It’s been a while since I’ve played around in the political wading pool, but I though this would be a good time to get my feet wet again. President Bush has had a busy couple of days, trying to reestablish his grip — if not in political power than at least in public perception. An address to the nation on Sunday night, trying to sell his vision of victory in Iraq, followed on Monday by his defense of domestic spying which was brought to the public’s attention this past Friday in a New York Times article.
The path to victory in Iraq
For the first time since he launched operations in Iraq 3 years ago, Bush spoke to the nation from the oval office. This time, laying out what his vision of victory Iraq actually is. The freefall his ratings took might have been eased, if not stopped outright, had he just done this a year earlier right before the first round of elections in Iraq. However, this administration loves to keep their lips tight unless they want to tell you something, and I don’t see any signs of that changing. The President listed the offenses against Iraq that drove his decision, and took full responsibility for said decision (which shocked me, since I’m not used to hearing a G.W. mea culpa).
He then proceeded to lay out his three critical elements to end this war: security, democracy and reconstruction — words that have been bandied about many times over the past years, but this time backed up with some metrics. Iraqi combat battalions number over 125, with 50 in leading positions in operations and 12 bases under Iraqi control. My next question is “out of how many needed to keep the peace”, but the numbers sound significant. Reconstruction also sounds optimistic, though as Bush said himself this is only “after a number of setbacks”. Iraqis sound optimistic, with 7 in 10 saying life is going well and nearly 2/3 expecting things to improve. But by his own admission George still says the terrorists would still have “the coward’s power”, and that there is still work to be done, and he pleaded with the nation for patience.
All in all, it’s probably the most direct speech I’ve ever heard the man give, even with the 2 line flubs he had. Of course, I still think it was far later than it should have been. Depending on who you believe, all this talk either did something or nothing to his approval ratings.
Big brother is watching you
And then there was the defusing of the privacy bomb. Since 2002 our President has repeatedly authorized the National Security Agency to intercept communications between people in the U.S others abroad, sans court order. Of course this was done in the name of national defense, but this is by far the hardest pill we’ve ever been asked to swallow by the administration.
There is actually a law on the books — the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA for short — that allows for the government to tap first and get permission later. But Bush said circumventing the law with executive privilege was necessary because the FISA court takes too long to issue wiretap orders. Senator Russ Feingold has come out strongly against this thinking, saying “He just can’t make up the law â€šÃ„Â¶ It would turn George Bush not into President George Bush, but King George Bush”.
And all this has cropped up just as the ultra-contriversial Patriot act is fighting to be renewed. Just not good timing for the administration at all. People on both sides of the isle are calling for congressional investigations and this story will certainly have a long life.
As far as the NSA spying goes, this smacks of abuse of power in my eyes. No matter how small the group of people being watched is, there is no excuse to do something outside of the rule of law, especially when there are laws in place to actually let you do what you want to. Congress was ready to do anything to help the President right after 9/11, and getting revisions to FISA would have been a slam dunk. Instead, the President goes outside the law, and outside of the system of checks and balances our nation depends on to stem abuses of power. Bad move.