More advice on how to “fight back,” this time from Elaine Kamarck, who was a lecturer at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a senior adviser to Vice President Al Gore.
“Some Democrats are so freaked by the past they are arguing that members of the party should stay away from one of the biggest issues of the day: the Bush administration’s domestic spying operations.
This is a mistake for two reasons. First, if the Democratic leaders stay away from this issue, the activist left will fill the void. The left wing of the party frequently manages to sound weak on defense and weak on terror. Nothing could play more into Rove’s hand. He wants this debate to be about eavesdropping on al-Qaida, familiar territory on which they win.
Second, if Democratic leaders can’t question an issue with profound constitutional importance, a great many Americans will wonder – as they did in the past two elections – whether this party believes in anything at all.”
Update [2006-2-9 22:34:5 by howieinseattle]: Howard Dean Frames the Issue on Good Morning America Today:
“GIBSON: There has been a lot of discussion in Washington in recent days about the warrantless wiretaps that have gone on. The President says this is necessary to fight terrorism. Do you think this is a winner for the Democrats?
DEAN: Many in his own party disagree. Wiretapping is certainly necessary and the Democrats certainly approve of as much spying on Al Qaeda as we possibly can. What we don’t approve of is breaking the law in order to spy on Americans. The present law is very adequate and the White House itself said so four years ago. All we ask is that we not turn into a country like Iran where the President of Iran can do anything they want at any time. The reason the constitution of this country has lasted as long as it has and this country lasted as long as it has as a real democracy is because there is a check on presidential power. Now, there’s not a big check on this one. We just ask the President to go get a warrant after the fact if he thinks there is an emergency. But there is no reason this President shouldn’t obey the law. And, we expect him to obey the law while defending the country.”
-excerpted from the DNC transcript.
The print press hasn’t found this interview newsworthy, so far.
Then she gets down to how the Dems should state their case:
“And so the challenge is to get the debate onto Democratic grounds. Here’s where not to go. Over the weekend, The Washington Post reported that a majority of these questionable wiretaps led to nothing at all. So what? One good lead could save American lives. Democrats ought to be in favor of all leads that could break or at least interrupt al-Qaida.
Second, it is oh so tempting to compare the case of a president who lied about his girlfriend and got impeached with the case of a president who lied about violating the laws designed to protect Americans’ privacy and didn’t. Don’t go there. It looks like sour grapes.
The questions Democrats ought to be asking are simple: “Why, Mr. President, was the existing law (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) not sufficient to protect us?” The answer is likely to have to do with the new technology of communications, an answer that does indeed have some merit.
So the next question is: “Why, Mr. President, didn’t you seek to update our laws so that they are in keeping with the new technology?” The answer is likely to be that going to Congress would reveal the program to the enemy. But every year Congress passes an intelligence budget that is not revealed to the enemy, to the public or even to the rest of the government. Surely there is a way to do this.
If Democrats get sucked into a debate over tactics in the war on terror, they will lose. But it’s hard to see how they lose if they wage the debate over the rule of law and if they show their willingness to amend the law to strengthen the war on terror.
Most important of all, however, is that they take strong positions, grounded in strong values. So how about this for a start, provided to me by my colleague Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution: “We believe that the conduct of war is consistent with the rule of law.”
That’s too long for my bumper. How about this:“Fight Terror, Not the Constitution.”