Choice to join in. At the actual event, a bunch of Law Students for Choice stayed only until their panelist spoke, then just got up and left without hearing the other side- this was at a panel they were co-sponsoring! This kind of disrespect for opposing views is far too common on our campus- and the events on Tuesday broadcast this ugly truth to the entire coutry.

As to what kind of publicity the protest gave to our school- it was so embarrassing that even the Daily Show, hardly a right wing outfit, openly mocked the protest on late night’s show. Like I said, the protestors appeared immature- not people to be taken seriously.

Posted by: Misha Tseytlin at January 26, 2006 11:04 AM
Comment #116987

Dave

Congratulations on what certainly appears to be a successful statement. I appologize if “shunning’ was not your intent. But, then, aren’t all protests more for the audience than the participants?

in the name of the “War on Terror.”
I think we need to take back the vocabulary and stop calling this a “War”. We should view it like the Europeans, more as a police action against criminals than against an Army.

Misha

was so embarrassing that even the Daily Show, hardly a right wing outfit, openly mocked the protest

The Daily Show makes fun of everyone. Since Stuart makes fun of Bush and Cheney and Rummy I guess it means you agree that Bush and Cheyney and Rummy embarrass themselves too.
Again, I think it is you who are embarrassed.

Posted by: Dave at January 26, 2006 11:18 AM
Comment #116991

I think when you are a left-winger and you get mocked by the Daily Show, that is a pretty good sign that you fell on your face. Thats like being a right-winger and being mocked by Dennis Miller.

Posted by: Misha Tseytlin at January 26, 2006 11:26 AM
Comment #116995

David Remer — I agree.
David Lane — excellent post, very well said.

Posted by: Adrienne at January 26, 2006 11:38 AM
Comment #116997

Misha,
Genrally, liberals view non-hateful political humor as one vehicle to become stronger. On the other hand, the right wing has lost all ability to laugh except with hateful supremist snears at the left.
Makes sense though; when you are as weak, incompetent, and immoral as the Bush administration you can’t afford even the slightest dent in the armor.

Posted by: Dave at January 26, 2006 11:42 AM
Comment #117005

“Thats like being a right-winger and being mocked by Dennis Miller.”

Except most of the time those on the right can’t understand a word Dennis Miller says.

Posted by: Rocky at January 26, 2006 11:50 AM
Comment #117015

Dave,
Speaking of pure outright “hate speech”, did you read your post before you posted it?

My comment here and elsewhere about looking in the mirror before opening one’s mouth seems to be relevant in this discussion.


Misha,
Embarrassed by childish and closed minded protests by the students at Georgetown?

No problem.

For the next symposium or debate, just throw a “kegger” someplace else at the same time the debates are being held. Guess where the students will be.

Posted by: Jim T at January 26, 2006 12:06 PM
Comment #117032

Max, the answer to your questions lies in the Peter Principle. Bush has far exceeded his level of incompetence, which places him in a job that frustrates him to no end. Circumventing FISA was likely nothing more than a refusal to subject his will to further frustration. I really don’t think it is anymore complicated than that.

Bush is pissed off at the world that it won’t comply with his wishes, and his frustration is causing him to take short cuts which, at first glance, appear as though they may circumvent further frustration and obstacles to his will.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 26, 2006 12:37 PM
Comment #117038

Jim T:
Yup. Not very nice, wasn’t trying to be.
I was originally going to say “right wing seems to have lost” without the “except with hateful supremist snears at the left” instead of “right wing has lost”, etc… But, Ron is a profligate mud slinger so I figured he would be right at home with a wingnut speech pattern.

BTW, I’m glad to see you think beer trumps the constitution. Have one on Busch.

David Remer,
Maybe we should start calling you by your stage name “Bob” (Hartley). Is there a scientific term for the “obstacle to will” issues?

Posted by: Dave at January 26, 2006 12:44 PM
Comment #117056

I thought the protest was fantastic. Not because I believe the same, not because they had a beef with Bush… it’s all because they felt strongly and took action. That’s extremely rare in anyone today, especially younger generations. MORE POWER TO THEM! Get active, stay active, make a difference.

Posted by: tony at January 26, 2006 1:14 PM
Comment #117059

Rocky, which obviously is fine because it wasn’t that funny anyway (Dennis used to be funny before the apparent loss of his mind).

I also think, Misha, that when you step on a campus as a right-winger really you know there is a chance of bombardment—most twenty somethings are actually leftist. So it would be expected more or less.

But my other point is and was, IT STILL HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH DEMOCRATIC POSITIONS on this topic of wiretaps. So this is probably more of an Anarchist thing I’m guessing.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at January 26, 2006 1:18 PM
Comment #117128

Misha, et al,

the bush administration has subverted the constitution, democracy, and the American Way. He is a criminal by his own admission, and as such, is thus entitled to no more respect than any other criminal (perhaps less considering the nature and extent of his transgressions).

Moreover, respect is reciprocal as your post suggests; however, your assertion that the AG showed you some level of respect by his mere presence is fallacious and misleading… as the degree to which this administration has disrespected us all (through the aforementioned criminal acts) *far* outweighs any negligible degree of ‘respect’ he provided you by his presence.

Finally, allowing that simply showing up is in some way a sign of respect voids your entire argument, for the protestors did this much, no? I didn’t see this incident play out, so correct me if I’m wrong - but from my understanding, the protestors came, made their point, and then left - which is *exactly* what the AG did.
Where’s the difference?

Posted by: Diogenes at January 26, 2006 3:49 PM
Comment #117133

Misha:

You write:

“These modern protestors adopted the 1960s civil disobedience paradigm without understanding the predicates that made those protests necessary. They do not understand that the reason that people turn to civil disobedience is precisely because they cannot get the same respect that Gonzales willingly offered by coming to Georgetown and by having his speech rebutted by a panel that challenged and dissected his position after he spoke.”

I can’t speak for them, but I think you mischaracterize their intent. I gather that the point is disrupt the Gonzales media event and to hijack the media attention to give voice to an opposing view, forcefully and in a novel fashion. In that, they succeeded.

And whetever the local impact might be, it hardly seems fair to say that as an empirical matter the protest “marginalize[d] their … opinions.” The media coverage has been favorable, Daily Show jokes aside.

You’re absolutely right in claiming that it’s appropriate to engage in serious debate on these matters; the panel was interesting, and it probably did more to affect opinion locally (at GULC) than the protest did. But it’s also no mistake that the AG himself was absent from that debate. If you’re engaging in a debate, it’s inappropriate to hold up signs and put on hoods; but if you’re engaged in a political campaign, you shouldn’t be surprised if people respond with politics.

Posted by: Brett at January 26, 2006 3:55 PM
Comment #117134

Diogenes,

I agree with what you are saying but also too the right namely that of Karl Rove, Karen hughes, Dick Cheney et al, has been using leftism (Which BTW there are several hues thereof) to further them politically. they try to lump it in all as one AND fail to reallize that if they are going to get our trust A) they have to explain things with a little more than “Freedom is good” platitudes and B) Don’t try to stereotype us as just liberals supposedly taking positions on a whim or trend.

They use all of this for political clout and treat us like chattle for it and WE are supposed to respect them for it, no way. they have not earned it and you earn it by becoming transparent where prudent and NOT ALWAYS ATTACKING US as if we were the enemy, we aren’t.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at January 26, 2006 3:57 PM
Comment #117161

David:

Circumventing FISA was likely nothing more than a refusal to subject his will to further frustration. I really don’t think it is anymore complicated than that.

I’ve talked about a theory of mine in other threads recently. The theory : politicians mostly take actions which they deem politically expedient and safe. If a safe and easy option is available, it will be chosen over an unsafe and difficult option, even if it doesn’t provide the same “bang for the buck”.

In that vein, I don’t see a political advantage for Bush to have circumvented FISA, if he could have gotten the same information by going through FISA. Why risk it? WIIFM would apply—-What’s in it for me (Bush). Politicians are risk averse and reward driven, and Bush certainly has a political awareness (or surrounds himself with people with political awareness), regardless of whether one agrees with his positions or not.


Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 26, 2006 4:29 PM
Comment #117189

JBOD, because the records are secret, and careers are on the line in the NSA if any speak of what they did, Bush, more likely Cheney, could have ordered suveillance that never would have been approved by FISA. If they anticipated that need, it was politically expedient to develop a legal defense argument for circumventing FISA and going ahead with that plan.

This is a very simple and obvious scenario which falls right into your theory.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 26, 2006 5:09 PM
Comment #117198

This is a question of right and wrong - the Republicans laugh and mock Clinton about the BJs not being sexual relations as lawyer speak and wrong because he intentionally misled people. Whether he lied or not is a technicallity - it was the intention of his action that really makes people mad.

This is the same deal - Bush knows no one would give him permission to spy on Americans - so he got his legal team together to make up some BS to milead Americans into thinking what he is doing is ok. It’s not, if he wants to spy on Americans he needs to ask congress explicity for that power and if necessary, ammend the Constituion. Instead he has broken the law and now after being caught makes the argument that it’s legal.

The Consitution puts limits on Government - NOT the other way around as some “conservatives” wish. The 9th Ammendment makes is clear that unless the people explicity give power to the Government to infringe on their rights, the goverment must not infringe on those rights.

Posted by: JT at January 26, 2006 5:44 PM
Comment #117212

David:

I’d agree that’s a possibility. The real question in my mind is why go around FISA. The only conclusion I can reach is that FISA did not provide the information the Bush admin felt was necessary. Or that it did not provide it in a timely manner.

I don’t see nefarious motives here. I see an attempt to stop terrorist attacks. It may turn out to have been illegal in scope, or it may be legal. The legal experts on this are mixed. When that decision is reached, the question will be motive. In my opinion, if the American people feel Bush circumvented FISA in order to protect the country, the political fallout will be minimal.

Below is a link to comments made by Gen. Michael Hayden. If people agree with his line of reasoning, then they will side with Bush on this.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/Commentary/com-1_24_06_Hayden_pf.html

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 26, 2006 6:23 PM
Comment #117219

Misha,

No offence, but you seem to think that students at a university should have attained a level of maturity beyond their years.
Why do you think that the drinking age is 21? Students that go to protests generally feel that they are invincible, at least I felt that way when I attended protests back in the ’60s.
I seem to remember you are a graduate student (correct me if I am wrong), there is a vast difference in maturity between the ages of 18 and 25.

Posted by: Rocky at January 26, 2006 6:40 PM
Comment #117221

JBOD:

I like your theory and appreciate your posts on it. I agree that politicians are risk-averse and think in the short term, most of the time.

And partisanship aside, I think it’s inevitable that the incumbent in the White House wants to extend the reach of his power. Whether the Bush White House is more inclined to extend executive power, I think, is irrelevant. All presidents want to increase presidential power.

I think that, in a nutshell, is what motivated bypassing FISA. Because he could, and in its way, it establishes a precedent (viz. all the “Gorelick!” posts). Bypassed the FISA court, made what can only charitably be called token notification of Congress, all to expand the reach of Executive power.

Pretty low risk, if you ask me. He can’t run for re-election, and the likelihood of being even slightly smacked down by a Republican congress is quite small. Pretty politically expedient.

Good theory, good story.

Posted by: Arr-squared at January 26, 2006 6:41 PM
Comment #117312

Arr-Squared:

I wouldn’t disagree that Bush wants the Presidency to have increased authority. From what I’ve read, it seems most Presidents push for that—-at least during their tenure. Makes sense from a human nature standpoint. I know I’ve been in charge of committees etc where I’ve wanted authority that I wasn’t all that willing to extend to others. Of course, I knew that I’d never overstep the proper bounds, while I wasn’t sure of what others might do (Said with tongue firmly planted in cheek).

It still comes down to why Bush would want to extend Presidential power in this arena. If its just to extend the power, then its wrong. If its to extend the power in order to make the country safer, then I’m okay with it. We know that in a post-911 world, changes needed to be made. The status quo was shown to have been inadequate.

I recognize those who think the NSA situation is a slippery slope for civil liberties. I don’t see it as such, in part because our country has taken steps onto the slippery slope during other times of war or hardship, but has never slid down the slope.

When I look, for instance, at the portions of the Patriot Act that many have been afraid of, I have yet to see the actual issues come to light. I have yet to see freedom of speech assailed, I have yet to see book clubs tossed in jail because of their library records, I have yet to see the mass injustices that some have predicted. Perhaps some will see my faith in the goodness of our country as misplaced, but I will hold to that optimistic view until I see that it is the wrong view. I won’t simply take a pessimistic view based on potential problems that havent yet happened.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 26, 2006 11:52 PM
Comment #117322

It’s interesting how so many protestors these days make themeselves and their causes look foolish with these displays of immaturity. And how they think they’re actually accomplishing something by acting this way.

I remember how leading up to the Republican Convention last year, many groups—and liberal websites—embarked on a very elaborate mission to plant supposed volunteers on the convention floor for the single purpose of trying to cause a disruption during the President’s speech.

It was very well organized, and those who carried it out spent literally weeks lying on application forms and doing campaign work for the Republicans
just so they’d have the chance to stand up and scream at the President for a few seconds before they were dragged away.

And for what, I wonder? Did they really think that such tactic was going to make their side look good and make the President look bad? That they were going to win anybody to their point of view?

Could you imagine any Republican doing this at the Democratic convention? It wasn’t just that a few zealots put themselves through so much expense and work to carry this out that amazes me—it amazes me how liberal websites like Kos and Atrios exalted in it when it happened and how these individual’s actions were celebrated as a valid contritution to their cause.

I’m not saying that all Democrats are like this, but it does seem to be something that only their side does, and I have no idea how anybody justifies it or thinks that it accomplishes anything other than to make them look foolish.

Posted by: sanger at January 27, 2006 12:07 AM
Comment #117389

JBOD, Bush’s motivations in bypassing FISA are ultimately not the issue. Here’s why.

Let’s assume Bush’s motivations were purely for the protection of our society and nation. Now threats to our society and nation can take infinite forms depending upon who is perceiving the threat. Pres. Bush also regards those critical of government in time of war as a threat to society and our nation. He has said as much, on many occasions. So, based on that threat, should he suspend the 1st Amendment speech protections for the purpose of safeguarding our society and nation using executive power as defense for usurping the Constitution on this matter?

The precedent he sets cannot be more dangerous to our nation. The precedent he set, is an authoritarian precedent. Bypassing FISA, bypasses the people’s representatives and the laws the people assented to, to protect themselves from the immense power of government. For all intents and purposes it amounts to the President authoring his own rules on the fly as he sees fit. This is precisely what defines dictatorships against more democratic forms of government.

His desire to defend Americans against attack by terrorists may be morally defensible. But, his dismissal of the people’s laws in favor of his own power to act, constitutes a far, far greater threat to Americans, should this precedent stand and be passed from President to President. For it will be inevitable that such precedent will be used to harm Americans directly by a President who succumbs to the pressures of the job, his own health issues, or predisposition to mental incapacity as history has shown does happen.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 27, 2006 2:47 AM
Comment #117406

Misha,
As the president of the Georgetown Law Center Federalist Society, you above all should know that it is wrong to even attempt to limit “I the Consumer” from what is rightfully mine. No, the protestors may be lead by people not well versed in The Laws of Nature and Nature’s God, but as you noted defending the President’s wiretaps is a losing cause based on the Inetn of the Laws of the Land.

However, I can not help and wonder why Georgetown Law Center would not allow the “Loyal Opposition” to AG Gonzales attempt to debate him on the issue. Should the Nation of the United States to include The President have the Right to expand the law to deal with Rapitalism proposed by OBL and others? Yes; however, they must do it within the Realm of the Rightside of The Law not the Left. For if America’s President can act above The Law than who of Man or Nature has the right to tell any American Layman that they don’t have the same right?

No, this issue is larger than politics or even the actions and words of Congress and the President over the next year to proving to the American Society just why VOID.org is the way to go. So, I request that you use your position to force both sides of the issue to set down and think of a way to accomplish what needs to be done without having to appease or oppress any of the many “I the Consumers.”

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at January 27, 2006 4:01 AM
Comment #117469

David:

I agree with you from a legal perspective that Bush’s intent has no bearing. The legality of the NSA wiretapping program will be decided by lawyers and experts in the field, along with our elected officials.

Whether Bush has the authority to approve the wiretapping is in question. There are a number of arguments discussing the 4th Amendment, FISA, the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) and Article II of the Constitution. These are all discussed in high detail in the attached link—I’ll leave the authors to do the legal analysis as they do a much better job than I could. The best I can do at present is to say that there are arguments for and against the legality of the wiretaps.

In referring to Bush’s motives, I was referring more to a political rationale and how the American people would view it. Consider that when Clinton went through his Lewinsky issues, the legal issues were certainly affected by the public viewpoint that his actions were not of a serious nature to the country. Public opinion does have some sway in these types of things.

Some have said that if the wiretapping is ultimately found to be illegal, Bush should be impeached. I’m saying that even if it is shown to be illegal, I think public opinion will be that he went too far in trying to protect the country, and that he would not be impeached.

Just my thoughts.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 27, 2006 8:13 AM
Comment #117471

David:

And now the attached link….:)

http://volokh.com/posts/1135029722.shtml#contact

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 27, 2006 8:14 AM
Comment #117500

Hi Joe,

Thanks for that link. Though I often disagree with his conclusions, Volokh usually does good research. I note that his article states early on:

“[I]t seems that the program was probably constitutional but probably violated the federal law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.”

So it was probably illegal. Volokh doesn’t engage the question of how an illegal act can be constitutional, and I’ll leave that to philosophers.

What really interested me, however, is that his whole article analyzes the issue of international monitoring. That seems a red herring to me - there is little doubt that the President can authorize intercepts of international calls.

The real issue, as I see it, is whether purely domestic calls were intercepted. The administration will not say. There is no doubt that existing constitutional law clearly specifies that warrants (even post hoc FISA warrants) are required for domestic surveillance.

Of course, the argument will be, “Prove that any domestic interception occurred.” And of course, I cannot. This is a top-secret program carried out (one hopes) at the highest levels of intelligence gathering. At this stage of the game, no proof either way can be offered.

Where I hope most of us can come to agreement is that IF warrantless domestic interceptions occurred, particularly of conversations where an American citizen is a party, that’s a big problem, and would need to be investigated.

Good people can disagree as to whether they feel the administration can be trusted not to engage in domestic espionage. I hope we can agree that IF this program intercepted domestic communications from the President’s political opponents, that is illegal and should be condemned by all right-thinking Americans.

Posted by: Arr-squared at January 27, 2006 9:58 AM
Comment #117601

Misha Tseytlin,
In the finest tradition of what I consider to be “Liberal” is a blief in the power of a society working together towards the good of all.

If the problems of society such as the lack of civil rights are caused by the society then it is the society that has to make the changes.

That is why I believe most people that would consder themseveles “Liberal” are concerned with equal rights, discrimination, poverty, worker’s benefits such as a safe work environment, child labor laws, a 40 hour week, overtime pay… you know, the traditional “Liberal” ideas.

I quote you: “It may seem cliché that as the president of the Georgetown Law Center Federalist Society, I would respond negatively to a protest by liberal students against George W. Bush’s Attorney General.”

What you are describing used to be called “Radicals” which was a nice label to use that differentitaed the Liberal from the extremists. Such as not all conservatives are Nazis.

However, in the 1980s the Republican party started attaching Radical significance to the word Liberal in a cynical attempt to marry the two together in the eyes of the public. This was back when they would talk about the “L” word.

Thus, the logic becomes: Radical=Liberal=Democrat. Whereas the very beginning of logic is an understanding that all German shepards may be dogs, not all dogs are German shepards.

This has been very successful because it allows a moderate voice concerned about the things I mentioned above to be drowned out and minimized because they are now grouped with radiacals.

Do the radicals believe a lot of what democrats might believe. Probably. Do the extremists at the website http://www.armyofgod.com/ represent the beliefs and should be considered the model of Conservatives? I hope not.

Haphazardly attaching labels to people causes so many problems. The moderats of both sides get lost in the noise… Compromise, respect, civility gets lost. Why? Because a moderate democrat is a Liberal/Radical and the moderate republican is a gun toting Christian fanatic who blows up federal buildings when upset.

I gather you are or are going to be a lawyer? Then you are well versed in the understanding that words and symbols have meaning. Very significant meanings.

It saddens me to see bad behavior attached to the democrats whenever an environmental extremist blows up a car lot, or radical students act out on campus… just as it saddens me to see the republican message of self sufficiency and minimal government get lost by the actions of the right wing extremists.

We, the American people should not be doing the dirty work of the political consultants. We should be standing up to our own partys and demanding that they stop it. That the opposition be treated with respect.. that radical beliefs on either side not be attributed to the party.

I cannot do it to the Republicans… and the Republican people cannot do it to the Democrats. I cannot get a reply from a Congressman or Senator if I am not in their district… I am a non-entity… just like no one from another pary is going to listen to an insistance in honesty from someone not of their own party.

We have to try to correctly and accurately identify issues, actions and beliefs as they are. Not what might tear down a political opponent.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 27, 2006 3:27 PM
Comment #117651

JBOD, what you describe is a nation of men, and not a nation of rule of law. If you believe public opinion should determine whether Bush’s actions were legal or not, as you imply, then, I must point out, that you oppose our nation’s founding on the rule of law, ipso facto.

Adversaries argue in our courts everyday whether individuals broke the law or not. But, whether a law was broken or not, is usually not argued. If you have a dead body with a bullet hole in the brain, it is pretty clear a murder took place.

There is no law on the books that specifically grants the President the power to circumvent the FISA court system in tapping American citizen conversations. And in the absence of such a law, the action is illegal, since, the Constitution stipulates that deprivation of liberty of citizens by the government must be ONLY by enumerated and specific law.

Sure, the Gonzalez and Bush will argue till the cows come home that what he did was legal in their interpretation of the law, as most murderers will argue every possible twist in the law to set themselves free of the consequences of the law. But, in the end, that law made set out very specific conditions under which the executive could invade the privacy of Americans, and Bush chose to ignore those conditions making up his own under his own authority. That is authoritarian rule, which is what makes Bush’s action so immensely dangerous as a precedent to America’s and the American people’s future.

What is frightening is the Administration banking on a Republican Congress to not hold him accountable for this breach of our Constitution which the President swore twice to uphold and defend, and instead subverted.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 27, 2006 6:04 PM
Comment #117858

Darren;

My favorite quote is “a society is truely great when old men plant trees under whose shade they will never sit”

Henry;

You sure write funny, although if I had more time there is alot in your post to discuss. Hopefully next time.

Should the Nation of the United States to include The President have the Right to expand the law to deal with Rapitalism proposed by OBL and others? Yes; however, they must do it within the Realm of the Rightside of The Law not the Left. For if America’s President can act above The Law than who of Man or Nature has the right to tell any American Layman that they don’t have the same right?
I can’t balance your “yes, the president has the right of extra-constitutional powers to fight an enemy” with “if we give him that right, then we must give the right to all”
Unless I don’t understand what you said.

Posted by: Dave at January 28, 2006 9:57 AM
Comment #117894

David:

JBOD, what you describe is a nation of men, and not a nation of rule of law. If you believe public opinion should determine whether Bush’s actions were legal or not, as you imply, then, I must point out, that you oppose our nation’s founding on the rule of law, ipso facto.

What I’m describing is reality. Surely you’ve read enough of my posts to know that I believe in the rule of law. In the political realm, though, the rule of law is tempered by public opinion. I’m not commenting on whether it should be—just that it is.

Of course, intent does play a part in the law. Someone steals a drug from the pharmacy. Depending on whether the person was A) a druggie wanting to get high or, B) a kid trying out shoplifting, or C) a poor mother unable to pay for medicine for her sick child, the sentencing would play out differently.

Its that way in politics as well. Perhaps it shouldn’t be, and that’s a position that can be argued. But the real world shows us that public opinion plays a large part in politics. I’ve just tried to address how it might play in this circumstance.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 28, 2006 1:04 PM
Comment #117924

Dave,
I really like that one! I have never heard it before. I do remeber the one that talks about watching how a society treats its weakest to see the type of society they are.

Poor boorish behavior is not acceptable to me by any side. Someone mentioned the display of “Democratic Liberals” at the Republican convention. He wonders why it is that the Republicans don’t act lile that?

I can postulate. Radicals are, in general, not heavily financed and do not have corporate backing. Their best method then would be to cause a disturbance.

Republicans do not need to do this since they do have corporate backing and excellent finances available from lobbiest (well, they used to have the lobbiest). Thus, they can hire mean, nasty, devisie people who will wear a suit and tie, and for money will plant innuendos, cloud issues, denigrate an entire moderate Democratic party by associtating the actions of radicals with liberals and democrats.

I really do sometimes understand the frustration when we want to fight back. We want to associate the Timothy McVies, Army of God, right-wing militas with moderate, every day Republicans. However, that would be dishonest… wouldn’t it?

Is honesty and integrity only important when it is “Cash register honesty?” Or, is being true to yourself, your beliefs and even your opponent an important honesty?

Oh well, in answer to the question of why republicans don’t act out like that… they don’t have to. They have political consultants, bribe paying lobbiests, some media outlets and unlimited financial means to smear and destroy anyone that opposes them.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 28, 2006 3:07 PM
Comment #117967

A president taking it upon his office to make his own laws to suit his needs is a threat to the entire nation and its freedom loving people. What the president did was tyrannical, regardless of whether his motive was tyrannical, or not. This is not a power I want to see passed on from president to president. This president is attempting to establish just such a precedent. Bush’s circumvention of the FISA courts is a direct assault upon our Constitution and the protections inherent in it to defend the people from the awesome power of government, which if left unchecked and unbalanced, will, according to our founding fathers, lead to tyranny if not by this president then, by one following and inheriting this power Bush is trying to adhere to his office.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 28, 2006 6:08 PM
Comment #118497

David:

I found this article today, which says more clearly what I’ve been trying to get across. Happy reading.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/blog/2006/01/broder_spouts_the_beltway_wisd.html

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 30, 2006 11:57 AM
Comment #121463

JBOD, their arguments are made based on foreign intelligence gathering overseas or intelligence gathered on foreigners here in the U.S. When they extrapolate, as they did in the article you quoted, to gathering intelligence on Americans in their own country, the FISA Court laws DO APPLY which is precisely why the FISA court was established in the first place.

Think about it. If the President has all power to surveil anyone anywhere, why is there a FISA law and court in the first place? The very existence of the FISA court contradicts the President’s defense in spying on Americans here at home regardless of whom they are speaking to or where.

As for Broder’s conclusion that this will not harm the President, I have to laugh. It already has and will continue to do so all the way to the polls in November and very possibly make a lame duck out of the rest of his Presidency.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 6, 2006 1:41 PM
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