On CBS, Craig Crawford Asserts Bush Broke Law, Constitution at Stake

This morning on CBS's "The Early Show," in the 7:00 half hour, Rene Syler interviewed their regular political analyst Craig Crawford about whether the President broke the law in authorizing eavesdropping without a warrant, and the President’s poll numbers. This segment was one sided and negative towards the President. Syler opened her segment saying "In a news conference Monday, President Bush vehemently defended spying on Americans to protect them against terrorism. The President said he broke no law authorizing the secret program and said the practice would continue despite concerns that it infringes on civil liberties." In introducing a story in this way, it would be fair to assume the bulk of the interview would be on this subject. Wrong. The interview ranged from the foreign surveillance issue, to finding the negatives in improving poll numbers for the President, to an assertion by Craig Crawford, in answering a question about what this is all about and what these issues mean, that what’s at stake here is not only control of Congress, but the Constitution.Syler asked only one question to Crawford relating to the foreign surveillance issue, in particular, its legality and if the President broke the law. A question which set Crawford up to accuse the President of breaking the law by asserting that "most people" paying attention to it think he did. Rene Syler: "Ok, so we heard yesterday, the President says he did nothing wrong, the Attorney Generally essentially backed him up saying a vote after 9/11 on the use of force gave him the authority to undertake this program. The question is though, did the President break the law?" Craig Crawford: "Seems like most people outside the administration who are looking at this are saying so, Rene. You know this law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that everyone is calling FISA, gave plenty of powers to the government; in fact they could order searches and wiretaps and get the court order after the fact. So there were a lot of loose requirements already in the law so it seems strange to bypass this law when it was so favorable to the government already."Syler fails to follow up with any questions or comments regarding the parameters under which this program is used, notably that one of the parties on the call must have known links to Al Qaeda, or that members of Congress were briefed numerous times by the administration about this program. Instead, she talks about Iraq and the opinion polls, and Crawford seems happy to deliver the negative news. First he asserts that an improvement in the polls was inevitable by saying "ell so far it looks like he might be getting a little boost in the polls, you know sometimes when you hit rock bottom Rene, the only thing you can do is push up, you can finally push up once you hit rock bottom and that's what he's done." Later, Crawford dismisses the fact that a newly released ABC News/Washington Post Poll which shows President Bush’s approval rating has climbed 8 points to 47%( ABC News/Washington Post poll). "Well even up to 47%, that still means a slight majority of Americans disapprove of his performance, and what drove those numbers, Rene, it seems is a better feeling about the situation in Iraq. I think the elections in Iraq going fairly well is one of the main reasons, that's the biggest boost we saw in public confidence in Iraq, so there again it shows there's sort of a dark lining there to the cloud for the President because it shows that events in Iraq are going to dictate how Americans view his handling of things much more than any kind of PR campaign by the White House." Finally, in summarizing what this all means, Crawford mentions that it is not only control of Congress that hangs in the balance, it’s the Constitution itself as highlighted in the following exchange.Rene Syler: "All right, 15 seconds, what's at stake here really Craig? Is it about control of Congress?"Craig Crawford: "It certainly is. I mean the Republican party is facing a fight for the control of Congress coming up, I think they are going to be watching these polls very closely to see if the President is a drag on the party in those elections coming up, and also I think what's at stake, Rene, is the Constitution and the power grid between the White House and the Congress. We may seem some power plays. We may see Congress, even though Republicans control the Capitol Hill, some investigations of this spying."A full transcript of the interview follows.CBSThe Early ShowDecember 20, 20057:19Rene Syler: "In a news conference Monday, President Bush vehemently defended spying on Americans to protect against terrorism. The President said he broke no law authorizing the secret program and said the practice would continue despite concerns that it infringes on civil liberties. Early Show Political Analyst Craig Crawford is a columnist for Congressional Quarterly. Craig, good morning."Craig Crawford: "Hi Rene."Rene Syler: "Ok, so we heard yesterday, the President says he did nothing wrong, the Attorney Generally essentially backed him up saying a vote after 9/11 on the use of force gave him the authority to undertake this program. The question is though; did the President break the law?"Craig Crawford: "Seems like most people outside the administration who are looking at this are saying so Rene. You know this law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that everyone is calling FISA, gave plenty of powers to the government; in fact they could order searches and wiretaps and get the court order after the fact. SO there were a lot of loose requirements already in the law so it seems strange to bypass this law when it was so favorable to the government already."Rene Syler: "We've seen the President a lot lately Craig. We've seen speeches on the war, a live radio address in front of cameras, we saw an Oval Office speech, and then we saw this press conference yesterday. What's he doing? What's going on here and do you think its working?"Craig Crawford: "Well so far it looks like he might be getting a little boost in the polls, you know sometimes when you hit rock bottom Rene, the only thing you can do is push up, you can finally push up once you hit rock bottom and that's what he's done. I think they are doing the right thing, something he's needed to do for a long time is talk directly to the American people, take some questions from the press and not hide behind orchestrated, staged events that he had been doing. So, I'm hopeful that maybe this is, will be a sign to the White House to have the President out more and facing more questions and talking directly to Americans."Rene Syler: "Yeah, Craig, let me go back to that poll you were just talking about. There's an ABC News/Washington Post poll out just yesterday showing his approval ratings are up, 47% now, that's the highest they have been since earlier in the year, around March or so, but the administration has been criticized for this from both sides of the aisle. What do you think about the level of support that he has? Is it strong even in his own party?"Craig Crawford: "Well even up to 47% that still means a slight majority of Americans disapprove of his performance, and what drove those numbers, Rene, it seems is a better feeling about the situation in Iraq. I think the elections in Iraq going fairly well is one of the main reasons, that's the biggest boost we saw in public confidence in Iraq, so there again it shows there's sort of a dark lining their to the cloud for the President because it shows that events in Iraq are going to dictate how Americans view his handling of things much more than any kind of PR campaign by the White House."Rene Syler: "All right, 15 seconds, what's at stake here really Craig? Is it about control of Congress?"Craig Crawford: "It certainly is. I mean the Republican party is facing a fight for the control of Congress coming up, I think they are going to be watching these polls very closely to see if the President is a drag on the party in those elections coming up, and also I think what's at stake, Rene, is the Constitution and the power grid between the White House and the Congress. We may seem some power plays. We may see Congress, even though Republicans control the Capitol Hill, some investigations of this spying."