No Shortage Of Republican Senators Questioning Bush's Domestic Spying Program
The conservative noise machine is trying to paint the debate over President Bush's warrant-less domestic spying program as a battle between right and left -- or as they would falsely characterize it, right and wrong.
Listen to conservative talk radio, and you get the impression that this battle places a tough war president placing homeland security needs first against anti-American wussies who care more about the rights of terrorists, and would gladly say so as they discuss Brokeback Mountain with their ACLU-card carrying friends.
If the world were so simplistic and stereotypical, then maybe the empty conservative spin would have merit. But in the reality-based universe, facts matter.
There are no shortage of conservatives and Republicans voicing concern over the seemingly illegal program. George Will called Bush's actions a mistake. William Safire said he sided with Bush's critics.
Some conservative observers have actually suggested Bush's personally authorizing the surveillance was an impeachable offense. The program circumvented rules that say the National Security Agency must obtain a warrant before proceeding.
In the Senate, you won't find a Republican publicly mentioning the dreaded "I" word. But that doesn't mean that there aren't a host of Republicans questioning the president's decision to skirt the law -- enough of them, in fact, that a serious discussion about impeachment may be possible.
That list includes Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, as well as Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Susan Collins of Maine, Larry Craig of Idaho, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Dick Lugar of Indiana, John McCain of Arizona, Olympia Snowe of Maine and John Sununu of New Hampshire.
That's quite a list.
And add to it Sam Brownback of Kansas, who told George Stephanopoulos on the Jan. 8 edition of ABC's This Week:
BROWNBACK: I think we need to look at this case and this issue. I am troubled by what the basis for the grounds that the administration says that they did these on, the legal basis, and I think we need to look at that far more broadly and understand it a great deal. I think this is something that bears looking into and us to be able to establish a policy within constitutional frameworks of what a president can or cannot do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You don't think the 9/11 resolution gave the president the authority for this program?
BROWNBACK: It didn't, in my vote. I voted for that resolution. That was a week after 9/11. There was nothing you were going to do to stop us from going to war in Afghanistan, but there was no discussion in anything that I was around that that gave the president a broad surveillance authority with that resolution.
If 11 Republicans aren't satisfied by the answers to their questions about the spying program -- if they aren't given sufficient reason to conclude the president has the authority to conduct warrant-less domestic spying, and that thus the program is legal -- then isn't it possible they could join, say, 40 Democrats (out of 44, plus one Independent) and call for impeachment hearings?
It's probably far-fetched to talk that way. Questions -- even insufficiently unanswered ones -- don't necessarily push someone to try to take down their party's leader.
Still, as Hagel said in an article in the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star, "No president is ever above the law. ... We are a nation of laws. You cannot avoid or dismiss a law."