Grover Norquist (president of Americans for Tax Reform and one of the leading Republican think-tank hawks in Washington, D.C.) has just joined forces with Democrats and the ACLU in calling for President Bush to reverse his position on wiretaps (though no mention has been yet made of torture). Norquist says he is doing this because he is a Republican and a friend of the President, and he feels that somebody like that needs to say this now. Though Norquist wants to see the terrorists caught/killed, he does not want that outcome at the expense of the liberties upon which this country was founded.
When Norquist comes out against a Republican President on any issue, you know something is up. This issue matters. You probably won't see this on ABC/CBS/NBC/CNN/FOX/etc. T.V. news anytime soon, but word will creep out. Torture and the invasion of the privacy of Americans will not be tolerated by the people of this country. Driving SUVs, drilling in the arctic, and running the government bankrupt to fight unnecessary foreign wars... that's another thing. But apparently, a line in the sand has been drawn, and the Bush administration has crossed it.
Impeachment does seem unlikely... but add this to the current corruption scandal, and it certainly seems like the tide may be turning, the pendulum losing momentum and beginning the turn-around for the swing back.
see for yourself:
Political opposites aligned against Bush wiretaps
- James Sterngold, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Larry Diamond, a Democrat and a Hoover Institution senior fellow, went to Baghdad in 2004 as a consultant for the U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority, believing strongly in the Bush administration's goal of building a democracy there. While critical of many aspects of the Iraq war, he has, he says, wholeheartedly supported President Bush's aggressive approach to the war on terror.
Grover Norquist is one of the most influential conservative Republicans in Washington. His weekly "Wednesday Meeting" at his L Street office is a must for conservative strategists, and he has been called the "managing director of the hard-core right" by the liberal Nation magazine. Perhaps the country's leading anti-tax enthusiast, he is, like Diamond, a hawk in the war on terror.
Despite coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum, they agree on one other major issue: that the Bush administration's program of domestic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency without obtaining court warrants has less to do with the war on terror than with threats to the nation's civil liberties.
"My view on the terrorists is that we should find all of them and kill them," said Norquist. "But we should also protect our civil liberties, which the terrorists are trying to destroy."
Diamond, whose academic specialty is the building of democracies, has taken his opposition one step further, joining a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union last week to halt the president's program.
"I teach about democracy and the rule of law, the quality of a democracy," he said. "I meet so many people around the world who want to look up to the American model, and a spying program like this really harms us."
Bush and his senior officials have defended the wiretaps as essential in a time of war, while many White House and GOP officials have attempted to characterize opposition as coming mostly from partisan Democrats critical of the war in Iraq. In a speech to the Republican National Committee last Friday, Karl Rove, the president's chief strategist, accused Democrats of making "wild and reckless and false charges" on the wiretap issue.
But, in fact, a number of prominent Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, have criticized Bush and the wiretapping without court warrants as a violation of the law and basic civil liberties. So have other well-known conservatives, including former Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia. Bruce Fein, a lawyer who worked in the Justice Department under President Ronald Reagan, wrote in a commentary in the Washington Times last week that Bush should face "possible impeachment" if the practice is not stopped.
"There have been as many Republicans as Democrats who've spoken out on the issue," Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said Tuesday as he stated that the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he heads, will begin hearings on the matter on Feb. 6.
Norquist and Diamond explained in interviews why this odd alliance has come together in spite of the bitter divisions between left and right on most other political issues.
Diamond, who also teaches at Stanford University, is an expert on democratic development -- the reason he was hired as a consultant for the Coalition Provisional Authority by his old friend and former Stanford colleague Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
He says that, though he is a Democrat, his focus is civil liberties, not the president.
"I give Bush credit for his vigilance since 9/11," said Diamond. "I'm very much in sympathy with the need to monitor al Qaeda and terrorists, to uproot them, interdict them, catch them and when necessary to kill them. But we can't roll over on something like this."
Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, says he knows some fellow conservatives have labeled him a traitor for condemning the same administration that instituted the biggest tax cuts in recent American history -- cuts for which Norquist vigorously lobbied. But an even greater disloyalty, Norquist responds, would be to allow what he regards as the trampling on civil liberties to go unimpeded.
"The president's friends are exactly who you want telling him this," said Norquist. "No one else has the credibility. We are being team players by telling him, not by keeping quiet."
Norquist said one of his main concerns is that, once the government becomes so intrusive, there is no way to prevent continued erosion of individual rights.
"Even if you believed an angel was making these decisions, and that's not what I'm saying, at some point the person in the White House will change," he said. "Hillary Clinton might be making these decisions."
The New York Times first disclosed last month that the president had approved a program under which the NSA had been intercepting an apparently large volume of communications to and from the United States without first obtaining special court approval, as required by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
But the president and senior administration officials insist that Congress gave the president the authority to bypass that law. They also say that the extraordinary threat presented by terrorist groups require such measures. Initially, most national opinion polls narrowly favored the administration's position, but polls released this week show a majority in favor of obtaining a warrant before such surveillance is permitted.
Last Tuesday, the ACLU and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed separate lawsuits in federal courts seeking to stop the administration from the eavesdropping without obtaining warrants.
Joining the ACLU suit were a mix of supporters and opponents of the Bush administration, including Diamond, James Bamford, who has written several books on the NSA, and Christopher Hitchens, a columnist who vocally supported the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq and has written extensively about the threat posed by "Islamo-fascism," the term he uses to characterize the ideology of al Qaeda.
Diamond and the others who have signed on to the ACLU suit say they suspect that some of their overseas communications might have been intercepted.
Diamond also fears that some researchers, especially in the Middle East, will stop communicating with him for fear they might be caught in the NSA's electronic net, making it harder for him to continue his own work on democratic development in countries like Egypt and Iraq.
And, like Norquist, Diamond worries about how the Bush administration or others might use the wiretap information.
"That information could be sitting in a database somewhere for a long time," said Diamond. "It might be there not just for this administration, but for anyone.
"That data could be mined for any reason," he added. "It's frightening."
Norquist is not a party to either suit, but he has been outspoken in criticizing his party's leader. He said that he had brushed aside concerns that he was harming the president or being disloyal at a critical time.
"You need someone who is a Republican to call the president on this," he said.
Norquist said, ironically, he was particularly concerned about the problem because the Democrats appeared to be so weak.
"For 40 years we always assumed the left would take care of our civil liberties," he said. "If there were problems, the Democrats were the ones who would push back. But now with a Republican Congress and a Republican in the White House, the ACLU can't get their calls returned."
Referring to what some see as a conflict between fighting vicious terrorists and upholding all civil liberties, Norquist said: "It's not either/or. If the president thinks he needs different tools, pass a law to get them. Don't break the existing laws."
E-mail James Sterngold at email@example.com.
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