Comments yesterday from Nancy Pelosi, via reporter Karen Tumulty at Time:
[I]t makes progress in the right direction. But these bills depend on the commitment to the Constitution of the President of the United States and of his Justice Department. So while some may have some complaints about this, that, or the other about the bill, it is about the enforcement, it is about the implementation of the law where our constitutional rights are protected.
But I'm pleased that in Title I, there is enhancement over the existing FISA law. Reaffirmation, I guess that's the word I'd looking for. A reaffirmation that FISA and Title III of the Criminal Code are the authorities under which Americans can be collected upon.
Of course, it is about "enforcement" if you determine that "enforcement" of the law means "blanket immunity for anyone who breaks it." The bill directs the courts to dismiss all lawsuits against the telecommunications companies if the Bush administration directs them to, based on evidence which is required to remain secret but which may be as meager as an assertion that the company was told by the President that he had the authority to demand of them whatever-it-is-they-did. Which is also secret.
That's a hell of a compromise, don't you think? Can't you just smell the "enforcement" of basic Constitutional rights, there? Certainly worth a little self-congratulation from the Speaker of the House for standing up for us. Because at heart, Nancy Pelosi thinks you're too stupid to figure out the difference between "enforcement" and "amnesty".
But what's even better is that, in the span of two statements, Pelosi says that this bill is dependent on the President of the United States following the law... and praises the law for sternly "reaffirming" the law he already broke. Well, hell, you should feel confident now. And if he breaks the law again, of course -- no problem. Because we'll just pass another law making it retroactively legal again, and call that a great victory too.
Today, Pelosi stated:
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of California disputed that, saying FISA would from now on be the authority for the government to conduct electronic surveillance.
"There is no inherent authority of the president to do whatever he wants. This is a democracy, not a monarchy," she said.
But of course, FISA was already the authority under which the government conducted electronic surveillance. It's fine and grand to "reaffirm" that, but if you're "reaffirming" it in one breath and immunizing all violations in the next, you'd have to really think your constituents were stone-cold stupid to count that a victory.
Pelosi's right about one thing, though. This is a democracy, not a monarchy. In a monarchy, the king would just violate the law at will, and nobody would say a word. In a democracy, the President gets to violate the law at will, and we'll jump through months of hoops to change the law so that he retroactively didn't violate it. You'd have to be stupid not to see the difference.