Thursday, February 21, 2008

What the heck?

There's really only one logical reaction to President Bush's statement today that he won't compromise on his proposal to include legal immunity for phone companies in a bill to renew his warrantless wiretapping program: Huh? Doesn't he understand that he is out of options? The law that expanded the government's authority to do the warrantless wiretapping has already expired and the House of Representatives has already refused to reauthorize it with the retroactive immunity provision, even though the Senate approved it. He's out of options. Legislating is the art of compromise — if he wants a bill, he's going to have to bend. Bush wants Congress to protect phone companies from lawsuits from innocent people whose rights were violated under the law that expired last weekend. If the Democratic-controlled House doesn't crack under Bush's rhetorical assault, he's going to have to give it something it wants, too. That's governing in a democracy. But Bush contends the phone companies will be reluctant to cooperate with the wiretapping program without immunity, as if that's a bad thing. Aren't they U.S. companies? Can't they be compelled to cooperate? And why shouldn't they be liable if they're guilty of abuses? There are 40 lawsuits pending, but they're only lawsuits. The only way to find out whether the companies or the government is abusing the privilege is to let them go to trial.

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