Wednesday, February 01, 2006

State of the Union 2006

In last night's State of the Union address President Bush claimed

It is said that prior to the attacks of September the 11th, our government failed to connect the dots of the conspiracy. We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to Al Qaida operatives overseas. But we did not know about their plans until it was too late.
If that is what he thinks it is no wonder 9/11 happened. There was no law that would have prohibited listening to phone calls placed to Al Qaida. The simple fact of the matter is, that these hijackers weren't apprehended because our government was not paying attention. The President continues

So to prevent another attack -- based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute -- I have authorized a terrorist surveillance program to aggressively pursue the international communications of suspected Al Qaida operatives and affiliates to and from America.

Previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have and federal courts have approved the use of that authority. Appropriate members of Congress have been kept informed.

The terrorist surveillance program has helped prevent terrorist attacks. It remains essential to the security of America. If there are people inside our country who are talking with Al Qaida, we want to know about it, because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again.

What he did was authorize domestic spying on US citizens without a warrant, utilizing a radical interpretation of his executive powers authored by a man who believes the President has the authority to crush a child's testicles if he deems it necessary. Previous Presidents have not used the same "constitutional authority," unless you want to count Richard Nixon who was forced to resign to avoid impeachment.

The President says "appropriate members of Congress have been kept informed."
1. Even if so, that would just mean some members of Congress knew about this extralegal activity and withheld that information from the public
2. This claim is disputed by members of Congress (see here and here)

And the claim that this "terrorist surveillance program" aka warrantless domestic spying has helped prevent terrorist attacks is unsubstantiated. The last line is totally dishonest and misleading - there is nothing in the existing law which would prevent listening in on "people inside our country who are talking with Al Qaida." You can even listen for 72 hours without getting a warrant.

The simple truth is the President lied to the nation. He told us that no wiretapping would ever be done without a warrant, despite his having authorized just that. Instead of standing behind that decision and defending it, the President obfuscates the issue with dishonesty and untruths. The last President was impeached for lying about extramarital oral sex, this President is lying about violating the 4th amendment rights of the entire nation.

Another aspect of the address that, to me, seemed, quite frankly, insane, was the portion where the President said making his tax cuts permanent would help reduce the deficit. Um, THE TAX CUTS CAUSED THE DEFICIT. At what point will reduced government income plus increased government spending somehow magically make the deficit disappear? By my own admission, economics isn't my strongest subject, so perhaps someone can explain the President's reasoning to me.

Update: Mark Crispin Miller links to an article by a former Reagan administration Assistant Sec. of the Treasury who believes the economic state of the union is, in fact, disastrous.

Update 2: Media Matters has parsed the NSA section of the SOTU, too, and concludes that "nearly every argument Bush made in defense of the program is either false or misleading." They note that despite this, several figures in the media have characterized Bush's defense of the NSA spying as "strong," "vigorous," and "fierce." I suppose Peter Daou can consider this as more evidence for his case that the media favors pro-Bush narratives. (See here and here.)

Update 3: I was right, Peter Daou does take the above as evidence.

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