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The Gift That Keeps On Giving: Fighting For Democracy Over There, In Lieu Of Having It Here

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Wait. Did Dana Perino misspeak?

Q: Is it ever reasonable to restrict constitutional freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism?

MS. PERINO: In our opinion, no.

Wow. That statement likely caused the ears of anyone who's ever read the Patriot Act, or been a fan of the Constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure, or worried that tapping everyone's phone without warrant or cause might not be such a hot idea, or thought habeas corpus was a good thing, to prick up at that moment. To say nothing of the people who today enjoyed a leisurely afternoon in a foreign prison with a wet towel wedged halfway down their windpipe.

But not so fast, you naive lovers of what was once known as "liberty." Perino's talking about the restrictions of constitutional freedoms in Pakistan, where the President's personal friend Pervez Musharraf has declared a state of emergency rule, suspending that country's constitution. Not to worry, though. While Bush has yet to place a phone call to the Pakistani dictator, he's unleashed the full force of what the Executive Branch does best:

PERINO: We are currently reviewing our aid. The President has been following this issue very closely. He has been given updates by the Director of National Intelligence over the weekend, his national security team and, of course, Secretary Rice. Pakistan is a strong fighter against terrorists and we have to keep that in mind as we move forward. But our aid package is currently being reviewed. And Secretary Rice has been urging President Musharraf, on behalf of the President, to return quickly to civilian rule.

With such a robust package of reviewing stuff, monitoring other stuff, compliment feeding and "urging" through surrogates, is there really any doubt that things are going to improve in Pakistan with a quickness?

Here at home, the circumstances vis a vis our constitutional freedoms find themselves in a more suspect state, with the administration continuing to struggle with basic concepts, like that whole separation of powers thing:

Q Chairman Conyers has now written saying that the contempt issue in terms of the prosecutor firings and the testimony that the Hill is looking for is coming to a head. Is there any change in that, or is the administration still insisting that there be no testimony and no even interviewing under oath, on the record, transcribed?

MS. PERINO: I'm just amazed that the Democrats actually think they've accomplished so much on behalf of the American people that they can now waste time again on another diversion. Last week was the first that they appointed conferees to the Labor-HHS bill. That's the first bill they've even -- appropriations bill they've even appointed conferees to, and it must have just been exhausting for them because now they decided they can move on to this -- taking us backwards to where we were.

If the House Democrats were actually serious about getting information from us they could have taken us up on the offer that we provided initially, which is interviews with senior staff -- that they asked to interview. They decided not to take us up on that offer. We have turned over thousands of pages of documents, many people have testified, hundreds of hours of testimony on this issue regarding U.S. attorneys. And so while they failed to pass legislation that's important to the American people, they move forward with this contempt citation. I don't know if they'll actually have a vote on the House floor, or not. If they do, I guess we'll just take it from there. But it's been very clear that this is a futile attempt on their part because they know that it won't go anywhere.

Q Are you still refusing to supply anybody to testify where that -- I'm sorry -- to discuss these matters where that will be transcribed?

MS. PERINO: There is an offer on the table for them to get exactly that and they turned us down.

Q No, not with transcription.

MS. PERINO: Not with transcription, but they could have had all the information that they sought, they just chose not to.

Yes! That darned Congress. Wasting time on the President's agenda because of their nagging request for there to be a record of "all the information...they sought," as opposed to a passel of deniable hearsay!

At any rate, it is a comfort to note that if President Bush had his way, Pakistan, at least, would be a lovely place to live.