NYT Shows Anger at Beaten Dems as Bush's Wiretapping Bill Sails Through Congress
In December 2005, the New York Times broke the story of the National Security Agency's monitoring of communications between people in America and terror suspects overseas. Many say the revelations hurt the anti-terrorist program. Over the weekend, the House and Senate passed, by surprisingly bipartisan votes, changes to the terrorist surveillance measure that left many liberals angry at the Democratic Congress's betrayal of civil liberties.
The Times seems rather disappointed in the Democrats as well.
Reporter Jim Rutenberg's Tuesday "news analysis," "Wielding the Threat of Terrorism, Bush Outmaneuvers the Democrats," gave Bush his due as a political wizard, but his tone betrayed frustration.
"Until last weekend, President Bush had repeatedly fallen short in seven months of battles with a Democratic-led Congress that would not give him what he wanted on immigration or education, health care or energy policy.
"But the Congressional vote that authorized eavesdropping without warrants on international communications, including those involving Americans within the United States, has shown that there is at least one arena in which Mr. Bush can still hold the line: terrorism. (See, 'Democrats, Republican accusations of being weak on ....')"
Rutenberg passed on Democratic complaints.
"In interviews, Democratic leaders and their aides acknowledged being outmaneuvered by the White House, which they accused of negotiating in bad faith, and portrayed the bill as a runaway train. Both sides agree that after a series of briefings by Michael McConnell, director of national intelligence, on potential threats to the nation and what he saw as crucial gaps in the surveillance law, they agreed to work together on a new set of provisions before the August recess.
"Yet the bill that passed the Senate on Friday and the House on Saturday attracted mostly Republican support. In all, only 41 House Democrats voted for it and its inclusion of new powers to force the cooperation of telecommunications firms and to tap into e-mail correspondence and telephone conversations without court approval; 181 House Democrats voted against it."
"And Democratic memories are still fresh with attacks Mr. Bush used in 2004 against Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, a presidential rival he portrayed as 'weak on terror.' That Mr. Bush would succeed this month -- and on a program as controversial as the eavesdropping by the National Security Agency -- was somewhat surprising, given that the White House has seen its credibility on war and terrorism perceptibly erode this year."
But is the NSA wiretapping really so controversial? Most polling suggests it's actually pretty popular with the public.
In Tuesday's lead editorial, "The Fear of Fear Itself," the Times frothed:
"But mostly, the spectacle left us wondering what the Democrats -- especially their feckless Senate leaders -- plan to do with their majority in Congress if they are too scared of Republican campaign ads to use it to protect the Constitution and restrain an out-of-control president."
For the complete version of this article, visit TimesWatch.