Sunday, February 12, 2006

Deja vu all over again

I didn't watch the show but when I read Adrianna Hurrington's account of today's Meet the Press with Democrats Tom Daschle and Jane Harman, and Republicans Pat Roberts and Peter Hoekstra I had a strange sense of deja vu.
The way Huffington described it, Daschle and Harmon apparently spent most of the program wringing their hands -- not about how Bush's domestic wiretap program contravenes the US constitution, but rather about how Democrats have to prove their patriotism by supporting the program:
Senators Rockefeller and Daschle were not given the power to sign away our civil liberties. A Get Out of Jail Free card for Bush to break the law isn't theirs to give . . . I don't particularly care what the reaction by Rockefeller or Harman or Daschle was to the program. Their silence doesn't make it legal. The question is: what do we do about a President who's breaking the law? And, sadly, the answer, at least from Daschle and Harman, was this: instead of making him conform his actions to the law, we fix the law so that it conforms to whatever actions he wants to take.
And then I remembered why this seemed so familiar -- it is EXACTLY what Peter Daou said would happen, six weeks ago when he described how the wiretap scandal would likely follow the typical Bush scandal pattern:
1. POTUS circumvents the law - an impeachable offense.
2. The story breaks . . .
3. The Bush crew floats a number of pushback strategies, settling on one that becomes the mantra of virtually every Republican surrogate. These Republicans face down poorly prepped Dem surrogates and shred them on cable news shows.
4. Rightwing attack dogs on talk radio, blogs, cable nets, and conservative editorial pages maul Bush's critics as traitors for questioning the CIC.
5. The Republican leadership plays defense for Bush, no matter how flagrant the Bush over-reach, no matter how damaging the administration's actions to America's reputation and to the Constitution . . .
6. Left-leaning bloggers and online activists go ballistic . . . Several newspaper editorials echo these sentiments but quickly move on to other issues.
7. A few reliable Dems, Conyers, Boxer, et al, take a stand on principle, giving momentary hope to the progressive grassroots/netroots community. The rest of the Dem leadership is temporarily outraged (adding to that hope), but is chronically incapable of maintaining the sense of high indignation and focus required to reach critical mass and create a wholesale shift in public opinion.. . .
8. Reporters and media outlets obfuscate and equivocate, pretending to ask tough questions but essentially pushing the same narratives they've developed and perfected over the past five years, namely, some variation of "Bush firm, Dems soft." A range of Bush-protecting tactics are put into play, one being to ask ridiculously misleading questions such as "Should Bush have the right to protect Americans or should he cave in to Democratic political pressure?" All the while, the right assaults the "liberal" media for daring to tell anything resembling the truth.
9. Polls will emerge with 'proof' that half the public agrees that Bush should have the right to "protect Americans against terrorists." Again, the issue will be framed to mask the true nature of the malfeasance. The media will use these polls to create a self-fulfilling loop and convince the public that it isn't that bad after all. The president breaks the law. Life goes on.
10. The story starts blending into a long string of administration scandals, and through skillful use of scandal fatigue, Bush weathers the storm and moves on, further demoralizing his opponents and cementing the press narrative about his 'resolve' and toughness. Congressional hearings might revive the issue momentarily, and bloggers will hammer away at it, but the initial hype is all the Democratic leadership and the media can muster, and anyway, it's never as juicy the second time around...
I remember the reaction when Daou wrote that, on Dec. 20 -- so many American progressive bloggers were bound and determined that THIS TIME it wouldn't happen this way.
But if Daschle's craven bootlicking becomes the new Democratic line, then this is exactly what will happen -- the Washington Post already has a story up titled "Spying Necessary, Democrats Say" , which will be in page A3 of tomorrow's paper.
Not only did Meet the Press undermine Democratic outrage about this scandal, it also undermined the few Republicans who have tried to speak out against this program until now.

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