Despite the efforts of Senators Christopher Dodd and Russ Feingold to block granting telecommunications conglomerates like AT&T retroactive immunity for data mining on American citizens without a court warrant (as required in the Constitution) the new FISA surveillance law gives the lame duck and unpopular President George W. Bush yet another stunning victory. By a vote of 68 to 29 our venerable senators believe it is politically wise to capitulate to Bush or face uncomfortable McCarthyite charges of putting Americans at risk from "terrorism" in "wartime." The Senate has handed Bush a cudgel with which he can beat the Democrats throughout 2008 leading us to wonder: What good has it been to have the Democrats in control of the House and the Senate over the past year?
First, Senators Diane Feinstein and Charles Schumer provided the crucial votes to confirm Michael Mukasey as Attorney General even though he claims waterboarding is perfectly legal and justified and argued during his confirmation hearing that the president and his henchmen like Karl Rove need not honor Congressional subpoenas based on a novel view of executive power.
The House leadership took impeachment "off the table" before even looking into the evidence of impeachable offenses coming out of the Bush White House. They gave Karl Rove and Harriet Miers a free pass to skip on testifying to Congress even though there is a mountain of evidence suggesting that Rove violated wholesale the Hatch Act, which forbids political activities out of federal offices. They destroyed all of the White House emails and phone records during the run up to the 2004 election, which smells like a cover up and possible obstruction of justice. But do the Democrats show any guts and investigate this stuff? The answer is no.
The Democrats in both chambers have voted consistently to give Bush all the money he wants for his failed bloodbath in Iraq and his obscene bloating of the military budget, which has risen over 37 percent since he came to office. The House busies itself with vapid hearings on steroid use among professional athletes. (Who gives a damn if a bunch of overpaid pituitary cases poison themselves for a competitive edge?) The Democrats vote over and over again to fund a war they claim to oppose. The Congress, by leaving in tact Bush's destruction of the federal departments and agencies ranging from the EPA to the Department of Labor, from the Justice Department to the Mining Health and Safety Commission, is dropping a huge mess on the lap of whoever the new president is in January 2009.
Now the Senate insists on giving Bush even more power while tying the hands of those who might uncover the extent of his past abuses involving warrantless surveillance. The president essentially dismissed the jurisdiction of the judicial branch over his activities. That is called a serious Constitutional crisis. Instead of Congress pushing back, its Democratic leaders believe it is wise to surrender before the fight even begins. I wouldn't be surprised if Bush and Rove used the NSA and the telecom companies to spy on the Democratic National Committee and the John Kerry campaign during the very tight presidential race in 2004 where Bush "won" reelection (a la Richard Nixon). The Republican political operatives, cut from the same cloth as Rove and Allen Raymond, might be using the federal law enforcement apparatus right now to gain advantage for Republicans this election year. We'll never know because the Democrats in Congress are too weak and pusillanimous to challenge Bush on any of his most egregious violations of the Constitution.
The inaction of the Democratic Congress has fueled the calls for change we are hearing loud and clear in the Barack Obama presidential campaign. If Obama makes it to the White House his administration is going to be facing a huge mess left over from the disastrous Bush years. He will have to purge all of the "Bushies" out of the interstices of the federal bureaucracy, reel in the contractors Bush has given sweetheart deals to, and fight an uphill battle to regain a semblance of legitimacy for the United States in the eyes of the American people and people all over the world.
The Democrats in the Congress would be wise to work with the new president, be it President Obama or someone else, in restoring the health of our republic. So far they have shown they did not deserve to be elected to the majority in 2006. Unless it stands up to Bush, the 110th Congress will go down in history as a dismal failure. We'll have a failed president and a failed Congress.